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Posted 11/24/2015

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By Glenn Jeffries

In October, the Charleston District was excited to host the Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) for the second time since she became the ASA in 2009. The day was packed with exciting events in which Darcy was able to see pieces of several projects and initiatives the District is currently working on.

Darcy began her day at the Francis Beidler Forest to highlight the success of the mitigation banking program that was used when the District issued the permit for the new Volvo production facility. Bobby Hitt, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce, and Norm Brunswig, Audubon Society, were on hand to tour the forest and walk along the boardwalk with her showcasing the swamp system with bottomland hardwoods, bald cypress and tupelo gum flats. The landscape compensatory mitigation for the Volvo project preserves and enhances more than 1,500 acres of aquatic resources within a total preservation and enhancement area of 2,496 acres in the Four Hole Swamp Watershed of the Edisto River Basin. Darcy’s visit gave her a firsthand view of the high quality ecosystem protection that was incorporated into the Volvo permit. This project is a great example of how effective and time sensitive the permit process can be when an applicant works with the Corps prior to and during the process to ensure that all required information is available for public comment and review.

Darcy’s next stop was to congratulate Mayor Joe Riley on his retirement and thank him for his 40 years of service to the city as a public servant and for the support he has given the Corps of Engineers over the years. They discussed several of the ongoing projects the city is involved in with the District and discussed the recent events that have occurred in the city. Immediately following, Darcy had lunch with the new Charleston County School Superintendent, Ms. Gerrita Postlewait, to discuss the Corps STEM initiatives. Darcy, a former elementary school teacher, is very engaged in the Corps’ STEM program and offered the District’s program to the students of Charleston County. For example, last year, more than 350 students visited the District’s St. Stephen fish lift. This lift has been called one of the most important fish passage facilities on the east coast and passes more than 750,000 American shad and blueback herring each year. The Administration just announced its “Every Kid in a Park” initiative to give children a chance to explore and learn about the great outdoors. This program is aimed at fourth grade students so the District is excited about beginning a relationship with Charleston County Schools, as well as the other school districts in the area, and hopes to greatly increase its number of students visiting the fish passage next year. 

Lastly, Darcy toured Charleston Harbor where she announced that her review of the Chief’s Report for the Charleston Harbor Post 45 Deepening Project was completed that week and it has been passed onto the Office of Management and Budget as part of the Administration’s review. From there, it goes to Congress to be considered for authorization and appropriation.

Darcy’s visit to Charleston was filled with opportunities to discuss the Charleston District’s programs and initiatives with key leaders in the community and show Darcy some of the great work the District is doing in Charleston. Plus, she got to sample some of the area’s fine food- a fried green tomato sandwich- which is always a great way to end a perfect Lowcounrty day.