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Charleston District Navigation

The Charleston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for 15 navigation projects, shown above in red, along the South Carolina coast stretching from Little River Inlet near the North Carolina border to Port Royal Harbor on South Carolina’s southern coast.  

Providing safe and navigable waterways is a priority for the District. To keep the waterways open, the navigation program is responsible for the operation and maintenance of approximately 300 miles of navigation channels, which includes Charleston Harbor, several coastal inlets (Folly River, Jeremy Creek and Murrells Inlet), and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in South Carolina. To ensure that these channels are maintained to their authorized depth, the District has a state-of-the-art survey vessel that uses a multi-beam sonar system for high resolution coverage of the harbor floors to provide data and survey maps. The newest survey vessel to join the District’s fleet is the 26 feet long SV Heiselman which features a catamaran-style hull, a throttle system and a powered hydraulic steering system. The SV Heiselman will serve as the District’s primary small survey vessel, carrying all of the survey gear and bridging the gap between our inshore and offshore vessels. The survey program also uses a LiDAR system mounted on ATVs to conduct beach conditions surveys, which is often utilized by other Corps districts.

The navigation program is vital to the nation’s economy. Our nation’s coastal transportation system encompasses a network of navigable channels, ports, harbors, and infrastructure maintained by the Corps, as well as publicly and privately owned vessels, terminals, inter-modal connections, shipyards, and repair facilities. Coastal navigation is a key element of State and local government economic development and job-creation efforts, and is essential in maintaining economic competitiveness and national security.

Federal Navigation Channel Setback Information

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Charleston District establishes a setback from all Federal channels. A setback is a distance from the channel in which construction is prohibited. Setbacks are intended to serve two primary purposes: 1) they give the USACE and its contractors adequate space and maneuverability to perform dredging throughout a channel, and 2) they provide commercial and private boating traffic a safety margin when navigating Federal channels. Please be aware that most construction and maintenance activities over, under or within navigable waters, whether affecting the setback or not, require authorization from the USACE Regulatory Program and the DHEC: Coastal Management. You should contact these organizations directly if proposing to undertake construction in these areas.