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Repairing the South Jetty

Published April 7, 2020
Repairing the South Jetty

The Charleston District recently conducted repair work on the South Jetty of Charleston Harbor where it ties into Morris Island. This is the first time that repair work has ever been done on the jetties since they were constructed in the 1890s.

Repairing the South Jetty

The Charleston District recently conducted repair work on the South Jetty of Charleston Harbor where it ties into Morris Island. This is the first time that repair work has ever been done on the jetties since they were constructed in the 1890s.

When something hasn’t needed repair in more than 130 years, you know it was built strong.

The Charleston Harbor jetties were constructed by the Charleston District from 1882 to 1895. The jetties allowed for safe vessel transit by stabilizing the Entrance Channel into Charleston Harbor.. They were the first significant project after the Corps of Engineers officially established a permanent office in the Lowcountry.

Since that time, they haven’t needed any repairs, which is remarkable considering how they were constructed. Over the 13 year period, engineers floated thousands giant boulders into the harbor and sunk them along their intended footprint until they were completely built up to the water’s surface. This engineering marvel was so well-constructed that they have stood un-touched since then.

However, recent hurricane events caused shoreline erosion on Morris Island, where the South Jetty ties into land, causing the rocks on land to degrade. Without repair, increased erosion would give water a new path behind the jetty, causing more issues and lessening its effectiveness.

“The repair work reduced the risk of erosion of Morris Island and stabilized the jetty structure for the foreseeable future,” said Jeremy Johnson, project manager. “The repair of the south jetty was critical to ensuring safe passage for all transportation in and out of Charleston Harbor.”

The $4.5 million project began in October 2019 and was completed in February, more than two months ahead of schedule. 8,500 tons of local boulders from the Upstate of South Carolina were trucked in, brought to Morris Island on barges, carried across the island in dump trucks and put into place by a backhoe. For perspective, in all, the area worked on was less than one percent of the entire jetty structure.

“This project restored the south jetty to its original design and will provide long-term stability to the rock structure so it can do its job,” said Johnson.

The Corps is committed to maintaining a safe and navigable federal channel through projects like this. The jetties help protect the large container ships coming into Charleston Harbor, where the District is also deepening the federal channel.