Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: Civil Works Projects Underway

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District
Published July 13, 2023
Updated: July 13, 2023
Charleston District and Dorchester County signed a Project Partnership Agreement for the restoration of approximately 290 acres of Polk Swamp.

On February 15, 2023, the Charleston District and Dorchester County signed a Project Partnership Agreement for the restoration of approximately 290 acres of Polk Swamp. The restoration will connect high functioning bottomland hardwood forests located upstream and downstream of the project area, while also removing channel blockages and invasive species. All this work will restore Polk Swamp to a more natural condition and benefit species such as the American Wood Stork.

The Charleston District’s robust portfolio of projects was boosted in early 2022 when the spending plans for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, formerly the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, were released for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works program. Over $26 million was allocated for several projects in South Carolina. Over the past year, our team has been working internally and with our non-federal sponsors to get this work underway.

Updates on these critical projects are as follows:

Under the Corp’s environmental infrastructure authority, the Spring/Fishburne Pump Station project received $4M in funding and will upfit a stormwater pump station near the intersection of Bravo and Ralph H. Johnson Streets. On March 3, 2023, the Charleston District and the city of Charleston signed a Section 219 agreement which authorizes the Corps to provide assistance for the design and construction of environmental infrastructure projects. Since that date, the city has initiated procurement of an engineering firm to complete the design.

The Corps anticipates awarding a contract for construction in 2024. This pump station drains over 11 acres, including the primary medical district access roads of Courtenay Drive, Bee Street, and Doughty Street. This area experiences severe and frequent flood events, which cause damage and limit access for emergency vehicles, residents, and employees.

“Access to the medical district is critical for the patients requiring care and the medical community employed in Charleston,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg at the signing event. “This project, and others like it, will help ensure that our citizens and veterans can access these life-saving facilities, even during a storm event.”

For aquatic ecosystem restoration, the BIL also provided $1.5 million in initial funding to complete the preconstruction, engineering and design phase and initiate the construction phase of Polk Swamp in Dorchester County. On February 15, 2023, Charleston District and Dorchester County signed a project partnership agreement and the project team is currently working on the initial modeling and 35% design efforts.

Construction is anticipated to begin in 2025 and will take three years to fully implement due to multiple phases of invasive species removal and native planting. This project will restore approximately 290 acres of cypress-tupelo bottomland hardwood forest, restore water flow and connectivity, remove invasive species, and reforest with keystone species. By expanding wetland corridors and reducing habitat fragmentation, the project will benefit wildlife such as the American Wood Stork.

The BIL included $21.2M for several navigation and beneficial use projects.

The most significant amount, $12.6 million for the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, was predominantly used to award a contract on August 15, 2022, to perform maintenance on upland placement areas from approximately Georgetown to Charleston.  This contract will raise the perimeter dikes to increase capacity for future maintenance dredging along the AIWW. Construction is underway.

“BIL afforded us the opportunity to get ahead of our placement area maintenance to ensure we have sufficient capacity for ongoing and future dredging requirements through the AIWW,” said Scott Glass, chief of operations.

Town Creek, the federal navigation channel that provides maritime access to the commercial center of McClellanville, received $2M to dredge and beneficially use dredge material from the channel via nearshore placement at Lighthouse Pointe beach using a small hopper dredge operated by the Corp’s Wilmington District.

“This is a win-win situation,” said Jeremy Johnson, chief of navigation. “We get to dredge out a channel for navigational purposes, which is our main mission, but then we can use 100 percent of the material to benefit the Lighthouse Pointe beach area, a critical nesting area for sea turtles.”

In addition, according to Glass, “Dredging that channel directly supports the local fishing and shrimping operations of the small fishing town of McClellanville.” 

The work is expected to be conducted in 2024.

Another beneficial use project is the Murrells Inlet Federal Navigation Channel, which received $6.1 million. According to Glass, this dredging project provides three beneficial use components: shoreline protection, habit stabilization and reinforcement of navigation structure at the channel’s south jetty.

“We will place material along the Garden City Beach shoreline for infrastructure protection, on Huntington Beach near bird habitat and add some material at the south jetty as reinforcement to that area,” said Glass.

According to Johnson, this project is currently in the bid phase and should be awarded this summer, and the construction will start in the fall.

Lastly, there was about $450,000 allocated for needed maintenance activities for the Cooper River Rediversion project and fish lift in St. Stephen. This project powers over 40,000 homes and the fish lift passes up to 750,000 fish to reach their spawning grounds annually.

“This infrastructure funding has allowed the Charleston District to initiate new projects and complete needed maintenance activities that have been on the books for a long time,” said Jeff Livasy, chief of programs and civil works. “Supporting our non-federal sponsors who have been very patient awaiting federal funding and doing so in such a wide variety of mission areas is both exciting and rewarding.”