One of the things that we have spent some time on most recently is the fight going on to save the Angel Oak and its surrounding area. There is a ton of opposition with this project, and as far as I can see, these individuals have only the best intentions.
The Angel Oak has been around a llloooonnnnnggggg time, but if this development is allowed to proceed, then her days with us will be cut significantly short.
One of the main fighters is Samantha J. Siegel. She has done extensive research into this entire project, and she shares her findings at meetings and through the internet.
The following is the most recent email I received. There is a mammoth amount of information here, so read slowly so that you can digest it all.
"Phase 1 of Angel Oak Development is far from done deal
Samantha J. Siegel, co-founder of www.savetheangeloak.org
It's all about the wetlands and it is not too late. We, as residents of Johns Island, are in a unique and powerful position. WE will shape the future of Johns Island by guiding the fate of the Angel Oak. To the contrary of what many believe, phase 1 of the proposed Angel Oak Village development is NOT a done deal. The citizens of Johns Island and others have been extremely concerned about the developer, Robert Demoura's, plans to disturb more than half the wetlands on site and the health of nearby Church Creek, which is already imperiled.
The decisions made by governments are to protect what is most important for the public good. Obviously, in the case of this development, our local and state governments have been slow to wake up to the inconsistent and fraudulent information in the permitting process.
For example, wetlands that are adjacent to waters of the United States are regulated by the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The wetlands on the Angel Oak Village project site are connected to Church Creek, a U.S. federally protected waterbody, through a culvert. This means that the wetlands in question should be classified as federally jurisdictional.
They were for a short time. Mysteriously, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers changed their minds about the designation. In May 2002, the Corps issued a letter stating that the wetlands on site were under federal jurisdiction. The total acreage on site was listed as 36.09 and the total wetlands on site as 5.29. Just weeks later, they issued a new letter reversing their decision. Further, the letter specified a new file number for future correspondence.
According to a letter addressed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from Mr. Demoura's attorney, Cotton Harness, from July of 2008, Newkirk and Associates (an environmental consulting firm hired by the developer) had been working with a state agency, the offices of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) on a land disturbance plan to fill 5.93 acres of wetlands on site. "Richard Chinnis of OCRM had agreed to work with the previous purchaser to allow for more (wetland) fill than normally allowed," the letter stated.
An email written in September of 2008 by the developer, Mr. Demoura, to his lawyer, Mr. Harness, confirms this "agreement" as well. Demoura says, "I need to understand what entitlements our agreement with OCRM brings us. We have a serious situation with these tree huggers who are hell bent on calling city councilmen and whoever else will listen."
An agreement between DHEC/OCRM and a developer for more wetland fill than is allowed by law is not within that agency's statutory authority. Making such agreements would exceed DHEC/OCRM's regulatory authority.
How could the developers make an agreement to fill 5.93 acres of wetlands, when the information they submitted to the federal government twice in 2002 and again in 2008 clearly stated that there were only 5.29 total acres of wetland on the site?
On August 8, 2008, the Corps issued yet another letter, reversing their initial position, and saying that the wetlands were not jurisdictional, in response to the new request for a wetland determination submitted on June 25, 2008. The request contained the same acreage as 2002, with the total acreage on site being 36.09 and the total wetlands on site 5.29.
Interestingly, the 2008 letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated the total project site was 51.668 acres and the total wetland acreage was 6.466. The aforementioned July 9, 2008, letter from Attorney Harness said, "The Angel Oak Village Development is in the City of Charleston on Johns Island and it contains 10.86 acres." That is quite a bit of conflicting acreage on the project site.
Clearly there is more than enough fraudulent information in this file to warrant the need for a completely new jurisdictional determination of the wetlands in question.
If the development were to move forward as planned, the wetland fill would not only destroy an important habitat for a number of species and alter the Angel Oak's water table, upon which the great tree has been relying on all these years, but it would be seeping into Church Creek.
Additionally, construction runoff will flow into Church Creek. In the past, Church Creek has been restricted from shellfish harvesting because of elevated bacteria levels due, in part, to three known point source sewage discharges into the waterway, one being from Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care.
People are constantly asking how they can help save the Angel Oak. Much like the growth of a live oak tree, growth in our society must come from the bottom up. When one person stands up, a few more also stand up, and then a few thousand may stand up in solidarity. Write a letter to your local officials voicing your concern about the development. Your voice is the most powerful tool you have, and its echo can travel great distances.
Please send your comments to the US Army Corps of Engineers Attn: Robin Crosby, @:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
69A Hagood Avenue
Charleston, SC 29403-5107
Make sure to copy Greg Wahl @ the Department of Health and Environmental Control:
Greg Wahl, MS firstname.lastname@example.org
Storm water Project Manager
Regulatory Programs Division
SC Dept. of Health/Environmental Control
Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
1362 McMillian Ave. Suite 400
Charleston, SC 29405
And Mayor Riley:
YOU CAN REACH MAYOR RILEY AT:
Joseph P. Riley, Jr.
P. O. Box 652
We have already done our part and contacted each of these officials with our concerns and opinions regarding the Angel Oak and the proposed development. Please help us out and do the same!
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