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January 18, 2008

Sound planning, conservation practices will help make Black River truly scenic

The Black Scenic River is a Williamsburg County treasure trove of history from the earliest days of Native Americans to countless recreational memories of today. As members of the Black Scenic River Advisory Council, we are charged with raising awareness of conservation issues on the Black River for the benefit of current and future generations. We are often asked to address a landowner’s questions and concerns about land and water use issues along the river or "What shouldn’t I do?"

From a legal point of view, state and/or federal permits are required for any activities affecting the Black River. A number of minor activities are covered under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit program. The Corps has issued a general permit for docks along the Black River, but you will need to obtain a State Navigable Waters Permit from S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control before you can build a dock into the river. All dredge and fill projects not covered under the Nationwide Permit program must obtain a Corps permit that must be certified by the state.

We often receive questions about erosion along the Black River. Erosion is easy to spot and some erosion of riverbanks is a natural process. However, removal of trees and other plant growth within 50 feet of the river accelerates the process of erosion and often results in the need to construct retaining walls, adding armoring rock or replanting native vegetation along the banks. Folks wanting a view of the river often remove obstructing trees only to find their destabilized bank disappearing in the next seasons flood. Best management practices suggest to prune but don’t remove trees in at least a 50-foot buffer along the river. These shoreline trees also produce a shade canopy that helps to keep the water from heating up during the summer. A fish kill may result if the water heats up too much. The woody debris and leaf fall from a wooded riverbank is essential for fish habitat. Unlimited livestock access to the riverbank will also destabilize soils and will create unnecessary erosion. The solution for this type of bank erosion is to provide fencing so livestock cannot get to the river. You may need to provide the animals a watering trough. As you can see there are a number of activities that can harm the Black River, but sound planning and a bit of foresight can alleviate most of these.

A river can be thought of as the sum of its tributaries and the health of each stream draining into it make a river more than just a drainage ditch. The Black River drains more than 2,000 square miles of Sumter, Clarendon, Williamsburg, and Georgetown counties. Maintaining at least a 50-foot forested or vegetative buffer around these tributaries and wetlands is sound conservation. What we do on our roads and in our cities affects the river even though the area is a small percentage of the over-all watershed. For example, one of the biggest sources of litter in our river comes from smaller upland streams and swamps emptying into Black River. Imagine what types of unseen pollutants could travel the same path. Following labeled directions on lawn and household products along with proper disposal of unused and waste products will benefit our river. If everyone were to pick up a small bag of litter each time they are on the river or visiting the shoreline, we would have a truly scenic river.

A healthy and beautiful Black Scenic River is an economically important asset to our community, not only as a place for recreation, but also as an asset that makes our area attractive to businesses that can employ our citizens. Good stewardship does not start at the riverbank.

By Scott Lamprecht
Lamprecht is a DNR regional fisheries biologist stationed at the Dennis Wildlife Center in Bonneau. He can be reached at (843) 825-3387.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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