CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - Government agencies improperly determined that a wetland in the Waccamaw River watershed is not protected by the Clean Water Act and gave a developer the green light to dump fill material into the wetland for future development, environmentalists claim in a federal lawsuit.
The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, the National Wildlife Federation, Waccamaw Riverkeeper and the Winyah Rivers Foundation seek an injunction barring Spectre LLC from dumping any dredged or fill material into the wetlands without full compliance with the Clean Water Act and the South Carolina Pollution Control Act.
They say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ignored important water connections in deciding that the wetlands aren't subject to protection under federal environmental law.
The lawsuit cites alleged links between the Spectre Wetland and other navigable waters under the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction, including Collins Creek, the Waccamaw River and Winyah Bay.
"The Spectre Wetland has historical and present hydrological connection to navigable waters," the plaintiffs claim. "The Corps failed to consider these hydrological connections in determining that the Spectre Wetland is not a water of the United States."
The plaintiffs add that the wetland "provides a number of important and significant functions and services to downstream waters," including storing and filtering storm waters, thereby protecting downstream waters from bank erosion.
The groups further argue that the wetland supports several aquatic and semi-aquatic species, and plays an important role in nutrient recycling.
They say the Spectre site is part of a much larger, 115-acre wetland, although the Corps incorrectly stated that it contained only 31.76 acres of wetlands.
Plaintiffs are represented by Christopher DeScherer of the Southern Environmental Law Center.