Monday’s announcement that Volvo would locate an automobile manufacturing plant in the Lowcountry followed a series of meetings with conservation groups to work out concerns about the plant’s impact on wetlands.
Ultimately, many of the concerns were mollified, environmentalists confirmed Monday. Having approval from conservation groups could cut down on costly and lengthy legal challenges by environmentalists to development of the site.
In exchange for filling up to 195 acres of wetlands for the auto plant, Volvo agreed to protect about 2,500 acres of land in the Four Holes Swamp-Beidler Forest area of Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Part of that cost will be paid with state-incentive money, conservationists said Monday.
The land being developed contained degraded wetlands that were not as significant ecologically as the wetlands being protected, environmentalists said.
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Norman Brunswig, the Audubon Society’s retired S.C. director, said he worked with the Commerce Department to protect much-coveted land in the watershed. “The (preservation) package is terrific,’’ Brunswig said of the Volvo plan. “I was more than happy to help put this proposal together.’’
Brunswig said he learned of the project several months ago.
In recent weeks, S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt also sought input from representatives of environmental groups, including the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, the Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Brunswig and Environmental Law Center attorney Frank Holleman said conservationists attended a meeting in mid-April in Berkeley County to discuss the environmental issues.
At the all-day session, conservationists were taken on a tour of the Volvo site, as well as the land that Volvo proposed to protect to offset the impact on the Berkeley County wetlands, Holleman said.
Columbia environmental lawyer Bob Guild said he also talked with Hitt separately about the plan.