GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC—The Open Space Institute (OSI) has received an $86,000 Water Resources Fund grant from Duke Energy to improve access to and protect the Black River in South Carolina. The funding will allow OSI and its partners to complete transformative projects that will safeguard water quality while improving access and protecting sensitive habitats in a celebrated region of the state.
The funding will support the establishment of a public kayak launch alongside a restored boat landing at Rocky Point Community Forest, enhancing quality of life and diversifying recreational opportunities along the Black River. The new kayak launch will be among the features at Georgetown County’s first large, passive recreation park when Rocky Point opens later this year.
The grant will also support acquisition of a forested wetland property in Williamsburg County along a scenic stretch of the river designated by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources as a “State Scenic River” segment; and strategic mapping to prioritize continued conservation and recreation goals along the Black River. Both of these projects will enhance the forested wetlands along the Black River, which help protect drinking water quality for Georgetown County and played a vital role in mitigating flood damage during 2015 and 2016 historic flooding in South Carolina.
“These enhancements to the Black River are an exciting step forward in protecting an irreplaceable asset in the community,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “These projects truly demonstrate the value of protecting land that matters. We thank Duke Energy, and our partners Ducks Unlimited, Georgetown County, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Program, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the Winyah Rivers Foundation for their commitment to the Black River.”
“These projects will enhance the quality of life for Georgetown County residents for generations to come,” said Beth Goodale, director of Georgetown County Parks and Recreation. “We thank the Open Space Institute and Duke Energy for their contributions to our community.”
Since beginning work in South Carolina in 2012, OSI has protected over 11,000 acres for habitat restoration and protection, public recreation and growth management in coastal South Carolina, in the Francis Marion National Forest, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Winyah Bay Conservation Landscape — and along the Black River.
With a high diversity of species, the tide-driven forested wetlands along the Black River are one of the most popular canoe and kayak destinations in the state, if not in the country. Bird enthusiasts travel to this destination to see Prothonotary Warblers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Wood Storks, Red-cockaded Woodpecker and the state-endangered Swallow-tailed Kite.
Duke Energy’s Water Resources Fund is a $10 million, multi-year commitment to leave a lasting impact on the region’s waterways by expanding nonprofit partnerships and enhancing the environments where families live, play and work. Since the Fund’s inception, Duke Energy has supported 86 projects in the Carolinas and Virginia with more than $7 million in grants. OSI is one of 13 organizations across North and South Carolina to collectively receive more than $900,000 in the sixth grant announcement.
“Duke Energy is dedicated to protecting and restoring the rivers and waterways that power our regional economies,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, president of Duke Energy in South Carolina. “We look forward to our partnership with the Open Space Institute and the impact this project will have in the region.”
Investment decisions are carefully reviewed by the Water Resources Fund committee, an independent body that includes five environmental experts and two Duke Energy employees. Selected projects are chosen on several criteria, including whether the project is science-based and research-supported.
Duke Energy anticipates two grant announcements per year over the course of the Water Resources Fund. Visit nccommunityfoundation.org for more information on how to apply and register for the session.