We (heart) Wetlands
Wetlands, areas where water covers soil all or part of the time, are the vital link between land and water. These diverse biological ecosystems provide habitat for many species. One-third of all threatened and endangered species call wetlands their home. Wetlands protect and improve water quality and they act as a sponge that can reduce flooding. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs.
As a South Carolina native, I’ve grown up with an appreciation for wetlands. Kayaking slowly through tidal marshes and freshwater swamps provides a front- row seat for bird watching. Migratory waterfowl use wetlands for resting, feeding or nesting. Seeing an alligator mom and her babies is exciting but nature’s smaller creatures are just as appreciated, especially when viewed from only a few feet above the water level in a kayak.
Tragically, many wetlands have been either lost or changed. Roughly half of the original wetland areas in the contiguous United States are now gone. That is why the restoration of what was once called Lake Busbee is so exciting. Santee Cooper is in the process of restoring the wetlands in the footprint of what was formally the industrial cooling pond for the now decommissioned Grainger Generating Station in Conway.
The water in this 300-acre pond is being removed via pumps to a level that allows the ground to stabilize. Once the ground is stabilized in large areas within pond, Santee Cooper will plant native saplings that match nearby wetlands. The types of trees that will be planted include bald cypress, swamp tupelo, laurel oak, water oak and willow oak.
Some areas of the pond will remain naturally inundated with water and other areas will be largely dry except during times heavy rainfall or flooding. The transformation to natural wetlands will take several years and in about a decade, it will look and function similarly to the surrounding wetlands. Wetland restoration is essential to the health of South Carolina’s watersheds, and Santee Cooper is pleased to be able to play a small role.