Feds, state to study county’s ‘green infrastructure’ for pilot program

  • Friday, June 20, 2014

Lindsay Street/Independent A man fishes at one of Berkeley County's water systems.

Berkeley County’s natural systems will be studied by federal and state forestry officials as part of a South Carolina pilot program designed to help counties outline future development standards.

The county issued a press release June 17 announcing the state’s Green Infrastructure Guide will begin there. The guide is through the U.S. Forestry Service and the S.C. Forestry Commission.

The guide, which explains how to conduct a green infrastructure assessment, will feature Berkeley County as a case study. The project is expected to last several months and will be conducted by the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) in conjunction with Berkeley County’s Planning & Development Department.

The team will locate and map all of the county’s green infrastructure, including interconnected natural systems such as intact forests, woodlands, wetlands, dune systems, parks and rivers and agricultural soils that provide clean water, air quality, wildlife habitat and food.

Officials will then determine how to conserve and/or restore these resources. Berkeley County planning officials will use the results to assist with outlining future development standards in the county’s overall comprehensive plan.

“We can think of our natural resources — trees, streams, lakes, wetlands, soils — as infrastructure because they provide things we need such as shade, good air quality, drinking water, food and recreation,” Center Executive Director Karen Firehock said. “We need to know where our best forests, wetlands or farms are located in order to better protect them. The GIC will build a computer model to analyze Berkeley County’s green infrastructure. This will be a pilot test for South Carolina. Results will inform the new state planning guide for green infrastructure planning.”

Berkeley County is considered the 35th fastest growing county in the nation. The county’s population increased by 9.1 percent from 2010 to 2013, compared to the state’s increase of 3.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Maintaining the delicate balance of infrastructure expansion with the sustainability of natural resources has always been on the forefront of our minds,” Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis said. “We are very excited about participating in this study because it will further help us preserve Berkeley County’s beauty and resources as new industries come in and the population of the county continues to grow.”

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