Sediment sampling: It's part of harbor deepening project

The Army Corps of Engineers and DNR were sampling sediment. (Brandon Geier/WCIV)

By Sonya

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Officials from the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sifted through sediment in Charleston Harbor Monday as part of the harbor deepening project.

The goal of this morning's chilly boat trip was to sample sediment.

"We were collecting data in the harbor in an effort to categorize the types of organisms and the types of sediment that occur in an area we don't know much about," said Brian Williams, project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers.

A DNR research vessel was used to accomplish the task.

"This is called a young grab; (it) works very similar to the grab devices the dredges use for moving sediment out of the channels," said Marty Levisen with DNR.

"We'll be using this information to put into models later on in the study process," said Mark Messersmith, biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The models can help project possible impacts caused by deepening the harbor. One of the concerns is that it may affect the salinity, or the saltiness, of parts of the harbor.

"There is a potential for a shift in the salinity wedge to move upstream," said Messersmith. "We want to do some other testing in order to determine, one, if there is going to be a shift and, two, if there is a shift in what types of changes could potentially occur as a result of that shift."

The possible change could impact fisherman, industries, and some endangered species of fish in the area.

"We don't anticipate so but we are doing studies in order to determine and quantify what change could occur," said Messersmith.

The sampling is done four times a year.

"The purpose of having four is because the organisms really do have some variability as the seasons go - increasing and decreasing in number as predators (that) feed on them and also just the changing of temperatures," said Williams.

The bottom line is that the Army Corps wants to do its homework during this feasibility study, which is why they are doing all these tests and keeping the concerns of the public and resource agencies in mind.