CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD)- The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has been awarded more than $1 million to restore a tidal marsh in West Ashley.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded SCDNR $1.5 million dollars which will be used to restore seven acres of degraded salt marsh in an area of Charleston County formerly known as Maryville.

The funds will be used to plant salt marsh grasses and construct oyster reefs, the latest phase in the ongoing Old Towne Creek restoration project.

“We’re ecstatic to receive funding for this project,” Michael Hodges, SCDNR shellfish biologist and lead on the project said. “We’re excited that we will get to involve so many volunteers and partners in the project’s implementation. This will be a unique project, using novel, nature-based solutions to restore the degraded tidal marsh in this historically significant part of the Lowcountry.”

Officials said the restoration efforts are focused on rebuilding critical wildlife habitats and strengthening the coastline’s resilience to damage from storms and erosion driven by worsening climate change.

Old Towne Creek, the tidal waterway connecting the Maryville neighborhood to the Ashley River, was disastrously impacted by a severe drought in 2012 and a salt marsh dieback event in 2016. Researchers from the George Institute of Technology (GT) found that the salt marsh has not recovered naturally like surrounding areas with similar conditions.

“This project is a win-win for the Charleston area as it will restore critical wildlife habitat while strengthening the resilience of the coastline to damage from storms and erosion made worse by climate change,” Dr. Joel Kostka, Professor and Associate Chair for Research in the Schools of Biological Sciences and Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at GT said. “We at Georgia Tech are excited to participate in the project, in particular to leverage science to develop metrics and improve strategies that will ensure the success of nature-based restoration activities across the U.S.”

SCDNR estimates the project will take four years to complete.