CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – State health officials have approved plans to begin in filling in a historic Downtown Charleston creek to make room for further development. The move has some activists upset, but developers say it’s a necessary price for expansion.

Gadsden Creek is one of the last remaining tidal creeks on the peninsula. It is also one step closer to becoming a WestEdge development, after the green light was given by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

Mika Gadsden, with Friends Of Gadsden Creek, says the creek went from a historic place where baptisms were held by black churches, to a slum clearance site, to a waste management effort. Now, she says the effort is being labeled as flood mitigation. 

All it is is land seizure, all it is is taking of property, taking of natural resources, from a community just to build another either condo or parking garage it’s not doing anything that would serve the community that is directly situated next to the creek. 

Mika Gadsden, Friends Of Gadsden Creek 

Gadsden says the creek stopped being a communal gathering spot for the black community when the City of Charleston began dumping waste nearby, following a series of tornadoes in 1938. Even still, the creek was and is a viable and rich ecosystem.

Michael Maher, the CEO of the WestEdge Foundation, says their initial effort was to clean up the creek for use, but that strategy proved unsuccessful. He went on to say that the creek is a very unique situation whereby just cleaning up a wetland is not an answer for the community.

WestEdge says its purpose is to build shops, homes, and restaurants to support the Medical University of South Carolina and create economic development on the west side of the Charleston peninsula.

Maher says West Edge is not displacing anyone in the community. Furthermore, their new drainage infrastructure will be able to divert storm water while keeping some greenery and adding an area to showcase the historical aspects of the creek.

“For our solution to work, it requires stopping that tidal inflow and that’s a key component of it. And so creating a new system [is] in part about being able to continue to drain stormwater, but prevent the tidewater from coming into the community,” says Maher.

The Coastal Conservation League has been advocating to bring the creek under the protections of the Clean Water Act and working with WestEdge to add more wetlands to help with flood control. As of now, mockups for plans show a stormwater cascade pool along Hagood.

Although the DHEC greenlight was given, Gadsden says the fight for the creek is far from over. 

She says the Friends of Gadsden Creek are mounting an appeal and are actively organizing to voice their opposition to this latest development. 

As of now, WestEdge says they are awaiting permitting from the Corps of Engineers before development can begin.