Friday, December 15, 2006

Barging into the Tail Race Canal

The building in the photo was once the storied Dock Restaurant known for its catfish stew and other delights. It's now owned by a restaurant chain, but the view's still the same as you look out over the Tailrace Canal. With the exception of modern buildings and watercraft, it probably looks much as it did when it operated as the Santee Canal back in 1800. That canal enabled the transportation of cargo by barge from areas above Columbia, SC, down to the Port of Charleston.

Around 1939 a dam was begun at Pinopolis, SC, which would both solve the flooding which plagued land owners and the spells of low water which shut down cargo traffic in the canal. After completion of the dam, all vessels would then pass through the gigantic locks at Pinopolis which would drop a vessel 75 feet on its way down stream. Every such opening displaces roughly 6 million gallons of water.

With the advent of jet skis, faster and louder watercraft and the wildly overpowered, metalflake, beamy, low freeboard, designer fiberglass bass boats, a trip up the Tailrace Canal no longer evokes romantic images of the early 1800's. The Tailrace also draws passive interests such as kayaking groups and SCUBA exploration of several old shipwreck sites. There are still some recreational fishing folk who simply cast from small jon boats as sane men once did.

To this mix there now comes the proposal to begin large scale barge traffic from the Port of Charleston up through the Tailrace and Lakes Moultrie and Marion all the way to Orangeburg depositing cargo at what is imagined to be an "Inland Port". As oxymoronic as that expression sounds, even more at odds with lucidity is the idea of using this waterway in place of I-26 and the railroad to move cargo containers from the Wando Terminal to a point near the intersection of I-26 and I-95.

CaroLinks is the name of the outfit which proposes to barge into the Tailrace. Their initial plan called for a staging area at Shipyard Creek on the Peninsula to which cargo would be barged from Wando-Welch to be loaded aboard railcars. They never acquired that site so all of that which would have gone by rail would now be barged up the waterway adding greatly to what would already be heavy traffic. Another unacquired asset is the approval and good will of the many different people and businesses which would be greatly affected by such an undertaking.

Recreational boaters, residential and commerical property owners, and especially the County Manger of Berkeley County are stunned and scared of this plan which has come as a great surprise to most. The point was made that this is not the mile wide Mississippi, but in fact an often narrow body of water unlikely to absorb such barge traffic without serious consequences. Even a spokesman of the Monks at Mepkin Abbey spoke openly to express their concerns for the interruption of peace in their sector and of the effects on other "stake holders" along the way. Erosion of the banks and entanglement with other vessels come to mind as problematic.

We are reminded of Captain Willard's long and insanely eventful trip up that convoluted river in the film, APOCALYPSE NOW, in pursuit of Colonel Walter Kurtz. When at long last he finds his objective, Kurtz asks, "do you find my methods unsound, Captain? ". Willard replies, "I don't see any method Sir" We are at some pains ourselves to fully appreciate a sound method in this plan.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very enlightening perspective on the proposed Inland Port. Everyone in the Lakes communities should be concerned about this plan, which is sanctioned by the Orangeburg County Council and various state and national legislators. It is imperative that these folks hear from all stakeholders on the Lakes.

Our citizens group, the Friends of Santee Cooper Lakes, has developed a website ( ) which contains all information available about this project.

We urge everyone to visit the site and understand the impact it may have on his or her own environment, lifestyle and livelihood. Please join us in voicing your concern by contacting your representatives today!

Don Antal
Friends of Santee Cooper Lakes

10:55 AM  
Blogger Windviel said...

We thank Mr. Antal for his comment. We want to make a clear point that we are very supportive of the Port of Charleston and of the State Ports Authority's need for improvements at Charleston to better compete for cargo handling along the East Coast.

We do not, however, see the proposed path of the inland port as truly helpful to the Port of Charleston. It appears problematic for navigation and fraught with hazards for people, property and watercraft along the way.

Of course, Orangeburg interests would support this project. They want the revenue which would be generated by the cargo traffic. They could not care less how it gets there. It would be instructive to determine who else supports this venture and why.

We're going to check out . Learning more about this plan seems prudent for all concerned. Either by chance or by design this project had stayed just over the trees and under the radar for quite a while.

11:37 AM  
Blogger rose said...

Nice Post....
thank's a lot for sharing all about residential and commercial property owners,you described everything in very easy way. Trucking Charleston

6:00 AM  

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