A shipping line that spilled 12,500 gallons of oil into Charleston Harbor in 2002 aims to pay off its environmental debt by restoring local wetlands this year.

Evergreen International S.A. recently applied for a permit from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to rebuild and enhance about 15 acres of salt marsh along Noisette Creek at the former Navy base.

The project would remove culverts on a former golf course and add tidal creeks to the area between Riverfront Park and Noisette Boulevard.

The construction should restore the marsh to a more natural tidal pattern, according to Ross Nelson, president of Tidewater Environmental Services, a Johns Island company serving as a consultant on the project.

Nelson said it's too early to estimate costs, but that the remediation could be completed this year.

The work also calls for removing golf-cart paths, former road beds, a wooden bridge, a dilapidated dock and invasive plants. The project makes up just one part of Evergreen's overall agreement for compensation required by the Natural Resource Damage

Trustees, the federal officials who act on behalf of the public.

In 2002 the ship Ever Reach struck a submerged steel dredge pipe and polluted more than a dozen miles of shoreline from the former Navy base to Folly Beach, affecting creeks and marshes, the wildlife that lives there, plus boats and piers.

The oil touched more than 9,000 feet of shoreline, 47 commercial ships and boats and 157 pleasure craft.

Cleanup efforts, paid for by Evergreen, cost $4 million and included emergency bird rescues, boat and pier scrubbings and reimbursement for property damage.

Evergreen spokeswoman Barbara Yeninas stressed that the Taiwanese company's commitment to clean industry includes its "Green Ship" technology, which has features designed to reduce emissions and prevent accidents, such as oil spills.

"The Evergreen philosophy has always included respect for the environment," Yeninas said. "The fact is that this accident took place eight years ago, yet our policy on doing all possible to protect the environment still continues, and our world leading 'Green Ship' technology that was new at that time is highly recognized today."

Sean Houseal, a local attorney representing Evergreen, said the remediation project took so long primarily because of the process set forth by the Oil Protection Act of 1990. He said if the permit is approved, the shipping line will seek bids for the work and move forward quickly from there.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or abird@postandcourier.com.