Wetlands permit issued for Volvo’s future S.C. plant

The Army Corps of Engineers issued Berkeley County a key permit Thursday for a $500 million manufacturing plant Volvo Cars North America plans to build near Ridgeville.

The factory site is along U.S. Interstate 26. State-owned utility Santee Cooper is buying the 6,800-acre Camp Hall Industrial Campus for the automotive project and for future economic development deals, potentially including Volvo suppliers.

The carmaker anticipates hiring 2,000 workers for the assembly plant — its first in the U.S. — and the Swedish carmaker has said it could double its payroll under a future expansion.

Volvo has not announced which vehicles it will build in South Carolina. Production is expected to begin in 2018.

Bill Peagler, county supervisor, said the federal permit allows for the Camp Hall land to be sold.

“That should be happening very quickly,” he said Thursday.

Volvo will occupy about 2,880 acres of the property. About 195 acres of wetlands on the site will need to filled.

Construction is scheduled to start on a 575-acre tract by 2016 with a manufacturing plant, offices and other structures.

The county’s permit application with the Army Corps proposed a mitigation plan that would preserve, restore and enhance 1,533 acres on tracts within the Dean Swamp and Walnut Branch watersheds, which are tributaries of the Four Holes Swamp blackwater river.

“Issuing the permit for the Volvo facility will be a great economic driver for Berkeley County and the state of South Carolina, and includes important conservation properties within the Four Hole Swamp ecosystem, which has national and international significance,” Lt. Col. John Litz, the Army Corps’ commander in Charleston, said in a written statement. “We believe that we made the right decision for this project by balancing the economic needs of the area with the environmental responsibility of being the nation’s environmental engineer.”

The federal agency said in May that it had received no concerns about the wetlands plan during the public comment period. The Department of Health and Environmental Control is expected to make a decision on a state permit soon, according to Peagler.

He also anticipated Berkeley County Council will approve a $16 million Volvo grant when it meets Monday. The money, from the state Coordinating Council for Economic Development, will pay for site work and other improvements at the plant property.

Volvo wants to start making cars in South Carolina under a plan to double annual U.S. sales to 100,000 automobiles over the next few years.

Peagler said the factory remains on schedule.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to keep it on schedule,” he said.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.