MOUNT PLEASANT — Gerald "Jiggin' Jerry" Granier is a familiar sight on the pier at Memorial Waterfront Park where he fishes several times a week and makes fishing videos that have been viewed on YouTube hundreds of thousands of times.
But Granier is worried about the shallow marshfront flats beside the pier that attract everything from record-setting fish to manatees. He fears the town's plan to add on to the pier while adding boat slips and a water taxi dock would cause great harm to the habitat.
"The prop wash would be like running a rototiller through a flower garden," said Granier, an opponent of the town's $14 million park expansion plan undergoing state and federal review. "The environment is not being thought of."
"We have manatees, sturgeon, cow-nosed stingray, sheepshead, flounder, trout — all sorts of things come into this flat," he said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is considering the plan, accepting written comments through April 18. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will also review the plan and take written comments through May 3.
Katherine Hendricks, Mount Pleasant's assistant town administrator, is managing the project. She said that because the town will be getting a $1.2 million federal grant for the project, it will face several extra levels of review that should address concerns about wildlife and habitat.
"We feel confident that this project will be thoroughly reviewed," she said Tuesday.
The pier and dock changes call for 10 40-foot boat slips, 136 feet of dock, a 312-foot pier addition supported by 126 pilings, and fixed wave screens to protect the wetslips from waves and wakes. Long-term plans also call for building a "shell" building to house a full-service restaurant that would be privately run.
"It's not just for fishermen," Hendricks said. "It's water access for everyone."
The Corps' preliminary determination, based on the town's applications, was that the project would not adversely affect any endangered or threatened species or critical habitat.
That's "a very preliminary determination," said Travis Hughes, regulatory division chief for the Corps' Charleston District. "It's very early in the consultation process."
Hendricks said that assuming permits are approved, the pier and marina could be completed in late 2018 or in 2019.
Hughes said the Corps' project manager has spoken with Granier and public comments could raise more issues to address.
"That's the beauty of the public notice process," Hughes said.