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Environment: Waccamaw Riverkeeper will step down

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw Riverkeeper Christine Ellis will resign Jan. 1 but will stay with the Winyah Rivers Foundation to work on grant funded projects on a part-time basis.

“I am removing myself from the administrative side to do fun stuff,” Ellis said.

The foundation has narrowed its search for her replacement to four candidates who will be interviewed this month. “By late January,” Ellis said, “we should have a new Riverkeeper. I’ll be able to provide as much support as the new person wants. It has been my pleasure, and I hope to continue to do good work as a part-time employee.”

Ellis replaced the original Waccamaw Riverkeeper Hamp Shuping in 2006. With a bachelor’s degree specializing in zoology from the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and a master’s in environmental management from the University of San Francisco in California, she had an extensive background in environmental compliance and management for industry. Prior to becoming Riverkeeper, Ellis was teaching at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and Coastal Carolina University.

Reggie Daves, president of the Winyah Rivers Foundation called Ellis “an excellent asset to our organization and its success.”

The Riverkeeper’s job is to be an advocate for the Waccamaw River and the environment. Ellis said the mission was to promote “fishable, swimmable, drinkable water for our families and for our future.”

The new Riverkeeper’s first challenge, Ellis said, will be a proposal to build a marine industrial facility on the Waccamaw River at Bucksport Marina. “Our major concern about this proposal,” she said, “is that there’s no mitigation proposed. That flies in the face of what the Army Corps [of Engineers] should be requiring, which is mitigation first to protect the river.”

There will be a large amount of dredging and a new road associated with the project. Ellis said she will request a public hearing. “At that point,” she said, “we can ask questions and get more information. There is the promise of jobs, but a marine industrial facility could have the potential for severe impact on the Waccamaw from both its construction and operation.”

Ellis said Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority is backing the proposal and held a public meeting for residents. “Public pressure on Grand Strand Water and Sewer may help identify opportunities for conservation easements on the property,” she said. “We know U.S. Fish and Wildlife has an interest in some of that property.”

Ellis said Stacy Williams, who has been working on the Waccamaw River Blue Trail project, has returned to her home in Iowa.

She will remain an employee of American Rivers and concentrate on projects in the Midwest. Her replacement likely will be based in Columbia, focusing on dam removal and other projects

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