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The Drum Island Marsh Restoration Project created 22 acres of salt marsh in the middle of Charleston Harbor. 

Two significant South Carolina Ports Authority projects received recognition during the prestigious 2020 Engineering Excellence Awards for their innovative, creative and environmentally focused approaches to engineering.

The awards, given by the American Council of Engineering Companies of South Carolina, honor the year’s most outstanding engineering accomplishments.

S.C. Ports Authority and Collins Engineers Inc. received the Engineering Excellence Award in the Environmental Category for their joint work on the Drum Island Marsh Restoration Project.

S.C. Ports Authority and Infrastructure Consulting and Engineering received the State Finalist – Engineering Excellence Award in the Transportation Category for their joint work on the Wando Welch Terminal Traffic Flow Improvements Phase 2 Project.

“Our engineering and operations teammates are creative problem solvers and innovative thinkers who dedicate themselves to their jobs every day and still find time to push the envelope with impressive environmental projects and infrastructure solutions,” said S.C. Ports COO Barbara Melvin. “These projects not only positively impact our operations, which are busier than ever, but they also benefit the broader community through restored wetlands and improved traffic flow. It is truly a great privilege to work with this team and our project partners.”

Judges rank the projects based on their innovative applications, complexity, future value to the engineering profession, benefits to the public and environment and the ability to meet the client’s needs.

The awardees were honored during a dinner on Feb. 4 in Columbia at the USC Alumni Center.

Drum Island Marsh Restoration – Engineering Excellence Award

The American Council of Engineering Companies of South Carolina recognized the Drum Island Marsh Restoration Project for engineering excellence in the environmental category.

S.C. Ports Authority created 22 acres of salt marsh in the middle of Charleston Harbor, fulfilling its environmental commitment to revert land on the southern end of Drum Island back into salt marsh. Collins Engineers Inc. was the main consultant and provided coastal and marine engineering services to S.C. Ports.

The site posed numerous challenges, including being surrounded by water and needing significant site grading to create a new marsh habitat on the unused island. Work involved site grading and planting more than 100,000 native species of marsh vegetation to restore the area to its natural state. The project was completed in July 2019.

The resulting salt marsh improves water quality, supports surrounding ecosystems and provides a nursery habitat for juvenile fish species and other marine life.

The award submission said that the project is arguably the most visible marsh restoration project completed to date.

“Anyone walking or biking the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge can watch these plants grow over time,” said Mark Messersmith, S.C. Ports Authority’s permitting manager. “The restoration of this salt marsh is significant to the Charleston Harbor watershed and is an important environmental commitment of the Port. We are grateful to all our project partners for working so diligently to make this endeavor a success.”

L-J Inc. was the prime contractor for the project. Cape Romain Contractors and EarthBalance were subcontractors. Newkirk Environmental Inc., Water Environment Consultants, Applied Technology & Management, Insight Group and Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson Inc. also worked as consultants on the project.

Wando Welch Terminal Traffic Flow Improvements – State Finalist - Engineering Excellence Award

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Wando Welch Terminal's new roundabout is the largest in the state. The new route improves safety, congestion and efficiency.

The American Council of Engineering Companies of South Carolina recognized the Wando Welch Terminal Traffic Flow Improvements Phase 2 Project for engineering excellence in the transportation category.

S.C. Ports Authority saw a need to improve traffic patterns at Wando Welch Terminal to handle the amount of daily traffic and in early 2017, the engineering and operations teams began working on the project.

Work entailed replacing a four-lane straight roadway with wider lanes and creating a roundabout for truck drivers to use. The roundabout, which has five exits, enables the continuous flow of traffic in and out of the terminal by eliminating left turns.

The roundabout had to be large enough to accommodate up to 8,000 trucks carrying containers each day, as well as trucks hauling 53-foot-long trailers.

With an outer diameter of 220 feet, it now stands as the largest roundabout in the state. Infrastructure Consulting and Engineering served as the lead design firm responsible for providing the innovative design concepts.

Banks Construction Co. was the prime contractor on the $20 million project. Construction posed a great challenge as it occurred within the second busiest container terminal on the East Coast and while S.C. Ports experienced record cargo growth.

Ed Stehmeyer, S.C. Ports’ project manager and design manager, said the complex project required great creativity and coordination with project partners. The roundabout opened in August 2019.

“The roundabout greatly benefits our operations by improving safety, reducing congestion and increasing efficiency, ultimately enabling S.C. Ports to handle increasing cargo volumes,” Stehmeyer said. “The smooth traffic flow also benefits truck drivers, who rely on our efficiently run terminals to make a living, as well as the surrounding communities, who rely on us to be a good neighbor. This infrastructure enhancement prepares us well for future growth.”