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Coastal Land Trust receives $1 million restitution award to preserve Waccamaw River corridor

Dept. of Justice

What started out as an environmental crime has turned into a one-million-dollar award that will allow the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust to preserve a large swath of land near the Waccamaw River.

As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, a federal court has ordered a Columbus County hog farm to pay 200-thousand dollars per year for five years to the Coastal Land Trust – as restitution for intentional violation of the Clean Water Act. 

The money is for the acquisition and preservation of wetlands – after damage by the illegal release of untreated hog waste into a stream flowing into the Waccamaw River.  

Land Trust Executive Director Camilla Herlevich says the environmental preservation group will look for parcels of land that offer the most conservation value. 

“They have the most riparian buffer.  They have the most potential access for people to go fishing or hunting or to become part of state parks.  So we’ll be talking with landowners who own our top-priority tracts.” 

Largely because of its neutral ph from the underlying limestone, the Waccamaw River is one of the wildest and most ecologically-significant in the state, says Herlevich.

“What that means is that there are different critters.  There are different plants, animals that can take calcium from the water and create shells like mollusks or snails – that sort of thing… And so it is home to some rare plants and rare animals that are found nowhere else on Earth.” 

The Waccamaw River has been a top conservation priority for the Land Trust for years – and Herlevich says the group is eager to get the preservation project underway. 

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.