Scout plant to impact wetlands

BLYTHEWOOD – A proposed $2 billion automobile manufacturing facility would potentially negatively impact over 111 acres of wetlands, according to a recently published public notice by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The proposed 1,600-acre facility that Scout Motors wants to build near I-77 and Exit 27 would impact 73.6 acres of wetlands, 38 acres of ponds and 38 thousand linear feet of tributaries, the notice states.

Those details and more are part of the document filed in support of a permit Scout is seeking to discharge fill material in the vicinity of Beasley Creek. The creek is located on nearly 2,600 acres south and east of Blythewood Road.

Comments are being accepted for 30 days from June 1, the date the notice was issued.

“Written statements regarding the proposed work will be received … from those interested in the activity and whose interests may be affected by the proposed work,” according to the notice.

The Army Corps of Engineers will issue a decision based on public comments, evaluating potential impacts, and compliance with federal and state guidelines.

“All factors which may be relevant to the project will be considered, including the cumulative effects thereof,” the notice states. “Among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands … and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.”

A subsidiary of Volkswagen, Scout wants to start construction next year and complete the facility sometime in 2026. Advocates of the new facility tout the 4,000-plus jobs Scout has promised to create, as well as road improvements Scout has pledged to complete in the Blythewood area.

To compensate for the affected wetlands, Scout has proposed buying stream mitigation credits from several locations, including from the Mill Creek in southern Richland County.

The Environmental Protection Agency defines a mitigation bank as “a wetland, stream, or other aquatic resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or (in certain circumstances) preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources permitted under [federal law] or a similar state or local wetland regulation.”

Essentially, developers can buy mitigation credits elsewhere to replenish credits expended when damaging or destroying wetlands.

Mitigation maps place Scout’s proposed Mill Creek mitigation site about 10 miles southeast of downtown Columbia.

In addition, Scout says it plans to take the following actions to minimize environmental impacts:

  • Use appropriate erosion and sedimentation controls
  • Take steps to prevent oil, tar, trash, debris and other pollutants
  • Complete construction in an “expeditious manner”
  • Follow proper procedural and seasonal protocols when clearing wetlands
  • Properly place pipes to avoid/minimize scour and permit upstream passage of aquatic life
  • Use clean fill materials
  • Build multiple storm water detention ponds to minimize effect of impervious surfaces.

The Army Corps’ public notice did not rule out impacts to endangered wildlife.

A review of Scout’s plans said there would be zero impact on the Canby’s dropwort and rough-leaved loosestrife, two herbs found in the county.

However, the project “is not likely to affect” the red-cockaded woodpecker or smooth coneflower, the notice states.

The woodpecker remains endangered, however the coneflower was recently down-listed from endangered to threatened, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Public comments can be submitted via email to [email protected] or snail mail to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn: Regulatory Division, 69A Hagood Avenue, Charleston, South Carolina 29403-5107. Correspondence should include the following notice/file number: SAC-2023-00690.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]