Monday, November 17, 2008

Waddell Meeting Lends Hope For Mariculture Center's Future

From my comments in the last several columns, you probably gathered that a lot was riding o­n the Coastal Caucus meetings last weekend at the Waddell Mariculture Center in Greater Bluffton and at the Westin Resort o­n Hilton Head Island. I am happy to report that the event was a resounding success despite sky-high expectations and a touch of Friday evening rain. In fact, the meetings were so well attended and the programs so well presented, that the bar has been reset for the next get-together to an altogether unrealistic height.

My special thanks go to Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Bill Miles, his VP for government affairs, Chris Long, as well as chamber logistics specialist Anna Cauthen, for their flawless planning and execution. Some things just have to be left to the pros.

And speaking of pros, Dr. Chris March and Friends of the Rivers board chairman Dave Harter gave a presentation that was easily the high point of the Friday evening portion of the meeting. Dr. Marsh is head of the Lowcountry Institute, as well as the Port Royal Sound Conservancy, and as such, is more than passing familiar with all the features of our local watersheds that account for their pristine beauty and unsurpassed productivity. As head of the Hilton Head Island Sportfishing Club, Dave Harter can speak passionately and persuasively about how our local waters support a thriving and diverse fishery that, in turn, attracts anglers worldwide to visit our area and support our local economy.

Together, Chris and Dave make it perfectly clear that doing the right things to protect our natural assets is more than just protecting our cultural heritage; it is also supporting a huge fraction of our state’s economy. Their explanation of the role of the Waddell Mariculture Center in both groundbreaking research and fisheries management should aid my task of securing dependable and appropriate funding for the Bluffton physical plant, as well as the overall mission of this state of the art facility.

It didn’t hurt that the presentation was given o­n the high bluff overlooking the Colleton-Okatie River, with a spectacular view of Spring Island and Port Royal Sound in the distance.

One of the persistent themes of my legislative career has been that we need to treat our pristine Lowcountry environment with care and respect. Not o­nly is it the foundation of our quality of life, it is the bedrock of our economy. If we shortchange the protection of our natural resources, we are sabotaging the ability of our taxpayers to make a decent living, not to mention denying them the life affirming benefits of living in the pristine Lowcountry.

Hearing those powerful presentations in such a gorgeous setting will help the many members of the General Assembly in attendance to appreciate the wisdom and prudence of good stewardship. We all know the truth of this proposition, but sometimes it helps to be reminded.

Next time, a few thoughts o­n the Westin Resort portion of the caucus meeting.