Outdoors column: CCA Banquet features change of venue

03/13/2014 6:57 PM

03/13/2014 6:58 PM

There is a change of scenery this year for the annual banquet and auction staged by the local Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina.

The venue for the Waccamaw Chapter’s Celebrating Conservation Banquet & Auction will be Sunnyside Plantation, located waterfront right in the heart of Murrells Inlet.

The setting for the banquet, scheduled for next Friday, March 21, at 6 p.m. at Sunnyside, could not be more fitting.

Chris Hawley is the Waccamaw Chapter Chairman, as well as a member of CCA’s state and national boards. Consider Hawley fired up about this year’s banquet setting.

“We are gearing up for another great banquet this year, but this one will have a special touch,” said Hawley. “We have moved our venue to Sunnyside Plantation, and will be gathering under the majestic, mossy oaks.

“But more importantly, we will be positioned creek front. It suits our mission, and really provides a great atmosphere for what we are trying to accomplish – raise money for local conservation of our creeks and fisheries.”

The banquet will also be catered by Inlet Affairs of Murrells Inlet, lending even more local flavor to the event.

The Waccamaw Chapter has been heavily involved with S.C. DNR’s South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program and CCA’s Topwater Action Campaign.

The two programs are focused on improving and maintaining water quality in the estuaries along the South Carolina coast, particularly by placing used oyster shell in strategic locations to build new oyster reefs or enhance existing ones.

In the last three-plus years, CCA members and volunteers have put three oyster reefs in place in Murrells Inlet, plus established the first oyster reef by the programs in Georgetown’s Winyah Bay.

The benefits of strategically returning used oyster shell to estuaries are well-documented.

Oyster shell is the preferred and natural surface for spat, or oyster larvae, to attach to, creating new oysters and in turn new oyster beds. Oyster beds are the critical foundation of the marine ecosystem in our estuaries along the Palmetto State’s coast.

Since the inception of its Topwater Action Campaign in 2009, CCA SC and S.C. DNR have worked together to place 12,817 bushels of oyster shell at 26 oyster restoration sites along the state’s coast.

But the Topwater Action Campaign works with more than oyster restoration and enhancement. The program also is involved in creating and enhancing artificial reefs, improving and monitoring water quality and providing education on the state’s marine environment.

Other projects have included funding for the Apache Pier Data Station in Myrtle Beach to aid in monitoring dissolved oxygen, water temperature and salinity levels, which helps in identifying hypoxia events that have occurred along the Grand Strand and the creation of the CCA McClellanville Reef, located nine nautical miles off the coast, consisting of two tug boats and bridge rubble from the Cooper River bridge.

CCA consists of 206 chapters in 17 coastal states, from Maine to Texas plus on the West Coast in Washington and Oregon. The banquets staged by each chapter provide the funds for the grassroots organization to operate and live by CCA’s mission statement, which follows:

“The purpose of CCA is to advise and educate the public on conservation of marine resources. The objective of CCA is to conserve, promote, and enhance the present and future availability of those coastal resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public.”

The Waccamaw Chapter’s banquet begins at 6 p.m. on March 21, starting with a social hour during which attendees can enjoy drinks, bid on silent-auction items and enter raffles.

Dinner, catered by Inlet Affairs, is next before the night is capped by a live auction, which will feature various hunting and fishing trips among other items.

Tickets are $60 for individuals, $85 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA. Sponsorships are available starting at $275. For more information, contact Hawley at 843-455-0371 or chawley24@gmail.com.

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