By Brian Sherman, The Island Eye News Editor
On Oct. 29, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham wrote a letter expressing his opposition to a mediated agreement that would settle a long-simmering lawsuit and permit the town of Sullivan’s Island and beachfront residents to remove trees and other vegetation from the island’s Maritime Forest. Less than a month later, the 1st District U.S. representative apparently changed his mind.
In a letter dated Nov. 17 and addressed to Army Corps of Engineers District Commander Lt. Rachel Honderd; Elizabeth B. von Kolnitz, chief of the Office of Ocean & Coastal Management with the Department of Health and Environmental Control; and Mark Caldwell, deputy field supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cunningham appeared to contradict his previous stance on the Maritime Forest.
“I am writing in follow up to my letter dated Oct. 29, 2020, expressing opposition to the town of Sullivan’s Island’s plan to move forward with a settlement agreement governing its Maritime Forest/ accreted land,” the letter said. “The Sullivan’s Island Maritime Forest/accreted land is a complex subject, with a long history, strong opinions on both sides and should be resolved by the residents of Sullivan’s Island and the appropriate agencies. After consultation with stakeholders and outside experts, I request my letter opposing the settlement agreement be withdrawn.”
Cunningham’s Oct. 29 letter to representatives of the Corp of Engineers, DHEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, in part:
“I am writing to express my opposition to a proposal that would clear out nearly a hundred or more acres of Maritime Forest on Sullivan’s Island. At a special meeting on Oct. 2, 2020, the Sullivan’s Island Town Council voted 4-3 on a settlement agreement on a decade-old lawsuit that would pave the way for the removal of a majority of the Maritime Forest on the barrier island. I have several concerns surrounding this proposal, including the environmental impacts and the overall decision-making process.”
Cunningham was defeated in his bid for re-election Nov. 3. He did not respond to texts and emails sent to his office Nov. 17 and Nov. 18