May River Watershed Action Plan


The Town of Bluffton is a coastal community with strong historical ties to its local waterbody, the May River. The May River is significant to the community today for a number of reasons, including:

  • its historic and cultural uses;
  • its aesthetics and views which add to the quality of life for its citizens;
  • its numerous natural resource populations that are directly harvested and utilized by local and regional residents;
  • its economic impacts, both direct and indirect, to the community; and
  • its Outstanding Resource Waters (ORW) designation from the SC Department of Health & Environmental Control – Environmental Quality Control’s (SCDHEC-EQC) Bureau of Water for a high level of water quality.

In the past 20 years, the Town has grown dramatically in both size and population. Due to the rapid development within the May River Watershed, rising fecal coliform levels in the River’s headwaters have resulted in closing portions of the River to shellfish harvesting. Rising fecal coliform levels are a clear indicator of deterioration of the health of a watershed. The Town of Bluffton, along with Beaufort County and local citizens work to take action using the May River Watershed Action Plan to improve conditions in the May River prior to further deterioration.


The May River Watershed Action Plan (Action Plan) was developed to:

  • Provide a strategy for assessing problems and implementing solutions to restore shellfish harvesting in the May River.
  • Provide a strategy for assessing and implementing preventative measures to protect the May River from future degradation.
  • Identify opportunities for land purchase, conservation easement purchase, and public, private, and public/private opportunities for retrofit projects.
  • Establish priorities, identify funding opportunities, coordinate specific partners and policies (i.e. ordinance changes), and establish timelines such that the Town can use this information as a business plan to be implemented with other Town annual Capital Improvement and Budgeting programs.
  • Serve as a template for other area watershed action plans.

The Action Plan will not be successful as a static, stand-alone document. It is intended to be a living document with frequent updates and modifications. It will evolve over time so that successful recommendations and projects are highlighted and expanded on, while less successful and ineffective concepts are removed. The Action Plan must maintain consistency and alignment with other official plans and guidance documents, with the goal of protecting the May River Watershed.

A copy of the Town’s May River Watershed Action Plan can be found here.