The heart of the Port Royal Sound Foundation started beating many decades before becoming a 501(c) 3 nonprofit in 2011.

1970 Port Royal Sound Environmental Study was commissioned by governor as a result of BASF’s plans to build chemical plant on the Colleton River.

1995 Beaufort County Clean Water Task Force formed in reaction to the state’s closure of 500 acres of shellfish beds in various Beaufort County waterways.     

1997 The Task Force published A Blueprint for Clean Water: Strategies to Protect and restore Beaufort County’s Waterways.

1999 Beaufort County’s Special Area Management Plan developed to focus on implementing 10 (out of 50) recommendations from “A Blueprint for Clean Water … ”

2000 Friends of the Rivers formed as a stewardship group in response to the Special Area Management Plan to carry on the mission of water-quality protection and land planning.

2011 After 11 years of successfully educating the county and municipalities on the importance of protecting the marine waters of Beaufort County, the board of directors of Friends of the Rivers chose to expand its effort to include all of the natural, cultural and historical resources of the Port Royal Sound system. Because the mission, bylaws and directors were to stay and due to the need to maintain a tax-exempt status, the IRS and the state of South Carolina approved a simple name change to the Port Royal Sound Foundation.

2014 The Foundation’s Maritime Center opened as a storefront and education center for the nonprofit organization.



Proposed BASF facility rallies community

In the late 1960s, while many communities in the South continued to search for industry to replace agriculture as the foundation of their economy, more and more local leaders began to demand that new industry take special precautions to avoid excessive pollution of the environment. Perhaps in no area had the conflict between industrial development and environmental quality been more dramatic than in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

“Perhaps in no area has the conflict between industrial development and environmental quality been more dramatic than in Beaufort County, South Carolina”

In 1969 the Badische Anilin and Soda Fabrik Company (generally designated by its initials, BASF) had acquired a site and was planning to construct a major chemical manufacturing facility. The site at Victoria Bluff on the Colleton River in the southern part of Beaufort County, South Carolina, while midway (in highway miles) from Beaufort and Savannah, Georgia was located only about four straight-line miles from the nearest point on Hilton Head Island and eight to ten miles from the portions of that island which had been developed very substantially as recreation-residential areas, a major attraction of which is the subtropical sea-island environment.

The developers of Hilton Head Island, the fishermen of the Port Royal Sound estuary (of which the Colleton River is a part) and a number of other groups and individuals who were interested in preventing pollution and in preserving natural environmental and ecological systems protested the plant unless and until they could be assured of any appreciable impairment of the existing economic and environmental attributes of surrounding and nearby areas. In response, the Governor of South Carolina issued a directive to the South Carolina Water Resources Commission to conduct a comprehensive study of the environmental conditions as they existed in the coastal area of the State.

Various physical, biological and socio-economic studies were conducted and a comprehensive analysis was prepared. The Review of Findings stated “three points now seem rather clear:” 1. Beaufort County’s traditional economic base of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has been releasing human resources at a rapid rate. These traditional activities are not likely to disappear from the County’s economy, but they can no longer be depended upon to support a growing population and the public services which such a population will require. 2. To a large extent, economic development in Beaufort County will require trade-offs between environmental quality and pecuniary benefits (e.g., jobs, income, taxes, etc.). 3. The residents of Beaufort County appear to place a rather high value on environmental quality, especially clean air and clean water, and are willing to make rather sizable sacrifices in income in order to preserve a high quality environment.

“The residents of Beaufort County place a high value on environmental quality, especially clean air and water, and are willing to make sizable sacrifices to preserve a high quality environment.”

In January 1971, the BASF Company announced that it had cancelled its plans to construct the plant. Undoubtedly, the protest from conservation-oriented groups in the Hilton Head area, and the resulting delay in the ability of BASF to implement its construction plans, was a significant factor in the company’s decision to cancel its original decision.*

*Excerpts from Economic and Environmental Evaluation of Development Alternatives for Beaufort County, S. C, J. C. Hite, W. W. Hall, Jr., and J. M. Stepp with M. G. Carmichael, T. C. Meadows, R. M. Pope, M. B. Richardson and W. J. Steele., 1970