MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - With renewed momentum, a project to restore a bird sanctuary in the Charleston harbor will move forward with the support of local conservation groups, state and federal organizations.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Town of Mount Pleasant and other groups to move move nearly 660,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Charleston harbor deepening project to restore 80 acres of Crab Bank.
Crab Bank is an island and bird sanctuary near Shem Creek.
Chris Crolley with Coastal Expeditions said over decades, he has seen the island's size diminish, and with it, the number of birds that call it home.
"We watched Crab Bank over the last 15 years especially, dwindle and dwindle," Crowley said. "It's underwater at high tide."
After the original plans were announced, the Town of Mount Pleasant hired an engineering firm to conduct a study on the project's impacts to the area. While mayor Will Haynie expressed concerns around possible erosion to the area or barriers to neighboring Shem Creek, he said they welcome the opportunity to work with the Corps on a safe and strategic placement for the materials.
“The restoration of Crab Bank must protect these natural resources from man-made shallowing. In this regard, the placement location of the dredged spoil is critical," Haynie said in a statement. "This is now an opportunity for Mount Pleasant, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, our Federal representatives, and local leaders to join together to ensure that we have a pelican rookery without sacrificing Mount Pleasant to build it."
Construction is set to begin in 2021 with Norfolk Dredging Company. The Corps is funding $150,000 of the project, while SCDNR will provide $80,000.
Conservationists hope the project will be a start to others like it in the future.
“This beneficial use project is rare,” Emily Cedzo, with the Coastal conservation league said. "We have not seen something like this in South Carolina. so we really have the opportunity to create precedent here and a really good example that can not only be utilized in the future in our state, but in other states around the country.