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Corps awards option for Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary renourishment

February 7, 2020

This aerial photograph shows terns nesting on Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary in 2015. [SCDNR photo by Christy Hand]

This aerial photograph shows terns nesting on Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary in 2015. [SCDNR photo by Christy Hand]

The initiative to save the Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary near the mouth of Shem Creek in Charleston Harbor, a critical spot for nesting and migrating coastal bird species, has gained momentum and will be a reality next year.

On February 6th, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District exercised an option on their dredging construction contract for the Charleston Harbor Post 45 Deepening Project to place approximately 660,000 cubic yards of sediment within the historic footprint of Crab Bank. The dredging contractor, Virginia-based Norfolk Dredging Company, will place material on this important habitat that would have normally been disposed of in an EPA-approved disposal area offshore. Dredged material with a high sand content will be used to restore up to 80 acres of Crab Bank, approximately 28 acres of which will be prime nesting habitat above mean high water for coastal birds, creating a big win for the natural resources of South Carolina and the nation.

While this important project will utilize material from the harbor deepening, it is being undertaken by utilizing a wholly separate authority, the Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) Section 204. CAP Section 204 enables cost-sharing projects for the protection, restoration, and creation of aquatic habitats in connection with dredging of a navigation project. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) share of the cost to place the dredge material on Crab Bank will only be approximately $80,000, considerably less than an earlier estimate. This means more resources will be available to further the efforts of SCDNR in protecting, researching and improving habitat for coastal birds up and down the state's coast through the Coastal Bird Conservation Program. The Corps is funding the remaining $150,000 to complete this exciting project to restore valuable habitat.

As the construction date draws closer, the District will re-evaluate the existing footprint to ensure sound engineering principles continue to be used to construct this beneficial use project, which is a big win for the community.

"Providing a long lasting solution for this vital sanctuary is what all of us who live, work and play in this special place called the Lowcountry want," said Lt. Col Rachel Honderd, Commanding Officer of the Charleston District. "We thank you for entrusting us as we balance engineering, economics, and the environment, tempered by our years of experience in working in the waters around Charleston."

"This is one more step towards bringing back a thriving Crab Bank, and making it a safe place for nesting that is essential for ensuring a bright future for our pelicans, terns, skimmers and oystercatchers," said SCDNR Wildlife Biologist Felicia Sanders.

"Crab Bank provided an opportunity for collaboration of interested conservation-minded folks to save the island and spearheaded the development of the SCDNR's South Carolina Coastal Bird Conservation Program, a fund that can receive donations, draw interest and do great things for coastal birds for years to come," said Lorianne Riggin, Director of SCDNR's Office of Environmental Programs. "We thank all the citizens, organizations and corporations who donated to the effort. Because of the great value the Corps was able to obtain, we will have the opportunity to do even more for coastal birds."

Media Contact: Lorianne Riggin, Regional Public Information Coordinator