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Crab Bank compromise will move dredge material away from mouth of Shem Creek

Crab Bank (copy)

The Crab Bank seabird sanctuary in the Charleston Harbor has eroded to just a sliver of land. Renourishment efforts are expected to begin in September 2021. Cristy Hand/SCDNR/Provided

MOUNT PLEASANT — The Army Corps of Engineers will adjust where it will place sediment to renourish the Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary after a continuous push from the town.

The Corps thought it had reached a compromise with Mount Pleasant in 2018 after agreeing to shift the sediment to the southeast, but leaders remained unsatisfied.

Members of Mount Pleasant Town Council were concerned the initial proposal would affect Shem Creek and cause negative economic impacts to the town and its residents. The town spent nearly $170,000 assessing the project's impact. 

There were concerns that plans for the sediment might create a land bridge for predators, according to town administrator Eric DeMoura. Town leaders also feared the material would increase sedimentation to access channels and the mouth of Shem Creek.

The adjusted footprint will allow a contractor to place dredged material farther southeast than originally planned and about 1,400 feet farther away from the mouth of Shem Creek.

About 660,000 cubic yards of material from the Charleston Harbor deepening project will be used to renourish the rookery, which has eroded because of weather and tides. At its peak, the site had nearly 4,000 birds nesting on 18 acres of high ground. Crab Bank is currently not being used by birds because most of the high ground has gone away. 

In a news release issued Thursday afternoon, Army Corps district commander Lt. Col. Rachel Honderd said the agency is pleased to be able to address the concerns of the town within the existing constraints of the approved project. 

Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie thanked the Corps for its work and commitment to the residents and business owners of Mount Pleasant. 

"I would like to also thank U.S. Sens. Graham and (Tim) Scott and U.S. Rep (Nancy) Mace for their efforts to achieve an effective solution for all parties," Haynie said. 

Construction on the project is expected to begin in September and take a couple of months to complete. Once finished, the project will create about 28 acres of nesting habitat for shorebirds. 

The project will be a win-win for wildlife and the community, said Nolan Schillerstrom, Audubon South Carolina's coastal program associate. The organization has been involved in funding and advancing the project and received a $700,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that will assist with the restoration and monitoring of the project.

Corporations such as The Post and Courier Foundation, Boeing S.C., the S.C. Ports Authority and hundreds of Charleston-area residents have contributed more than $1 million.

In January, Jeff Livasy, civil works chief for the U.S. Army Corps’ Charleston District, said it was projected to cost about $300,000 to place the material on Crab Bank. 

The rest of more than $1 million in contributions and a $700,000 federal grant will be used for building oyster reefs and adding sea grasses meant to hold renourished sand in place.

The cost of the project has not changed because of the adjustment to the sediment's placement. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is a project sponsor and has funded approximately $80,000 of the cost.

Follow Shamira McCray on Twitter @ShamiraTweets.

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