By Angelina Ricci Eisenhauer for The Island Eye News
Audubon South Carolina is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $700,000 grant through the National Coastal Resilience Fund, a partnership between National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Shell Oil Company, and TransRe. Audubon will direct the funds toward efforts by South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary Island in Mount Pleasant.
“We are so grateful to receive this grant from the National Coastal Resilience Fund, which elevates the restoration of Crab Bank as a national priority and serves as a new model of private-public partnerships for coastal resiliency,” said Sharon Richardson, executive director of Audubon South Carolina. “The restoration of Crab Bank is truly a win-win initiative, helping protect the vulnerable Shem Creek community while preserving critical habitat for our declining seabird population.”
In partnership with NOAA, NFWF launched the National Coastal Resilience Fund this year to support projects that engage communities and reduce their vulnerability to growing risks from coastal storms, sea-level rise, flooding, erosion, wildfires and drought by strengthening natural ecosystems that also benefit fish and wildlife. The Crab Bank grant was one of 35 awarded through a competitive grant process that cumulatively directed $28.9 million toward projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico.
“The National Coastal Resilience Fund brings together the public and private sectors to maximize resources to conserve habitats and help protect coastal communities,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The grant supporting Crab Bank’s restoration builds on significant coordination and planning that already has been done in the Charleston region, and will generate tremendous benefits for nearby communities, shorebirds and other wildlife.”
The Charleston Harbor deepening project presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add approximately 28 acres the severely eroded barrier island using some 600,000 cubic yards of bottom soils dredged as part of the deepening project. To accomplish this critical ecological task, SCDNR must contribute $1.5 million of the project’s total estimated, multi-million dollar cost by mid-December.
“Prioritizing restoration of Crab Bank demonstrates that our community values a future with healthy wildlife populations and refuses to let the tide take away our most treasured Lowcountry resources,” said Felicia Sanders, wildlife biologist with SCDNR. “Thanks to funding from the NFWF, Crab Bank is closer to once again becoming a home to abundant wildlife and a place where people can get an up-close view of the spectacular natural world.”
Together with groups including South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Coastal Expeditions Foundation and South Carolina Wildlife Federation, Audubon South Carolina is working with SCDNR to help raise the required funds under the auspices of the SC Coastal Bird Program. The NFWF grant marks a major milestone in the group’s fundraising efforts, bringing the total remaining needed to secure the project down to $350,000.
“We’re elated. This is a tremendous sign of support from federal agencies for an ecologically significant Crab Bank and our local sea and shorebirds, and it echoes the generosity we’ve already seen at every level in our community,” Laura Cantral, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, said. “This brings us to the final homestretch of fundraising to restore Crab Bank. It is time to close the gap.”