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Op-Ed: Threatened Habitat Demands Attention

By Rick Reed for The Island Eye News

I’m out of here.

At the last Sullivan’s Island Town Council Meeting, Eve Gentieu asked the Town to allow DHEC to place signage alerting beach goers to a Wilson Plover mom and her 2 remaining chicks (1 disappeared). This will not restrict anyone or dog from anything. It will be merely remind folks to exercise caution when walking above the high tide line from Ste. 14 to 16 where the little chicks are preparing for flight.

Worried Mom

According to Felicia Saunders of DNR, this may well be the Wilson Plover couple who have nested here before. Once folks become accustomed to these and other elusive shorebirds, it is hoped that nesting and resting birds will have a place on the southwest end of Sullivan’s Island, as their habitat shrinks.

Though we think of Crab Bank as resting and nesting for seabirds, shorebirds have found their place among the larger birds. Hopefully, Crab Bank restoration can begin once there is reassurance that it won’t cause silting in of Shem Creek. Whereas, Sullivan’s Island beach is vulnerable to predators, Crab Bank and the rapidly enlarging shoreline used by shorebirds along the Pitt St. Bridge are isolated by the “shrimp boat channel” and the “peninsula of the Old Village” respectively. This could easily become the best site for sea and shorebirds safety and for viewers who can’t get too close but can see it all with binoculars.

As for the Crab Bank restoration, dredging of Shem Creek has been increasingly problematic. Three hundred thousand dollars was spent in 2014 and there is already recurring need; rather than on a 10 year cycle as predicted by the Army Corp of Engineers. As well as possible unintended consequence of dumping dredged harbor silt right in front of the Shem Creek waterway, there are many unanswered questions. Would a more southerly location not only be less likely to silt into Shem Creek, but be less subject to tidal flow from contiguous outflow/inflow channels of Shem Creek and Sullivan’s Island Cove Creek/Intracoastal Waterway, and be more protected from shipping channel wake? What will be other effects of changed dynamics and complex interactions of harbor deepening? What topographical changes are rapidly taking place as the SW tip of Sullivan’s Island gains and loses sand into the area in question?

Those willing to donate to this worthy and ecologically critical re-nourishment, need to be reassured that Crab Bank will not again become the victim of ever increasing Irma-like storms and Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island waterways won’t become a “Santee Delta” clone.

Fortunately, the Town of Mount Pleasant is supporting a study to gain that reassurance. So get your checkbooks ready to help raise the $2 million needed. Sullivan’s Island residents and our diminishing bird populations have the most to gain with restoration.

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