Coasts

Captain Sam's Spit

Federally-threatened Red Knots urgently need the nourishment they find on a natural beachfront. Photo: Paula R. Feldman

Since 2008, Captain Sam’s Spit at the south end of Kiawah Island has been the subject of a tumultuous legal battle.  Developers are eager to build 50 houses on the highly-erosional spit – despite the fact that it periodically disappears under the waves.  Conservationists are equally eager to protect this fragile place for birds, sea turtles, stranding dolphins, and the humans who enjoy their company.

New Permit

Captain Sam’s Spit lost 70 to 120 feet of beachfront to Hurricane Matthew.  Now developers want to add 8,000 cubic yards of fresh sand – roughly 400 truckloads.  Here’s why the South Carolina Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) should deny the permit:

  • The commotion created in dumping the sand would scare away  migratory birds this fall;
  • The sand itself would smother the tiny invertebrates that shorebirds feed on, sharply reducing their numbers for a period that would probably last several years; and
  • The applicant says that its purpose is to create a storm barrier for life and property – an incomprehensible claim, since permits to build on the spit have repeatedly been denied.

Primo Habitat

Captain Sam’s Spit currently provides outstanding habitat for coastal birds all year round.  For example, Federally-endangered Piping Plovers overwinter there; federally-threatened Red Knots visit in the spring and fall; and the Wilson’s Plover, a state-threatened species of highest priority, nests there in the summer. 

To drive these birds from the spit either by disturbance or long-term depletion of food sources would threaten their already precarious existence.  Shorebird populations have plummeted an average of 70 percent since the 1970s, largely because of habitat loss.  It makes no sense to degrade high-quality habitat – particularly a beach used by these three vulnerable species – for no clear reason.

Speak Your Mind

Want to speak your mind on this issue?  Please send a quick note to OCRM, which is still considering whether to grant this permit.  They’ll consider additional comments until May 2.

PROJECT CONTACT:  Nolan Schillerstrom