Birds In the News

Commentary: Restored Crab Bank is good for the Lowcountry, all of SC

Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary’s restoration is complete. So what does this mean for the Lowcountry?

This story originally appeared in The Post & Courier on December 12th, 2021.

Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary’s restoration is complete. So what does this mean for the Lowcountry? What is the significance of a restored Crab Bank? And what comes next?

If you haven’t heard the story already, Crab Bank is an island in Charleston Harbor that once supported 5,000 nesting birds in a single summer and supports countless migrating birds every spring and fall. Wind and waves eroded the island over time, but after a multi-year collaboration between many for-profit, nonprofit and government entities, the island has been restored.

We now have evidence that the newly restored island is providing protection to homes and businesses in the nearby community from wind, waves and storm surge by buffering wave energy coming from the harbor. Audubon South Carolina commissioned a recent report by Water Environment Consultants, which found there is a large reduction in wave height on the shoreline for the area behind Crab Bank. In other words, Crab Bank helps minimize storm impacts to this coastal area. This would result in a large cost savings of about $1.6 million to structures that are sheltered by the island in a 10-year storm

Moreover, the report showed that in other areas of the coast with lower elevation homes, the wave reduction benefits of a bird-nesting island such as Crab Bank would be even greater — highlighting the need for projects like this to be replicated along other areas of the coast.

South Carolina is racing to adapt to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. It’s no question that our state needs to have a more resilient coastline and many groups in the state are working hard to make that a reality.

Working together with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coastal Conservation League, the Coastal Expeditions Foundation and many others, the conservation community successfully undertook the multi-year effort of restoring Crab Bank that required approval at many levels of government and funding. We are confident that we can do it again elsewhere along the coast.

Audubon South Carolina supports policies and projects that allow our state to quickly bounce back after storms and hurricanes, and reduce flooding impacts to homes and businesses. We’ve found that the best and most sustainable resiliency solutions also provide or improve habitat for birds and other wildlife. Audubon South Carolina and the conservation community at large have made it our responsibility to protect the rich natural resources that South Carolina’s residents and visitors have come to love.

As the birds return to Crab Bank this spring now that the restoration is completed, and you begin to see and feel the impact it has on the Lowcountry, do not forget about the powerful partners that collaborate on projects like this. Learn more about them. And, if you can, support them. Working together, the people of the Lowcountry can join conservationists, business leaders and policymakers to make a difference for people across South Carolina.

Nolan Schillerstrom, coastal program manager, leads the coastal program for Audubon South Carolina.

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