In 2017, the Coastal Bird Conservation Program was born when a group of concerned organizations came together to discuss ways to restore the diminishing Crab Bank, a dedicated Heritage Trust Property and a Seabird Sanctuary managed and owned by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) located in the Charleston Harbor, near the mouth of Shem Creek. Crab Bank was originally formed with the placement of dredged material in the 1950s that has eroded significantly over time due to wave action, tropical storms and hurricanes. In the early 2000s, Crab Bank was approximately 23 acres; in 2017, Hurricane Irma washed away most of the remaining high ground, removing any opportunity for nesting birds at this Seabird Sanctuary in 2018.
Over the last few years, SCDNR has worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) during the environmental review process on the Charleston Harbor Post-45 Deepening Project. As a part of that process, SCDNR requested that Crab Bank be considered as an option for the beneficial use of dredged material. However, following analysis, the renourishment of Crab Bank was not the least cost alternative for the dredged material.
Due to interests from SCDNR, local ecotourism outfitters from Shem Creek and various conservation organizations, the USACE Charleston District pursued an opportunity to cost-share the renourishment of Crab Bank with SCDNR. The cost-share on this project was estimated at a little over a million dollars. Knowing that the non-Federal share could increase, SCDNR felt that we couldn’t continue down this path alone and fortunately a group of conservation-minded individuals had already begun to gather to “Save Crab Bank.” Working with this group of interested organizations, including Audubon South Carolina, the Coastal Conservation League, Coastal Expeditions and others, SCDNR established a new program designated as the Coastal Bird Conservation Program under the Nongame and Natural Areas Trust Fund (SC Code of Laws §50-1-280). This program established a means for SCDNR and supporting organizations to collect donations to support the renourishment of Crab Bank and future coastal bird conservation efforts.