Locals react to proposed expansion of Crab Bank

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MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – A proposed plan to expand a man-made spoil island, Crab Bank, near Shem Creek is receiving negative feedback from business owners and members of Mt. Pleasant Town Council.

The plan, proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), would redirect some of the dredge material from the multi-year Charleston harbor deepening project to expand Crab Bank by over 50 acres.

The island was originally placed in the Charleston harbor in 1958 and has been slowly eroding for decades.

The proposed project is an attempt to preserve the eroding shoreline of the bank which has become a local shorebird sanctuary. That was until 2017 when Hurricane Irma hit Charleston and many of the existing shorebird nests were washed away.

Many, including business owners around Shem Creek and town council members, are opposed to the specific proposal as long-term effects of the project could result in a major economic loss for the town.

It’s estimated that expanding the shoreline of Crab Bank will increase sedimentation in Shem Creek effectively shallowing the waterway.

According to a research report commissioned by the town, a loss in recreational water use could come from sediment decreasing the depth of the creek in turn negatively impacting businesses along and near the creek.

The report shows an estimated negative economic impact of $82 million to $120 million per year if the creek loses too much depth. Restaurants could lose businesses due to fewer boast docking at the public docks to dine and commercial shrimpers and fishermen could face challenges navigating through the creek.

Mayor Will Haynie of Mt. Pleasant says the town council is not against Crab Bank, but he believes the proposed plan will cause harm to the town.

“We have a resolution that we will pass asking the corps of engineers and all the lawmakers that have influence over them to realize that we are not against Crab Bank, we just want the most beneficial placement for that that eliminates other risks,” said the mayor.

One local fisherman and owner of Redfish Mafia Charters, Jamie Hough, says Crab Bank should be left alone and nature should take its course.

“If they don’t take care of the east side and the south side of that sandbar from Crab Bank, then there’s no way the commercial shrimping industry can continue working out of Shem Creek,” said Hough.

The Coastal Conservation League is in favor of the Crab Bank renourishment. The organization released a statement that says:

“We’re excited for renourishment to begin this fall after years of effort and input from all of our partners. Crab Bank is an integral part of Shem Creek. Crab Bank will serve as a natural buffer for the Town and increase our resiliency against storms while bringing in necessary tourism dollars for local businesses. By building up Crab Bank, the local community will see educational, recreational, and economic benefits for decades to come.”

Riley Egger, Coastal Conservation League

To read more about the proposed plan including the full impact report commissioned by the town click here.

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