By Kristin Hackler
A crisp fall morning welcomed the first day of November in the Lowcountry, and the sharp breeze helped to draw the last remnants of sleepiness from a gathering of more than 120 kayakers assembled at Kiawah’s Mingo Point. By 11am, a battalion of 80 rented single and tandem kayaks and more than 20 personal kayaks hit the Kiawah River, winding in professionally straight lines and amateur zig zags through the soft bends of the River toward Cap’n Sams Spit.
Organized by the Friends of the Kiawah River, this kayaking trip was the third in an ongoing effort by the organization to bring people to Cap’n Sams and show them what will be lost if the land is allowed to be developed. In fact, the president of the organization, Sidi Limehouse, paid for all of this trip’s kayak rentals, as well as prepared a free lunch for all of the participants.
At Cap’n Sams Spit, several local naturalists, as well as representatives from the Coastal Conservation League, shared information about how building on Cap’n Sams Spit will affect the immediate environment, as the larger effect on land further down Kiawah River and on Seabrook Island. The build, according to Kate Parks of the CCL, will affect several locally endangered species such as the diamondback terrapin and the Bank Swallow, as well as the nesting habitat of sea turtles, and would remove the majority of the gentle banks needed by dolphins for strand feeding.
“Barrier islands are like chicken legs,” Kate Parks elaborated. “Sand moves from the ‘meaty’ part of the leg to the narrow part, then to the next meaty part. Building on Cap’n Sams interrupts this natural process and will have an effect on eastern Seabrook’s natural accumulation of sand.”
In fact, the Coastal Conservation League is planning on appealing the recent permitting by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) for a 340-foot-long underground sheet pile wall to be built under the neck of Cap’n Sams. According to Nancy Vinson, Program Director for the Coastal Conservation League, the League feels that the OCRM was inconsistent in their decision. An earlier permit request from Kiawah Development Partners (KDP) was denied, according to Vinson, because it would cover three acres of a public beach area with concrete and would impact natural inlet movement in a pristine dune field. The second approved permit, she said, has basically the same impact. Though documents state that the underground structure will be built on “high ground”, the CCL believes that it’s only a matter of time before the sand around it erodes and exposes the fencing. “It [the second permit] seems to be a different variation on the same theme, with the same impact,” said Vinson. “It just seems illogical, so we’re going to appeal.”
According to the KDP, The underground wall will be built above the high tide line and will be needed to protect structures and utilities in the event of a storm cutting through the narrow neck of the land. However, the permit also states that if erosion causes the fence to be exposed, then the developers could be required to remove it.
In the meantime, The Friends of the Kiawah River will continue to raise funds to support legal costs and do what they can to protect Cap’n Sams Spit.
“We were very happy with the number of people who attended and the amount of money we were able to raise toward the protection of Cap’n Sams,” said Peter Mugglestone, Vice President of The Friends of the Kiawah River. “We still have donations coming in and we’ve recruited more than 60 new people to our cause.”
If you are interested in learning more about The Friends of the Kiawah River, Cap’n Sams Spit or when the next kayaking trip will be scheduled, visit www.kiawahriver.org.