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Dec

12

2023

From The Blog

Marsh Health: Updates on Restoration and Protection Efforts and How You Can Plan to Get Involved

In 2022, the Town of Kiawah Island’s Planning Department developed a Comprehensive Marsh Management Plan with consultants Biohabitats and Elko Coastal Consulting. The plan was adopted by Town Council at the beginning of 2023 and soon after, the Marsh Management Work Group was formed to execute the plan. The work group includes representatives from each island entity and is comprised of three subgroups: Kiawah River Bridge Marsh Health, Pervious/Impervious Surfaces and Communication.

The subgroups have been working diligently to define objectives and develop plans to restore and protect the health of Kiawah’s marsh.

The Kiawah River Bridge Marsh Health subgroup has looked specifically at ways to restore the oyster beds and marsh grasses near the bridge and how to prevent further degradation of the marsh in this area due to people trampling the grasses when accessing the marsh.

The subgroup’s objectives are:

  1. Restoration: Restore oyster beds along river bend, restore grasses along causeway, showcase a variety of living shoreline strategies.
  2. Conservation: Prevent negative impacts and damage to the marsh.
  3. Public access: Provide passive access, observation, fishing/crabbing, no kayak launching, no pedestrians on grasses.
  4. Education: Include an outreach element with signage to explain marsh restoration/conservation efforts, benefits of healthy marshes, how you can help (stay off the grasses).
  5. Community Showcase: Enhance marsh, educational opportunities, and showcase the community as a resilience leader at this gateway location to the Kiawah Community for residents and visitors.

The Kiawah River Bridge Marsh Health subgroup is developing a marsh restoration and living shoreline solution to improve marsh health and is working on conceptual designs for a raised wooden boardwalk to keep pedestrians out of the marsh and prevent future damage, while still providing for passive public access. (The community was surveyed in September about marsh access at the Kiawah River bridge. The results can be viewed here.) Concepts will be shared with the community for input and refinement in early 2024.

The Pervious/Impervious Surfaces subgroup looked at ways to promote the adoption of pervious surfaces on Kiawah as a way to benefit the marsh through reducing stormwater runoff and erosion. When stormwater can penetrate the ground, pollutants are filtered out before entering the local water system. 

This subgroup has developed several recommendations, several of which provide ways community members can make changes to their properties, which will benefit the health of the marsh. The recommendations include:

  1. Convert Driveways and Parking Areas to a Pervious Surface: Development of an annual program where community members can leverage group discounts to replace their impervious driveway or parking area with a pervious surface.
  2. Install Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens: Development of an annual program to make it easy for community members to install a rain garden or barrel, with discounts for barrels, plants, and installation services.
  3. Convert Walking Paths to Pervious Surfaces: Collaboration between regimes and other island entities to convert impervious secondary leisure trails/walking paths to previous surfaces.
  4. Measure and Monitor the Impervious to Pervious Surface Ratio on Kiawah: Utilize mapping tools to identify the current ratio of pervious to impervious surface on Kiawah to monitor and track changes over time, and identify areas of the island where a conversion to pervious surface would be the most beneficial.

More details will be shared with the community in the coming months as details are solidified. Meanwhile, community members are encouraged to become familiar with Kiawah’s marsh – the concerns, restoration techniques, and more – by reading the Marsh Management Plan, available at kiawahisland.org/marsh_management_plan.php.