2017 Annual Report from the Seabrook Island Environmental Committee

Committee Members: Michael Orris (Chair), Guy Gimson (Co Chair), Steve Hirsch (Staff) Roger Banks, Phyllis Cohen, John Conyers, Sam Dolinsky, Lucy Hoover, Jane Marvin, Charley Moore, Dean Morr, Richard Siegel, Barry Shedrow, Dennis Smith, Joe Stevenot, John Turner

The Deer Management Task Force (DMTF) has completed a fall deer inventory on Seabrook Island. Based on the information gained it will be recommended that the herd be culled. At the time of this report, the Environmental Committee and SIPOA need to approve the recommendation.

The SIPOA Environmental Committee (EC) established a task force in January 2017 to evaluate landscape maintenance practices on SIPOA common property.  This task force consisted of 17 individuals who represented, in part, the following organizations:  SIPOA EC, Green Space Conservancy, Seabrook Natural History Group, Audubon Sustainable Communities Initiative, Seabrook Island Birders, and the Town of Seabrook Island. In June 2017, the EC submitted 7 recommendations concerning the maintenance of SIPOA common property providing a renewed emphasis on protecting/enhancing wildlife habitat.

The EC continued to provide a monthly article concerning Seabrook Island wildlife for publication in the Seabrooker under the by-line “Wild Things”.

Fifty-four Seabrook Island residents enjoyed and maintained a garden within the Community Gardens and eleven garden plots were reassigned during 2017. Ten residents remain on the waiting list for a garden plot when they become available. The EC recommended that the nearly 30-year-old fence surrounding the Community Gardens be replaced and included in the SIPOA 2018 budget.

The EC continued to receive monthly reports from the Seabrook Island Security Office concerning calls, requests or other contacts with residents concerning wildlife. As in past years, the great majority of instances involved removing dead animals and live snakes and alligators from owner’s property.

The Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) continued to grow in membership during 2017 with currently 248 members. Five membership meetings were held during 2017 with an average attendance of 94 residents. The seabrookislandbrders.org website, including 121 blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts were continued. A brochure concerning SIB membership and activities and a Check-List of Seabrook Island birds were published. Thirty-eight bird walks and/or other activities were held throughout the year.

The current administration has decided to open the mid- and south- Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for oil and gas exploration and development.  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is currently reviewing seven permit applications to conduct exploratory activities (geological and geophysical) in these offshore regions.  A majority of SI property owners oppose the proposed actions and the Town of Seabrook Island has sent a letter to state and federal representatives expressing the community’s opposition.  It is anticipated that in early 2018 the BOEM will begin preparation of the required environmental impact statement (EIS).  Completion of this document will take approximately 18 months.  Next opportunity for public input will be during the EIS scoping process.

At the time of this report, December 4, 2017 Seabrook Island has achieved Stage 2 completion of the planning process in the Audubon International Sustainability Community Program.  Since this data Seabrook Island has completed and been awarded level 3 certification, this first community to receive this status in South Carolina and 6th in the world.

Wildlife reporting in 2017 was highlighted with Piebald Deer reports, a reduction in the number of Wild Turkeys reported, and the return of Fox and Bobcats to Seabrook Island.

The data received from Priority One for residential waste and recycling for 2017 was consistent with previous years.  Through most of the year recycling runs about 20% of the waste total with an average of just over 100 tons per month.  Steve Hirsch arranged for more regular Brown and White pickup days in 2016 and that has been very successful with between 5 and 8 barrels of hazardous waste and electronics each month.  However, the waste totals are only an indication of the real totals.  Charleston County picks up the waste and recycling at the Maintenance Center and, during peak times, that constitutes a much larger share of the total waste generated here at Seabrook.  Charleston County cannot give us figures for what they pick up at the Maintenance Center because we are in the middle of a pickup route and ours is mixed with others, according to John Foster of Charleston County Environmental Management.

The Adopt-A-Highway Program was renewed by the SIPOA Board for another two years.  This year’s pickups on Betsey Kerrison Highway averaged almost 40 bags of trash and 13 volunteers for each of the 3 designated dates.  There were only three because the September date had to be cancelled due to the arrival of Irma.  We look forward to continued success with The Palmetto Pride Program.

The Deer Management Task Force (DMTF) has completed a fall deer inventory on Seabrook Island. Based on the information gained; it will be recommended that the herd be culled. At the time of this report, the Environmental Committee and SIPOA need to approve the recommendation.

The Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol, for the second year in a row, reported more volunteer hours than any other DNR group in South Carolina. In 2017, 70 nests were identified and 5,508 hatchlings emerged.

Bluebird Trails: We recorded 175 fledged bluebirds (down from 359 in 2015) and 82 fledged Carolina chickadees (down from 106 in 2016). Nest attempts were similar in numbers from 2016 but the drastic drop in fledged birds was attributed to 34 nests predated by raccoons and snakes.

Nature Trails and Boardwalks: Most boardwalks were damaged by T.S. Irma in September. All are currently repaired except Boardwalk 1 which is being replaced. Nature trails are cleaned of debris and are open.

Conservancy Properties: All properties are currently undergoing a visual survey and reports on property conditions submitted to SIPOA in January, 2018.

-Submitted by Lucy Hoover

Comments or questions should be directed to publiccomment@sipoa.org.

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