USACE: Preserving Habitat for Wildlife

Preserving Habitat for Wildlife
Black-necked stilts gather near the water’s edge at the newly-constructed bird island, located at the Savannah Harbor Dredged Material Containment Area 12A, May 30, 2014.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District completed construction of a new 8-acre bird island in March, located at the Savannah Harbor Dredged Material Containment Area (DMCA) 12A. It’s one of seven areas that stores sediment dredged from the Savannah River federal shipping channel.

The bird island was part of a $5.3 million dike raising and improvement contract, awarded to prime contractor Edgefield Construction based in Edgefield, South Carolina. Construction began in September 2012 and finished in October 2013. Impoundment of the bird island began soon after, as water was pumped into the disposal area to surround the island.

This year is the first nesting season since we completed the island, so we are excited to see how birds will use it,” said Ellie Covington, a biologist with the Corps’ Savannah District.

The 12A project used 877,000 cubic yards of previously deposited dredged sediment from inside the DMCA to raise the dike and another 160,000 cubic yards to create the bird island.

The island was topped with an additional 36,000 cubic yards of coarse sand re-located from nearby disposal area 14B. The sand forms a two-foot layer that provides better nesting habitat for shorebirds and slows the growth of plants that interfere with the shorebird nesting.

USACE built the bird island as environmental mitigation for routine operations and maintenance of the Savannah Harbor Navigation Project. To document the project’s compliance with the mitigation requirements, the Corps produces an annual report on bird populations and habitat in these areas.

So much historic bare ground nesting habitat has been lost worldwide due to human development that many bird species have become extinct or endangered,Covington said. “By providing this rare habitat, the Corps is helping to restore hope for several species’ recovery.”

In total, the Corps’ Savannah District operates five interior bird islands with two more in the design phase, and two near-shore islands. Wetted areas within the DMCAs provide thousands of acres of feeding habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds; and the exterior woods around the Savannah Harbor DMCAs provide hundreds of acres of feeding, roosting, and nesting habitat for other bird species.


Press Release, July 16, 2014