The North Carolina state officials, lawmakers and community partners took an up-close look at how rising sea levels and more severe storms are impacting Currituck Sound during the last week’s tour of the Donal C. O’Brien, Jr. Sanctuary at Pine Island.
North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael S. Regan, Senator Bob Steinburg, Representative Bobby Hanig, Representative Brian Turner, Currituck County Commission Chairman Bob White, and other state and local officials and partners walked the trails of the 2,600-acre sanctuary.
A dynamic landscape of marshland, maritime forest and dune barrens, the sanctuary is a globally important bird area, home to 60 climate-threatened and endangered bird species and thousands of wintering waterfowl.
Near the water’s edge, where a boat dock has been reconstructed in the wake of damage from Hurricane Michael, Audubon is embarking on Phase 1 of a marsh restoration project that includes installing a living shoreline.
The structure will protect sensitive marshland and an access road from erosion while allowing living organisms to pass through.
During the visit, Audubon North Carolina Executive Director, Andrew Hutson, highlighted the magnitude of the pressures now facing coastal communities and the importance of collaborating to find solutions: “We’ve learned that it’s not enough just to protect this amazing place. We’ve got to adapt to the new reality of sea level rise and more severe storms, including learning to live with nature by restoring marsh and wetlands as natural buffers and retrofitting our buildings and infrastructure for the future. A stronger Currituck Sound ensures a better future for both birds and people.”
The project, funded by a Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant, serves as an example of the nature-based resilience solutions that future research at the sanctuary will support.