Capt. Sam's Spit development could threaten dolphins, wildlife

Chris Hauff (WCIV)

By Stacy

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- Dolphins bob against the slow movement of the water near Captain Sam's Spit. It's part of what brings Loray Sorto to the public beach at Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island.

"It's absolutely gorgeous, pristine, the sand is like sugar. It's nice and soft to walk on," Sorto said.

But, the public beach may soon have 50 houses overlooking it, if all goes to Kiawah Partners' plan.{}The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Kiawah Partners can build a bulkhead along the Spit.

"The bulkhead is designed to stop erosion along this part of the river here. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with us to make sure whatever we do, we're maintaining the natural habitat," said Mike Touhill with Kiawah Partners.

But, Dana Beach disagreed with Touhill's assessment. The executive director of the Coastal Conservation League said development of the land threatened the environment.

"It's not a good place for houses but it's a great place for migratory shorebirds, for bobcats, for diamondback terrapins and{}for dolphins," Beach said.

The dolphins near Kiawah have a unique practice called strand feeding. They do it on the Spit. The developers said it would continue on other parts of the river.

"Strand feeding, which is unique to this area, happens not only on this side of the river, but also across the river on the banks there," Touhill said.

But Beach said the dolphins could just swim away, in search of a new place to feed. He said it endangered the species.

"We incrementally eliminate one habitat after another and eventually there is nothing left," he said.

"All you're talking about is the money side of it. Someone needs to take a hold of it and say we need to protect places like this where people can come and enjoy it," Sorto said.

The Coastal Conservation League said it would file a petition for the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision by next Thursday.