Habitat restoration grants awarded for Battery Island protection

A $135,000 grant has been awarded to help protection of Battery Island along the Cape Fear (Photo: Lindsay Addison)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The North Carolina Land and Water Fund has awarded two grants totaling more than $400,000 to Audubon North Carolina for habitat restoration projects, including one in the Cape Fear.

The projects will protect and improve important bird habitat while also providing storm protection and water quality benefits for people.

On the Cape Fear River, a $135,000 grant will support Audubon’s efforts to protect and restore Battery Island, which has suffered from years of erosion. The island serves as an oasis for nesting waterbirds, including a colony of White Ibis that numbers as much as 10,000 pairs. Because of its location near the mouth of the river, Battery Island also serves as natural infrastructure for nearby people and ecosystems, helping to slow storms and flood water.

Erosion at Battery Island is largely driven by the wake of ships accessing the Port of Wilmington and made worse by sea level rise and storms. The grant will allow Audubon to assess the best strategies to protect the island and build it back. Options could include oyster restoration, applying sediment to raise the elevation in some areas, or placing wave attenuators offshore.

“Battery Island is one of the most important places for nesting waterbirds on the Cape Fear River and the entire state, but we’re losing more of it each year,” Curtis Smalling said. “This grant will help us figure out the right combination of tools to stem the losses and even build back the island, in ways that benefit birds and people.”

Since its inception in 1996, the Land and Water Fund has conserved more than 500,000 acres since and protected or restored 3,000 miles of streams and rivers.

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