The Georgia Ports Authority recently completed annual wetland monitoring at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal and a threatened and endangered species survey and ecological habitat assessment at the Port of Brunswick’s Colonel’s Island Terminal.
“We have designed our terminals to avoid impacting the wetlands and wildlife habitats as much as possible,” GPA Executive Director Curtis J. Foltz said. “We will continue to find ways to maximize our terminal efficiencies while we do everything we can to be good stewards of the environment.”
The GPA has protected a nine-acre freshwater wetland at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal, which currently is home to a six-nest rookery of great white egrets. At the Port of Brunswick, endangered and threatened bird species have found a home at an open-water/ wetland habitat at Colonel’s Island Terminal.
Biologist Jeffrey Williams with Sligh Environmental Consultants recently conducted the GPA’s annual monitoring for the wetland at Garden City Terminal’s Container Berth 8 (CB-8).
“GPA understands the importance of the state’s natural resources,” Williams said. “The GPA looks for ways to incorporate the appropriate measures into development plans to ensure the protection of the natural resources, while taking a sensible approach to development needs.”
Freshwater wetlands provide important ecological functions throughout Coastal Georgia. Many plant and wildlife species depend on freshwater wetlands, and thrive in, around or near them throughout their life cycle. Freshwater wetlands filter pollutants and offer Coastal Georgia protection from damaging flood or storm events.
“The GPA’s nine-acre wetland area is a healthy and flourishing freshwater wetland,” Williams said. “The GPA has maintained a native thick vegetative buffer around the wetland area, which helps to ensure that the port’s daily activities do not disturb the adult and juvenile birds in the CB-8 freshwater wetland area.”
The flooded eastern portion of the wetland is home to a small great white egret rookery that is dependent on the wetland and its scrub-shrub habitat and annual floods to offer their young nesting areas, protection from predation and food for rapidly growing juvenile birds.
The vegetation within the Savannah wetland area predominately is composed of woody species such as sapling black willow, button bush, red maple and water tupelo; and soft plants including lizards tail, blue-flag iris, wild rice, duck weed, St. John’s Wort and pickerel weed.
In Brunswick, Williams conducted a threatened and endangered species survey, as well as an ecological habitat assessment.
He evaluated the Colonel’s Island wading bird pond that is a historic borrow pit adjacent to the marsh that has naturalized over time.
“The area stays inundated with water and is full of healthy aquatic vegetation that the birds thrive on,” Williams said. “Because of the vegetative makeup of the pond and surrounding edges, it offers the birds everything they need for forage, nesting, resting and/or roosting.”
Williams has documented the following bird species using the pond: great white egrets, great blue herons, white ibis, roseate spoonbills, wood storks, night herons (yellow crowned and black crowned herons), red wing black birds and wood ducks.
Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 295,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $15.5 billion in income, $61.7 billion in revenue and $2.6 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy.
The Port of Savannah handled 8.6 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 12.4 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in 2010.