One of the proposed protected areas on Abaco is also the site of one of the most
successful restoration projects in The Bahamas (back in 2006). Dozens of acres of
mangrove wetland were reconnecting to the ocean by installing a series of large
culverts under the road. This restored the nursery function of the upstream wetland
for small fish, and has created a an excellent feeding area for shore and wading birds.
We took a trip down south last week to see how the Cross Harbour creek system is
We started out by walking down to the creek mouth, about a mile down the beach. There was a a strong southwest breeze that was driving water into the mouth. A wild ride floating from the creek mouth into the shallow flats! We decided, with the strong incoming tide, just to swim all the back to the road. After crossing a couple of hundred yards of flats, we had an amazing snorkel through the mangroves – the restored channel has remained clear the entire route. One noticeable change over the last few years is the extremely high densities of flat tree oysters lining the entire channel. Because water velocity is slightly higher in the main channel, much more food is provided to filter feeding organisms like the oysters. They are now thriving in the water flow of the restored channel.
When arriving at the culverts, the amount of water flow was amazing. I literally was sucked onto one of the culverts, with a circular scar and bruise on my back to show for it. On the upstream side of the road (the first picture of the post), the bubbling of the water flow was a veritable jacuzzi – just with dozens of juvenile fish swimming around your feet. On this day you literally could have taken a small boat almost a mile upstream of the road.
One concern with these projects is the stability of the road crossing the culverts, as we never want such a restoration project to affect anyone’s use of the site in any way. This remains a pleasant surprise – the culvert portion of the road is the best stretch of road from the ocean to the main highway! (and, yes, Dave Ralph – the grass is looking great).
Ecologically, an incredible success. And coupled with the educational outreach associated with it, a project that will continue to serve as a model for years to come. Yet another reason to protect Cross Harbour from development.