Authority seeking solutions for fragmented Jekyll creek
The Brunswick News

As motorists enter Jekyll Island on the Ben Fortson Parkway, crossing the last bridge onto the island, they see what was once First Creek, a body of water fragmented by early development.

A study to determine what can or should be done to address the creek is now under way.

Ben Carswell, Jekyll Island Authority's conservation director, says he and a team of researchers are studying the creek and the significance of its current fragmented condition.

They already know the water level has degraded, causing problems for wildlife. It also can cause some discomfort to residents and guests, who encounter a foul smell when crossing the creek.

"It's one of a lot of restoration opportunities that we have on Jekyll Island, and it's a particularly important one because of its prominence at the entrance to the island, and because of the value of the salt marsh habitat for a lot of different species of wildlife in and around the water," Carswell said.

Carswell says the ultimate goal is to promote the area's ecological diversity, but the conservation team first has to find out how to do that.

Since November, the team has been performing an assessment and feasibility study funded by a Coastal Incentive Grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Natural Resources' Coastal Resources Division.

Carswell and the team will be collecting data on the area's wildlife, water chemistry and quality, water levels and more, focusing on Fortson Pond, through September 2015.

Other areas along the fragmented length of First Creek will also serve as reference points.

Once the study is complete, more work will need to be done to create a restoration plan, Carswell says.

"What is done at First Creek and Fortson Pond can be an example of what environmental restoration on Jekyll Island could look like," he said. "This could be a fairly large-scale ecological restoration project."