Due to a history of salt hay farming, like many of the marshes in the Delaware Bay, the sites at Thompsons Marsh have not been able to reach an elevation that could support a variety of vegetation and habitat for marsh nesting birds. Marshes also play a major role in keeping our coastlines resilient by absorbing wave energy and protecting surrounding communities from flooding during storm events.
Our team has proposed to dredge the creeks on either side of the project area and re-use the sediment on the adjacent marsh, which would raise the marsh to an elevation that would support other species of vegetation and help maintain protection for surrounding communities. The USACE permit reviewers showed particular interest in this project, wanted to gain better understanding of the ecological benefits, and praised the thoroughness of our pre-restoration scientific research. We are currently in the final permitting stages and hope to begin work by late September.
During the site visit with USACE, Capt. Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Program Director for the Littoral Society, and Resotration Technician Quinn Whitesall checked the condition of the reef. After only four months, there were several estuarine species that were calling this reef home -- mud dog whelks (Nassarius obsoletus), barnacles (Balanus balanoides), and even some oysters (Crassostrea virginica). Also spotted were a few Atlantic blue claw crabs (Callinectes sapidus) that were making their way in between the reef segments.
Littoral Society staff also recently surveyed two of the other reefs the society has established at beaches that received restoration work following Hurricane Sandy.
At Reeds Beach we found oysters growing on the bags of whelk shell that provide the foundation of the reef. Oysters are not only important for improving water quality but are ecosystem engineers, and their presence is improving the resiliency of the reef. Their continued presence could help bind the shells together while also enabling the reef to keep up with sea level rise. The reef itself is already making a more stable shoreline, by controlling erosion and contributing to sand accumulation that is widening the beach.
The beach at Dyers Cove doesn’t have an abundance of oysters yet, but plenty of mud dog whelks and blue claw crabs have taken up residence. The reef has also dramatically decreased erosion of sand on the beach.