Stories from the Bay
Last week, American Littoral Society restoration staff, along with project partners Steve Hafner of Stockton University’s Coastal Research Center and biologists Drs. Larry Niles and Joe Smith of LJ Niles Associates, met with permit reviewers from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for a site visit at the marsh behind Thompsons Beach.
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.
This will be our third restoration project in the vicinity of Thompsons Beach in Maurice River Township. In 2015, debris and rubble were removed from the beach and over 40,000 cubic yards of sand was placed to provide suitable spawning habitat for horseshoe crabs. This past April, we held our Third Annual Shell-A-Bration at Thompsons Beach and, with the help of 70 volunteers, staff from the Littoral Society, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, and US Fish and Wildlife Services, built our fourth intertidal oyster reef.
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.
Further biological monitoring of this reef, along with the three others that have been built since 2014, will begin in late August. In November, we will be holding our Third Annual Veterans Day on the Bay, in recognition of those who have served in our armed forces and the military veterans who have helped with our work. At that event the Thompsons reef will be renamed Air Force reef. Along with the dedication, we will be offer the public and local citizens an up close and hands-on experience with the marine life that calls this reef home.
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.