Stories from the Bay
I do not like breaches in the sand, I do not like them Sam I am...
Most years we focus our attention on fixing an entire beach profile from the berm to the water. We spend our energy and sand budget trying to rebuild a beach that's super for horseshoe crab spawning and, in turn, super for shorebird foraging. However, this year we are trying to address breaches (gaps) in several beach berms that create horseshoe crab traps during the spawning season. These low spots along the beach allow the high tide waters to flow into the marsh, taking with it thousands of horseshoe crabs.
In previous years volunteer efforts were undertaken to save as many crabs as possible, but this task is huge and outpaces capacity. Thankfully, we received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to address some of the more problematic breaches on Delaware Bay beaches in Middle Township, Cape May County, NJ.
Beach breaches along the Delaware Bay are most often the result of historic land uses and land management decisions that have left the marshes backing the beach at unnaturally low elevations. These low marsh areas do not provide the "backbone" needed to support the beach berm, as a result the beaches fall back into the marsh and create a breach.
Until we can fix all of the marshes along the Delaware Bay, our best effort to address the issue of beach breaches in the short-term is adding sand to the berm. By building up the low areas to match the adjacent berm elevations we hope to reduce the number of times the tide sends horseshoe crabs careening into the marsh. To provide further resiliency to the system we will be planting thousands of beach grass culms to anchor the berms.
Wildlife Restoration Partnerships is overseeing the construction activities that began this week on S. Reeds Beach where 650 tons of sand were brought in to close up a breach that caused thousands of crabs to die in previous years.
The project site was marked out for specific elevations by Stockton University's Coastal Research Center. Then sand is brought in by truck and moved down the beach to the project site with heavy machinery. The contractor finishes the berm restoration by profiling the sand to meet the target elevations.
Next week we will be fixing breaches at Pierces Point and Kimbles Beach with another 4,500 tons of sand.
We appreciate all of the input and effort that went into getting this project underway from NJDEP's Division of Land Resource Protection, U.S. Army Corps, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.