USA: “Meadows” to Receive New Sand
Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District along with its cost sharing partner, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and the local communities of the Borough of Cape May Point and the City of Cape May, began work on an $8 million beach renourishment project in an area west of Cape May, NJ known as the “Meadows.”
The project is being done through a contract awarded to Weeks Marine, Inc. Beach renourishment or replenishment refers to the periodic placement of sand on a beach. The sand is dredged from the ocean floor and pumped through pipes onto the beach, which increases the size of the beach for public use, but more important creates a barrier protecting the shore line against erosion.
Initial construction of the beach/dune portion of the project was completed in 2005, with ecosystem restoration features completed in 2007. The Corps expects to return to the site for renourishment every four years. The project’s primary function is to protect a freshwater ecosystem, erosion is a critical issue. Erosion of the shoreline and dune system in the project area in the past has led to degraded fish and wildlife habitat, reducing the productivity of the Meadows wetland ecosystem.
The current cycle of periodic re-nourishment began shortly after Thanksgiving and is scheduled to be completed by the middle of February. Approximately 365,000 cubic yards of sand will be placed over an area of 2.5 miles of beach and will be spread out in three distinct locations therein. Similar to the previous beach replenishments done at this site, a hopper dredge is used to collect the sand from an offshore borrow area, then brought in as close to the shoreline as possible before pumping out the sand directly onto the beach through approximately 5,000 to 6,000 feet of pipe.
Cape May Meadows Project – An Ecosystem Restoration Project
What makes this project of particular interest and different from most beach nourishment projects done by the Corps is that this project wasn’t justified based on traditional storm damage reduction benefits. This project was justified as an ecosystem restoration. The initial beach fill-and-dune construction and the current re-nourishment are intended to protect a freshwater wetland/ecosystem that exists just behind the dunes. The Meadows consists of important coastal freshwater wetlands, which are vital resting areas for shorebirds and birds of prey during their seasonal migration along the Atlantic flyway.
The project has restored and continues to protect fish and wildlife habitat, and to provide flood and storm damage reduction throughout the entire project area. Without this project and its key features the freshwater wetland would be jeopardized. Salt water from the ocean would make its way into the wetlands, destroying them and their inhabitants.
Press Release, December 19, 2012