Dead Neck/Sampson’s Island Restoration Plan Unveiled (USA)
Mass Audubon and Three Bays Prerservation, respected conservation organizations and co-owners of Dead Neck/Sampson’s Island, have submitted plans designed to ensure the long-term survival of the eroding barrier island off the coast of Cotuit and Osterville.
The project proposes a beach and bird habitat restoration program of periodically dredging sand from the westernmost tip of Sampson’s Island and “back passing” it to Dead Neck, which is being degraded by coastal erosion.
The island was deeded to Mass Audubon and Three Bays Preservation as wildlife conservation land. Dead Neck/Sampson’s Island supports important habitat for piping plovers and least terns, and the organizations are committed to improving nesting habitat for these protected species.
Plans call for 800 feet of beach-compatible material to be dredged from the western end of the island and moved eastward, ensuring that there will be a sufficient amount of sand to reinforce the vulnerable areas of Deck Neck/Sampson’s Island, and to create several areas of improved shorebird nesting habitat.
Data from studies of the site indicate that wave and tide action would then redistribute the sand back along the shore, east to west, thus supporting the structural integrity of the entire barrier beach and creating a wider beach for nesting shorebirds.
The dredging also will restore the historical navigational channel to Cotuit Bay to the limits previously permitted and dredged. Public safety will be improved as there will be more room to navigate the waterway.
Increased flushing may improve water quality in the south Cotuit Bay area and to a lesser extent throughout the estuary. Three Bays will continue its ongoing efforts to monitor water quality before and after the project.
In addition to creating improved habitat for shorebirds as a result of sand redistribution, the project will further increase reproductive success of plovers and terns through supportive management consistent with an overall management plan for the Island.
Historically, in years following beach renourishment at Dead Neck, plover abundance and productivity peaked due to more habitat on wider beaches.
Three Bays Preservation Executive Director Lindsey Counsell noted the Cotuit entrance channel has not been properly dredged since 1967, “and that channel is closing off at a rate of more than 10 feet per year.”
“We have made some small improvements in this area in the recent past,” Counsell added, “but to restore the navigation channel, improve safety, re-create nesting shorebird habitat, and enhance the storm damage protection of the island, this project is long overdue.”
Kathy Sferra, Regional Director for Mass Audubon in the Southeast, Cape and Islands Region, stated “Dead Neck/Sampson’s Island is one of the most important shorebird nesting sites that Mass Audubon owns and manages in Massachusetts. We have worked closely with Three Bays to plan and design this project in an effort to both improve shorebird habitat and maintain the integrity of this important barrier beach.”
Press Release, January 9, 2013