Delaware Bay Wetlands Restored with Dredge Materials
The Christie Administration recently announced the completion of the third in a series of pilot projects designed to gauge the effectiveness of beneficially reusing silt and sand dredged for navigation improvement projects to restore degraded salt marshes as protective buffers against severe storms, while enhancing habitat for wildlife.
The latest project restored 10 acres of degraded wetlands, and three acres of beach along the Delaware Bay in Fortescue, located in Cumberland County’s Downe Township. The restoration work is part of a pilot study that also involves two wetlands restoration sites along the Atlantic coast in Cape May County.
In the latest project, the Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Department of Transportation teamed up to use sediments dredged for maintenance of navigation channels around Fortescue Creek to raise the elevation of 10 acres of degraded wetlands in the state’s Fortescue Wildlife Management Area.
The dredged materials were also used to restore a three-acre stretch of beach. Additional marsh and beach restoration will take place in the fall.
“The Christie Administration is committed to making all of New Jersey’s coastal areas more resilient to storms such as Superstorm Sandy,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.
“The NJDOT Office of Maritime Resources has been at the forefront of the dredging industry’s development of beneficial use technology for almost 20 years,” NJDOT Acting Commissioner Richard T. Hammer said. “Being able to place dredged material back onto the marshes rather than disposing of it elsewhere will provide much needed relief to shore communities, recreational boaters and commercial fishermen that depend on New Jersey’s Marine Transportation System, as well as achieve environmental benefits and increased storm protection.”
In this process, sediments dredged from navigation channels and other areas are pumped onto eroding wetlands to raise their elevations enough to allow native marsh grasses to flourish or to create nesting habitats needed by some rare wildlife species.
Located about 15 miles southwest of Millville, the village of Fortescue, the Fortescue State Marina and a private marina have long provided an important hub for fishing in Delaware Bay.
An NJDOT contractor dredged some 15,000 cubic yards of silt and sand from waterways around Fortescue and placed it at the nearby Fortescue Wildlife Management Area, which protects habitat needed by migrating shorebirds such as the federally endangered red knot.
In 2014, the DEP and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers restored an acre of wetlands in the Cape May Meadows Wildlife Management Area behind Stone Harbor, using materials dredged from the Intracoastal Waterway. As an additional benefit, the project created nesting habitat for black skimmers, a state-endangered beach-nesting bird.
Based on the initial successes of this small-scale project, the DEP and the Corps completed a second project last year restoring 35 acres of wetlands in another part of the Cape May Meadows Wildlife Management Area, behind Avalon, using material dredged from the Intracoastal Waterway.