I’m Rick Bennett, Regional Scientist for the Northeast Region. This week, I am part of a team taking to the air to tour some of the locations that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Each evening, I will be sharing a little about what we saw, the projects on the ground and how we are working to ensure the coastline and the surrounding communities are #StrongAfterSandy. (Lia McLaughlin/USFWS)
Today started by flying over Cape May National Wildlife Refuge and surveying more of the New Jersey coast. We looked at beach restoration projects close to communities including Middle Township, where beaches are vital for wildlife and the state’s booming tourism industry – the fifth largest industry in the state by employment. In addition to providing recreational opportunities, these beach restoration projects will strengthen habitats that support an array of fish, wildlife and plants and act as buffers against coastal storms.
Then we moved further down the Atlantic coast to see the roughly 4,000 acres of coastal wetlands to be restored at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.
Restored marshes at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge will provide benefits to several adjacent and nearby communities such as Milton and Milford in Delaware and create additional habitat for red knots, American oystercatchers, and piping plovers. The restored marsh will also improve the communities’ ability to withstand future storms and sea level rise, improve wildlife habitat, and improved access.
After Prime Hook, it was time to survey two more projects further south on the Delaware shoreline – one at Hail Cove on Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge and another at Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge.
An important stopover for migrating waterfowl, Hail Cove – part of Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge – is considered among the top five Maryland waterfowl areas. With the construction of 4,000 feet of enhanced shoreline that’s been planned for the site – intended to reduce erosion from the Chester River – over 400 acres of marshland will be directly protected, stabilizing habitats and buffering nearby communities from storms. Incidental benefits of a neighboring salt marsh include storm surge protection, water quality improvement, fisheries production, carbon sequestration and wildlife related recreation.
“Living shorelines” utilize plants, sand, and a limited use of rock to provide shoreline protection and maintain valuable habitat. The 20,950 feet of living shoreline that will be constructed at Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge will dissipate wave energy and slow erosion, protecting more than 1200 acres of high tidal high marsh. This marsh is vital to the continued habitat health of Smith Island’s soft crab fishing industry and for protecting the villages of Ewell, Rhodes Point and Tylerton. The refuge supports one of the largest concentrations of wintering waterfowl in the Chesapeake Bay, as well as important habitat for fisheries and non-game wildlife.