Located along the marshes of the western Delaware Bay, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 10,000 acres of valuable habitat. Originally established as migratory bird sanctuary in 1963, the Refuge was impounded and managed as a freshwater system in the 1980s. During severe storms, most notably Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the dunes along the beach were breached, causing salt water inundation, beach erosion and flooding.
To re-establish native plants and wildlife to the area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service modeled potential scenarios for restoring a sustainable, resilient coastal ecosystem and hired Amec Foster Wheeler to carry out the construction. Our onsite project team is now working on a $17M design-build contract to restore 1,500 acres of damaged tidal salt marsh including shallow draft hydraulic dredging to create tidal channels. We are also using historical tidal channel patterns to modify the existing water control structures and allow for free flow of water. We are installing more than 1,000,000 native marsh grasses and removing invasive plants. More native plants will grow naturally as the system is restored.
The project will increase the Refuge's ecological resources as part of the Hurricane Sandy Resiliency projects. Work will be completed by October 2016.
As quoted in the Cape Gazette newspaper, Al Rizzo, project leader for the Coastal Delaware National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said the ultimate goal of the project is return the refuge to a functioning saltwater marsh – with smaller sections of freshwater marsh – as it was a half century ago.
“We've seen some natural growth the last one to two years,” Rizzo said. “We are on the right track.”