Work is being done to restore several Delaware Bayshore beaches, which in turn with help ensure the survival of a vital part of the environment. Biologists explain why the project is so important, and why timing is key.
"We're trying to beat the clock." It's a race against time and Mother Nature to rebuild beaches so horseshoe crabs can lay their eggs. "Hurricane Sandy exacerbated a situation where the sand was being lost from these beaches," said Dr. Lenore Tedesco, Executive Director of the Wetlands Institute, "Sandy degraded about 50-70% of the spawning habitat."
Trucks of sand are being dumped on Kimble Beach in Middle Township, one of three key breeding grounds in Cape May County that are being replenished. Teams of environmentalists are scrambling to complete the project before the crabs arrive to spawn in late April. "If we didn't do anything, the crabs are gonna come back, we were missing about 70% of the good habitat," said Environmental Biologist, Dr. Larry Niles, "It would've been a disaster."
Biologists stress this project isn't just needed for the ancient crabs, but also migratory shore birds, including the endangered red knot, that depend on their eggs. "They are critical to migratory shore birds because their eggs are packed with protein," explained Tedesco, "those long distance migrants come to the Delaware Bay to refuel on their 10,000 mile flight and they get here and they really depend on those eggs being available for them."
On Reeds beach, cleanup has to happen before they can dump sand. Large concrete chunks that public works crews are hauling away were not washed onshore because of Sandy, but actually exposed after the storm washed away most of the beach. "We didn't know it was here," said Niles of all the debris, "but through the years, we knew that crabs wouldn't breed here, but the reason was they couldn't dig down."
With a total of 24,000 cubic yards of sand spread in about a mile stretch of Delaware Bayshore beaches thanks to this project, biologists are hoping this breeding season will be safe. "I feel like today is a new start," said Niles.
The cost of the project is nearly $500,000, which was put up by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NJ Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, and several other project partners.