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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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news releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2013

Contact: Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Bob Considine (609) 984-1795

CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION AND PARTNERS WORK TO RESTORE DELAWARE
BAY BEACHES ERODED BY SANDY TO HELP RED KNOTS AND OTHER
SHOREBIRDS DURING UPCOMING MIGRATION

(13/P29) TRENTON – Supported by grants from conservation groups, the Department of Environmental Protection and partners are working to re-establish Delaware Bay beaches that were eroded by Superstorm Sandy in an effort to restore critical feeding habitat for migrating shorebirds, in particular the state-endangered red knot.

The project is being conducted in two phases that together will address a large sweep of the bay shoreline in Cape May County from Moores Beach south to Pierces Point.

The first phase, currently under way, focuses on emergency, stop-gap restoration of beaches adjacent to creeks that provide critical shorebird feeding habitat for the upcoming spring migration. The second phase, to be conducted later this year, will focus on improving beaches by removing rubble, old pilings, bulkheads and abandoned structures for long-term habitat enhancement.

The partners are using grants from the nonprofit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Community Foundation of New Jersey coupled with smaller grants from the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust and Corporate Wetlands Partnership to restore the beaches.

“The restoration of these beaches is a high ecological priority for the Christie Administration in the wake of Sandy and may prove critical to the success of this year’s shorebird migration, especially the migration of endangered red knots,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “We are extremely grateful to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the New Jersey Recovery Fund for providing the grant funds and to all of our partners for carrying out this important work.”

The DEP’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program has coordinated many years of scientific research on shorebirds, working in partnership with a host of other environmental, educational and government agencies.

Work in the first phase of this project began March 18 and will likely continue throughout April. It is being carried out by a contractor for the nonprofit American Littoral Society. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided a $415,000 grant to the Highlands-based nonprofit, which is working with the DEP’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, the Stone Harbor-based Wetlands Institute, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, LJ Niles Associates, Dianne Daly CEP and Middle Township to restore the most critical beaches.

The New Jersey Recovery Fund, administered by the Community Foundation of New Jersey, also is contributing to the emergency beach restoration as the first of a two-phase, $515,000 agreement it has with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to restore bay habitat following Sandy. The second phase to be undertaken later this spring will entail removal of rubble, pilings and bulkheads and abandoned structures on other bay beaches.

“This vital project will provide immediate benefits for the many bird species that rely on New Jersey beaches,” said Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “We’re pleased to work with our partners to support a restoration that is so urgently needed.”

“The several foundations that have contributed to the NJ Recovery Fund are delighted to support such a critical habitat restoration project that will provide substantial benefits to local communities and our endangered wildlife” said Hans Dekker, the President of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, which administers the Fund. “Several of the participating foundations are focused on the impact of Sandy on South Jersey, and view this project as an important step to reverse some of the more serious ecological consequences of the storm.”  

“Restoring the horseshoe crab beaches in time for the spring spawning and the return of the red knots is a critical piece of the effort to save these imperiled species,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society. “Delaware Bay is a globally significant migratory bird stop over site and the epicenter of the horseshoe crab population. Superstorm Sandy wrecked these beaches and we needed to move fast to prepare them for the return of these interconnected species. Our success in getting this project underway so quickly is a result of the hard work, dedication and cooperation of all the partners involved.”

The beaches that are being addressed under the emergency restoration project are strung out along a 2.5-mile stretch of Cape May’s Middle Township. Restoration will provide places for  horseshoe crabs to lay their eggs in time for the critical spring shorebird migration.

Each May, the Western Hemisphere’s largest population of horseshoe crabs lays eggs on bay beaches, providing a critical food source for Arctic-nesting shorebirds that include the red knot, ruddy turnstone, sanderling, semipalmated sandpiper, dunlin, and short-billed dowitcher. Work to restore the beaches began Monday and will continue through April.
 
“Sandy caused significant erosion of horseshoe crab spawning habitat on Delaware Bay,” said Amanda Dey, project leader with the DEP’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program. “The work we are doing to restore some of the most critical beaches will hopefully give the red knots a fighting chance this spring.”
 
Due to continued declines in the red knot population, the DEP last year downgraded the species’ status from threatened to endangered. New Jersey bans the harvesting of horseshoe crabs due to declines in the red knot population, now estimated at 36,000.

The Delaware Bay is critical to the red knot’s spring migration from as far away as Tierra del Fuego in South America. Horseshoe crab eggs, unlike any other food resource, are quickly metabolized into fat that allows red knots and other shorebirds to rapidly double body weight. 

The bay is the last stop before these birds reach breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic. The fat reserves, put on in Delaware Bay, allow red knots to survive and continue courtship, mating and egg-laying until food becomes available. 

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided valuable assistance and support in reviewing the project and accelerating it so work can be completed prior to the shorebird migration. Work began this week at Kimbels Beach. Other beaches in the project area include Reeds Beach, Cooks Beach, and Pierces Point.

Work is focusing on areas adjacent to the mouths of creeks, which historically have been used heavily by spawning horseshoe crabs.  An estimated 23,000 cubic yards of sand from a local mine will be placed in these areas. The entire project must be completed by mid-April, before horseshoe crabs and shorebirds return in early May.

For more information on red knots, visit: www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/ensp/redknot.htm

For more information on horseshoe crabs, visit:
www.nj.gov/dep/dsr/trends/pdfs/wildlife-horseshoe.pdf

MEDIA NOTES: Photos of beach work, red knots and horseshoe crabs may be downloaded from the DEP home page or by contacting the DEP Press Office at the numbers at the top of this news release. The DEP will also assist you in making arrangements to visit the work site and talk to experts.

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Last Updated: April 1, 2013