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Woodbridge River Restoration

Woodbridge River Restoration Site MapLOCATION: adjacent to the Woodbridge River on Woodbridge Township property, Middlesex County

PURPOSE: To restore and enhance approximately 17 acres of degraded marsh by regrading and lowering the site elevation.  Approximately 2 acres of marsh were restored by removing existing berms and fill.  The restoration project has reestablished daily tidal flow to areas formerly precluded from regular tidal influence to the Woodbridge River Marsh system. 

This project has effectively improved the Arthur Kill/Woodbridge River estuary, facilitated carbon transport, and increased nursery and forage habitat for fish and wildlife resources that were injured by the Exxon Bayway oil spill.

FUNDING: With the NJDEP as the lead, this project was one of the efforts taken by the New York/New Jersey Harbor Spill Restoration Committee (HSRC) which was established to restore injured natural resources resulting from uncontrolled releases of oil and hazardous substances into the New York/New Jersey Harbor estuary.  The HSRC was established by court order to manage and allocate funds collected pursuant to legal settlements reached under the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund) for restoration of injured natural resources.  Funding for the Woodbridge River restoration project came from the 1991 natural resource damages settlement with Exxon Corporation for their 1990 Bayway refinery oil spill into the Arthur Kill and its tributaries.

BACKGROUND:The 32 - acre project site contained a degraded tidal marsh that was previously diked and filled and had become colonized by the invasive common reed, Phragmites australis.  The project area is located in a heavily developed urban area and was already used by the community for open space and environmental education. To evaluate progress of the restoration project, the HSRC retained a contractor to monitor the 17.15 acre restoration area.  The monitoring program will examine the restored site and a local reference site downstream for two periods; September – October 2011 (Year three post restoration) and September – October 2013 (Year Five).

PROJECT SUMMARY: The Woodbridge River had previously undergone channelization, presumably in an effort to alleviate flooding in the area.  Unfortunately the excavated sediment was placed adjacent to the river creating a berm at the water’s edge which was the perfect environment for Phragmites australis.  Once the river edge became colonized by this invasive plant, the plant quickly started to overtake the tidal marsh and elevated the level of the marsh plain with its dense rhizome root mat.  The construction at the project site involved removing the berm adjacent to the river and lowering the elevation of the marsh so that it could be flowed by the tide twice per day.  Once the site was at the correct elevation and tidal creeks were recreated, the site was planted with smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) as well as other herbaceous and wetland scrub shrub species.  Temporary herbivory fencing was installed to reduce predation of newly installed plants by Canada geese.  This site is currently thriving in a form similar to its original state and no longer overrun with Phragmites australis.

BENEFITS: This restoration project has enhanced the public's use and enjoyment of the site, as a boardwalk, viewing platform and educational were i constructed as part of the project.   Due to the increase in juvenile fish habitat created by the project and the reduction in standing water, the project has also reduced nuisance mosquito populations affecting residents of the Town and County.

PARTNERS: NJDEP, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), Woodbridge Township, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Baykeeper, and local community groups such as the Woodbridge River Watch

AWARDS:  The project received the 2007 Coastal America Spirit Award

photo photo
Before restoration starts Grubbing of the site
photo photo
Construction in progress After completion
(L to R) Tim Keeney, NOAA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere - retired; Carl Alderson, NOAA, David Bean, NJDEP and Rena Weichenberg, USACE - NY District with the Coastal America Spirit Award



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Last Updated: July 6, 2018