Beach restoration finishes on Middle Township beaches

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Restoration of four Middle Township beaches was wrapped up Tuesday, April 15, when the last loads of sand were spread along Reeds Beach. Restoration of four Middle Township beaches was wrapped up Tuesday, April 15, when the last loads of sand were spread along Reeds Beach. Project expected to benefit crabs, red knots, residents and tourists

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – The beaches along Delaware Bay in Middle Township are quieter now that work has been completed on a $1.6 million restoration project aimed repairing the damage brought by Hurricane Sandy.

The squeal and rumble of trucks and front end loaders has vanished into the sea breeze. Left behind are more than 25,000 tons of sand, placed on four beaches in Middle Township as part of Phase 2 of the federally funded Horseshoe Crab Beach Restoration Project to entice horseshoe crabs to spawn and mate.

Another 15,000 tons are being spread on Moores Beach in Cumberland County, and that part of the project is expected to finish by week’s end.

More than 1,000 truckloads of sand have been spread along Pierces Point, Kimbles, Cooks and Reeds beaches, and the restoration project is expected to bring more than horseshoe crabs to the Delaware Bay shores. Red knots will follow the crabs, and soon after, tourists are expected to swarm the shores.

“I’m very happy to see that,” said Larry Nolan, pointing at a large dump truck filled with sand as it passed his home at Reeds Beach last week. “This is one of those places where restoration benefits wildlife, the public who want use the beach, and the residents.”

Restoration of four Middle Township beaches was wrapped up Tuesday, April 15, when the last loads of sand were spread along Reeds Beach. Restoration of four Middle Township beaches was wrapped up Tuesday, April 15, when the last loads of sand were spread along Reeds Beach. Work on Reeds Beach began on Thursday, April 10, and there was a scattering of sand piles along the beach late that afternoon. A few gulls soared overhead, but it’s early in the season, and neither crabs, nor tourists have yet made landfall.

“We’ll get more beach buffer out of this restoration project,” Nolan said. He’s the third generation of his family to spend his summers in his beach home, which fronts the bay.

“The tourists will get more beach area, and the horseshoe crabs will lay their eggs in the sand,” he said.

Nolan said that after Hurricane Sandy swept through the area, fishermen trying their luck in the surf of Reeds Beach were pushed so far back on the beach that they were standing in the marsh at high tide.

Larry Nolan said the project gives homes on the beach more of a buffer from future storms. Larry Nolan said the project gives homes on the beach more of a buffer from future storms. “This is a good, temporary fix,” he said.

Nolan’s home, with its deck over the water, was built by his great grandfather.

“The original house was built out of packing crates back in the 1920s,” he said. “A lot of the crates still had the addresses painted on them.”

Nolan, a Cinamonson resident, said he spends his summers at the beach, but also frequently makes the 90-minute drive to visit his family home.

“I had my first birthday party here in Reeds Beach,” he said.

Kurt Kelly, Reeds Beach’s only year-round resident, said he’s pleased with the work that’s been done on the beach. He’s lived at Reeds Beach since 1996.

“Living at Reeds Beach is like living in the pages of National Geographic,” Kelly said. “And I feel like I'm just another piece of the picture.”

About two years ago, Hurricane Sandy destroyed more than 70 percent of the horseshoe breeding habitat. In early 2013, environmental groups, including the Littoral Society, replaced about 40,000 tons of sand on the beaches in advance of the horseshoe crab spawning season.

This year, Phase 2 of the $1.6 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife continued that effort.

“I’m real happy with the amount of sand that they’ve put down there,” he said. But Kelly is also worried about the movement of sand due to the constant sea breeze.

“I hope to plant some native growth along the dunes to stop sand migration,” Kelly said. “But I’ve got to check with Larry Niles to find out if I can do it.”

Niles is a wildlife biologist with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. He partners with the American Littoral Society, the director of the beach restoration project.

Niles said that restoring the beaches damaged by Sandy in 2012 is not only critical to the spawning area of the horseshoe crabs, but to the people who live along Pierces Point, Kimbles, Cooks, Reeds, and Moores beaches along the bay.

“All of the beaches in Middle Township are finished,” Niles said Monday, April 14. “Work on Moores Beach in Cumberland County will be finished by the end of the week, or early the following week.”

In an earlier interview, Niles said that restoring the storm-ravaged beaches was good for the area on several levels.

“To protect the people, we need to protect the ecology,” Niles said. “The needs of the people, the beach, the marsh, the crabs and the red knots are all wrapped together.”

Work on the Phase 2 of project began in March, and has continued over the last few weeks in a race against the annual spawn of the horseshoe crab.

Coarse-grained sand was spread along the beaches to make it easier for the horseshoe crabs to spawn and breed. According to the Littoral Society, the heavier sand is preferred by the crabs, and it’s harder to erode.

Sand for Middle Township’s beaches came in by the truckload from a gravel pit at Cape Mining and Recycling.

“H4 Enterprises did a real good job with the sand,” Niles said. “The sand is nice and deep with a good slope. It’s great for crabs.”

And the crab spawn is not far off. Niles said that water temperature has a lot to do with in. The bay needs to reach 59 degrees. Water temperatures were still well below that this week.

“It will probably be in the first week of May,” he said. “The big spawn will be the next lunar event. A full moon, when the tides are highest.”

 


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