Located along the marshes of Delaware Bay, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 10,000 acres of valuable habitat.
Originally established as a migratory bird sanctuary, the refuge was impounded and managed as a freshwater system beginning in the 1980s. A series of severe storms decimated this freshwater habitat with Hurricane Sandy dealing a final devastating blow in 2012. The dunes along the beach were eroded and breached, causing salt water to inundate the area. Vital substrate was lost and freshwater vegetation died. Nature, as it often does, began restoring the habitat to its natural state and there was a small resurgence of tidal marsh plants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sought to rebuild the refuge in a way that strengthened the local ecology for wildlife and people alike.
What did Wood make possible?
Opening water control structures and restoring historical tidal channels, Wood spent a year helping Mother Nature restore her natural defences to create a more resilient coastline. This allowed for the replanting of indigenous marsh grasses. Now, after months of restoration work, the initial recovery evidence is better than expected and the marshes are well on their way toward a fully restored habitat.
Wood supported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore 4,000 acres of damaged marshland at one of the largest and most complex coastal restorations in the eastern US. The $17 million project leveraged multidisciplinary services to replace the inundated refuge with a sustainable, resilient ecosystem. Our onsite project team worked to restore the damaged tidal salt marsh to create tidal channels through draft hydraulic dredging, planting and invasive species management. We used historical tidal channel patterns to modify the existing water control structures and allow for free flow of water. We installed around half a million native marsh grasses and removed invasive plants. More native plants will grow naturally as the system recovers over the next several years.
4,000acres of damaged marshland
The first phase began by digging channels in strategic patterns to allow water to flow through the marsh. Over the course of a year, dredging took place 20 hours a day, six days a week. A second, more intensive phase, conducted by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, saw 1.1 million cubic feet of Delaware Bay sand used to rebuild 7,000 feet of beachfront and 10,000 feet of sand fence constructed in three rows to provide resilient stability to the beachfront. Wood further supported these resiliency efforts with the planting of 20 acres of saltwater-resistant Spartina to protect the reserve.
Today, despite the adversity of nature’s most powerful destructive forces, the Prime Hook National Refuge is once again a thriving sanctuary for nearby residents and visitors to connect with nature and enjoy a variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.