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Delaware Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program

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Prime Hook Marsh Restoration Project

Written on: July 15th, 2015 in Wetland Restorations

Kenny Smith of the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program

Kenny Smith of the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program

In June of this year, one of the largest marsh restoration projects on the east coast began at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge located in Milton, Delaware. This $38 million project, which focuses on building storm and sea level rise resiliency back into the natural landscape and creating habitat for birds, will repair breached marshes and reconstruct damaged shorelines to 4,000 acres of tidal marsh.

The first phase of the project involved dredging out the historic tidal channels to restore natural wetland hydrology and reusing the dredged material to increase elevation of the Prime Hook marshes. Higher marsh elevation combined with lower water levels will effectively create suitable habitat for marsh plants and animals to re-colonize and thrive.

Dredge at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Dredge at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

There are many partners involved in this ground-breaking project, and we were lucky enough to be one of them. Our program, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was responsible for monitoring the Prime Hook marshes before the restoration began. The sampling efforts documented the elevation, types of plants present, plant percent cover and biomass, and stability of the ground at preselected points across the marsh. In the future, this information will be used as baseline data, or a starting point, to track changes in the marsh community.

The second phase of the project is scheduled to begin in October and will fill holes created from hurricanes and storms in over a mile of dunes. The dunes will then be planted with beach grasses and shrubs to hold the sand in place.

For more information and updates about this project please visit the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge website.

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Delaware Wetland Management & Assessment Program