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News Journal: 'Oyster castles' create Living Shoreline

It is low tide along the Mispillion River at a rapidly receding mudflat near the inlet to Delaware Bay. Josh Moody and a team of scientists and volunteers are working to hold the shoreline in place and maybe even build upon it using nature as a guide.

"Historically, in the pictures, you can see it's moving back," Moody said of this marsh.

Their tools to fight that: coconut fiber logs, bags of oyster shells, wetland plants and 30-pound, Lego-like blocks that connect together. They are called "oyster castles" and from a distance, they really do look like whimsical castles on a muddy beach.

With less wetland, the adjacent DuPont Nature Center is at risk, increasing flooding in the area and taking away a valuable habitat for birds, fish, crabs and surprisingly, oysters.

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, working with state environmental officials, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and nonprofits, see this ecologically fragile site as a test plot for Living Shorelines. They also are building two other demonstration and study shorelines in Coastal Delaware – another along the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal and a third at Indian River Inlet. Those two projects cost a total of $125,000. The Mispillion project, which is larger, will cost around $100,000.

Moody, the restoration coordinator for the estuary program, said the Mispillion site uses four different living shoreline configurations because scientists want to see which is most effective along an eroding saltmarsh. There are the coconut fiber logs alone; the logs surrounded by oyster shell; bags of oyster shell; and the oyster castles.

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