delware environmental institute

News Journal: Prime Hook Refuge work to start in June

Work to restore the marshes at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is expected to start June 15, the first phase in a $38 million plan to build storm and sea level rise resiliency on the 10,144-acre federal holding along Delaware Bay. Step one will be to carve out relic drainage channels that historically allowed the marsh to drain. Once drainage is restored, 1.1 million cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto the beach just south of Fowler Beach road to fill openings that formed or were worsened during Superstorm Sandy.

A created dune will be planted with grasses to help stabilize it and allow the adjacent wetland to recover from decades of human manipulation, including 25 years where water levels were lowered and raised to accommodate wildfowl.

The marsh, despite its proximity to Delaware Bay, was maintained as a freshwater wetland. When storms broke through the dunes, it rapidly converted to a salt marsh and freshwater plants died. The marsh will be planted with salt-tolerant species.