An eco 3-fer to benefit beaches, marshes, creeks

This is the kind of thing I love: three environmental problems, and one innovative solution!

The problems are on the Delaware Bayshore in South Jersey, and I learned about them yesterday when I was talking with biologist Larry Niles about the beach restoration project there. That story ran this morning, and I’ve loaded it onto my blog site.

The beach restoration — the current part of which is being funded by $1.65 million in federal money being administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation — is being done for habitat reasons. Horseshoe crabs need a place to lay their eggs, and the reason we care about that is so there will be a plentiful supply for migrating shorebirds.

One in particular, the red knot, has been proposed for listing as a threatened species, but many other shorebirds are in trouble, too. A lack of crab eggs had been identified as a major problem.

Meanwhile, marshes need restoring, too. They were long-ago altered for salt hay farming, and the upshot is that they had not kept pace with sea level rise. Normally, the organic matter would decompose and build up. Also, the influx of tidal waters would add sediment. Neither has happened.

Similar to beach replenishment, Niles would like to “spray” the marshes with periodic layers of silty sediment to help them build slowly to higher levels.

Meanwhile, several South Jersey creeks that flow into Delaware Bay need dredging so fishing boats and recreational boats can use them. Permits are hard to come by. Plus, what to do with the dredged material? It’s problematic stuff: part sand, and part silt.

See where this is going?

Niles is wondering: What if they could dredge the stream channels, add the sand to the beaches and spray the marshes with the silt?

There are surely many pros and cons that I’m not aware of, but for starters, what a great way to approach these three problems!