Bird Nesting Area Reinforced on Mordecai Island

Feb 21, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently elevated a bird nesting area on Mordecai Island in Beach Haven with dredge spoils from a nearby project.

Monica Chasten, project manager for the Corps Philadelphia district office, said the area was raised by about one foot, enabling oystercatchers and black skimmers to safely nest.

“We found out last year that it was really thriving as a nesting spot,” said Chasten. “But that area was hit by flooding, so we needed to do what we could to reinforce it.”

She said the small island serves as a “significant eco-system.”

“It is a habitat for a variety of species of wildlife that includes migrating birds, shorebirds and a number of threatened species,” said Chasten.

Located off the docks of the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club, the island has been the focus of anti-erosion projects for nearly 18 years by the yacht club’s Mordecai Land Trust. The claw-shaped island currently covers 41 acres, although the land trust said at one time it covered more than 70 acres.

While there have been dredging projects, along with Geotube sandbag placement and grass plantings for short-term fixes, the trust has been hoping to establish a breakwater project to reduce wave energy against the island’s west end as a permanent solution.

“It would be a living shoreline. And one of the guiding principles of living shorelines is strengthening the communication between the estuary and shoreline,” said Jim Dugan, land trust member and an engineer. “This becomes critical when a breakwater is required to attenuate wave forces, as in the case of Mordecai Island. It cannot sever natural processes between the riparian, intertidal and aquatic areas. It enables tidal exchange, promotes sediment transport and supports plant and shellfish habitat.”

Linda Colgan, land trust president, said the project remains in the study phase with the Army Corps.

Colgan said that last summer, the land trust worked in partnership with ReClam the Bay to construct oyster castles on the south end. The structures are 12-by-12-by-8 inches, weigh 30 pounds and are made of concrete, crushed shell, limestone and silica.

“They can help us address stability of that area of the island, and also help create habitats,” she said. “We plan to go put in some more castles starting in July.”

—Eric Englund

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