Oyster Castle Construction Under Way in Beach Haven 

Aug 02, 2017
Courtesy of: Diane Johnson Pallets of foundation castles are lowered into bay.

ReClam the Bay volunteers in Beach Haven recently formed an alliance with the Mordecai Land Trust to work together on helping to reduce the erosion of Mordecai Island by using shell bags and oysters.

In a new operation, they are using oyster castles made out of concrete to expand that process. Castle blocks measuring 12” inches by 12 inches” by 8” inches and weighing about 30 pounds were transferred by barge last week to Mordecai Island  and lowered overboard with a crane on pallets so volunteers can set them in place. Work is expected to start this week.

“This is a first of its kind for erosion control along our coast,” said Jack Duggan, ReClam the Bay volunteer and board member. “Some work of this kind has been done on the Delaware Bay, but with all of the marsh erosion and the talk of living shorelines, this is the cutting edge.”

He said ReClam volunteers developed the plan in conjunction with the land trust to build the living breakwater to grow the oyster population in Barnegat Bay, promote a healthy estuary and help restore Mordecai Island, which has already resulted in the return of endangered wildlife— including black skimmers and ospreys.

“The breakwater will enable tidal exchange, promote sediment transport and support aquatic habitat,” said Duggan.

“Constructing an on-site prototype with oyster castles offers the greatest opportunity to evaluate the structural geometry of the breakwater to fulfill its wave-attenuating and habitat-creating possibilities,” said Jim Dugan, Mordecai Land Trust member.

The land trust was formed in 2000 at the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club, from where Mordecai lies a short distance away. The organization’s goal was to look into a solution for curbing erosion that had been eating away for decades at the claw-shaped island. Currently covering 41 acres, at one point the area consisted of more than 70 acres. 

Dugan said the structures would be monitored weekly throughout the summer months into November.

“The perimeter of the facility will be clearly marked with posts,” he said. “Photos and reports will be prepared noting the performance, structure stability and health of the shellfish and flora. Photos and reports will occur through the ensuing months as weather and boating conditions allow.”

Dominic Tumas, ReClam board member, said the volunteers involved with the oyster castles also help maintain the group’s upwellers at three sites in Beach Haven. The upwellers are 550-gallon tanks that are 12 to 14 feet long and 4 feet wide. Tumas said the tanks enable the organization to raise baby clams and other shellfish as part of the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program.

“A major part of ReClam the Bay is education, and the volunteers are learning many aspects on how to keep the bay healthy and also help fight erosion,” said Tumas.

— Eric Englund


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