The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey is embarking on a two-year project to create a “living shoreline” on tidal marshes in the Gandy’s Beach preserve and adjacent lands. Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for $880,000, the work will involve planning, engineering, construction and monitoring of nearly 3,000 feet of oyster reef and COIR biolog shoreline to help reduce local erosion problems and provide quality habitat for species like horseshoe crabs and red knots.
The shoreline and tidal marshes near Gandy’s Beach and Money Island act as a natural buffer from storm effects to the homes, businesses and roads in that area of Downe Township. But over time they have eroded badly—in fact, the Gandy’s Beach shoreline has shrunk by nearly 500 feet since 1930. Superstorm Sandy hit the region’s coastal ecosystems hard in 2012, further diminishing their protective value and leaving the communities vulnerable to significant flooding.
The Nature Conservancy will be working together with The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Rutgers University, and other organizations at Gandy’s Beach and Money Island to increase the resiliency of tidal marsh, beach and oyster habitats to impacts of climate change and sea level rise. The strategies include installing oyster reef breakwaters, COIR logs and vegetation along the Gandy’s Beach shoreline and Nantuxent Creek.
“The Nature Conservancy has done similar coastal restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico,” says Moses Katkowksi, Marine Conservation Coordinator. “The results showed a reduction in wave energy and erosion, helping reduce flooding, and also an increasing wildlife habitat. We expect to see comparable outcomes here in the Delaware Bayshores.”
Katkowski believes the work at Gandy’s Beach has yet another function: as a demonstration site for local and state governments, land owners and Bayshore residents to see the value of a renewed living shoreline in action. “We hope the Gandy’s project will be a model we can replicate where needed in other areas of the state,” he says. “We’re eager to get started.”
WHAT IS A COIR BIOLOG?
Coir is a fiber that comes from the husk of coconuts. It is one of the few natural fibers that is not only waterproof, but resistant to damage by saltwater. Coir biologs are constructed by fashioning a compact center of coconut fiber within an exterior of coir mesh netting that holds everything together. The finished biologs can be strategically placed to help stabilize areas prone to erosion, like steep hillsides, shorelines and other areas exposed to waves or currents.