Timeline issued for repairing Prime Hook refuge

Beach, marsh restoration to begin by fall 2014
November 1, 2013

For the first time, federal officials have issued a timeline for closing the breaches and rebuilding the dunes at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Officials now have nearly $40 million to complete the work of restoring the beach and marshes.


Fall/winter 2013-2014:

Army Corps begins work on dune repair design.

Army Corps and Fish and Wildlife Service apply for state permits for sediment source.

Fish and Wildlife Service requests bids for marsh restoration designs.

Fish and Wildlife Service establishes agreement with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for sediment transport for marsh restoration.

Fish and Wildlife Service initiates environmental assessment to do dune repairs and full marsh restoration project.

Spring/summer 2014:

Fish and Wildlife Service awards contract for marsh design.

Army Corps issues request for proposals from contractors to complete marsh repairs and secure state permits for dune repairs and marsh work.

Fall 2014:

Work begins on dune repairs and initial marsh project behind duneline.

Fall 2014 to spring 2015:

Fish and Wildlife Service initiates monitoring protocols to determine how system is working and if additional sediment will be needed to restore the marsh.

Plant Spartina alterniflora grasses in the marsh.

Summer/fall 2015:

Continue to monitor sediment and vegetation.

A plan – with work expected to begin by fall of 2014 – has been formulated to use the $20 million in Hurricane Sandy relief funds and an additional $19.8 million from the U.S. Department of Interior, said Al Rizzo, project leader for the Coastal Delaware National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which also includes Bombay Hook refuge.

Rizzo said input from biologists, hydrologists and engineers has gone into the timeline. “A tremendous amount of thought has gone into this,” he said.

The first phase will include filling all of the breaches along a 1,500-foot stretch near Fowler Beach to stop the tidal flow of water from the Delaware Bay into the refuge. Storms over the past five years have opened a series of breaches allowing saltwater to destroy nearly 4,000 acres of previously freshwater marsh.

Hurricane Sandy only compounded the problem. The Oct. 29, 2012 storm and subsequent high tides deepened and widened the breaches from 300 feet to more than a quarter mile long.

In Phase I, $20 million will be used to restore the duneline to 6 feet to match the existing dune profile north of the breaches.

The marsh directly behind the dune – which is now open water – will also be restored in the first phase.

An additional $19.8 in federal funding will also be used to restore marsh, Rizzo said. Nearly $3.5 million will be needed for plant material and $340,000 will be allocated to hire a full-time project manager for three years.

“If we need additional material, we will now have the money,” Rizzo said.

Although the location has not be specified, the 800,000 to 1 million cubic yards of sand will come from somewhere in the Delaware Bay, Rizzo said.

“Getting sand from the main channel [as part of the channel deepening project] is not a viable option. We need a more cost-effective option,” he said. “We are currently working with DNREC and the Army Corps to identify where the material will come from.”

Rizzo said over the next three years, Prime Hook refuge will begin the process of healing. “We will be able to do what the refuge was established to do by providing a habitat for wildlife,” Rizzo said. “An added benefit is that the project will reduce flooding to surrounding communities.”