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Culvert plan final nail for freshwater system

August 21, 2012

An editorial in the Cape Gazette’s Aug. 14 edition discussed the insanity of spending $640,000 to place large new culverts under the Primehook Beach Road to address flooding problems, before any plan is put into place to close the breach in the dunes that is the root cause of the flooding.

Space didn’t permit discussion of the other obvious problem that simply adding more culverts would exacerbate. Primehook Beach Road serves as the northern boundary of what was once one of the finest freshwater marshes in the entire Atlantic Flyway used by migratory waterfowl.

It is that unique freshwater marsh system, fed by the drainage of Sussex County flowing into Primehook Creek, that led to the federal government’s creation of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in the early 1960s.

Waterfowl advocates recognized Prime Hook’s freshwater system as one of the few feeding systems – as opposed to saltwater marshes which are principally resting systems – in the flyway. There was no reason to place refuge status on another few thousand acres of saltwater marshes when there are already millions of acres of saltwater marshes in the flyway. The freshwater marshes of Prime Hook were the gem.

Now, because of the breaches sending a steady diet of saltwater over the Primehook Beach Road in storm scenarios, and the environmentally misguided culverts already placed under that road in the past few years, the freshwater system that the federal government paid so dearly for in the beginning, and managed successfully for many decades, is in rapid decline.

Whether by design or wasteful and nonsensical fickleness, the government has struck a course that will destroy the very resource that it once set out to protect.

The only sensible course of action – and it’s not too late – is to begin rebuilding the saltwater marsh behind the breached dunes that will give a repaired dune system something to stand against, and re-establish the Primehook Beach Road’s dual purpose as road and dike, to rejuvenate that freshwater system so important to the Atlantic Flyway.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Dave Frederick, sports editor.