Mordecai Island Updates to Be Heard Aug. 18

Aug 14, 2019
Courtesy of: Linda Colgan

More than 20 years ago, members of the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Cub in Beach Haven formed the Mordecai Land Trust in an attempt to curb erosion that had been eating away at Mordecai Island, located in the bay just west of the docks. The claw-shaped island currently covers 40 acres, although at one time it covered more than 70 acres.

According to the land trust, the island protects Beach Haven’s western edge from storms and at the same time serves as a wonderful ecosystem that is a habitat for a variety of species of wildlife that includes migrating birds, shore birds and a number of threatened species. Michele Budd, a biologist and land trust vice president, will give a species monitoring update at the land trust annual meeting on Sunday, Aug. 18, at 10:30 a.m. at the yacht club.

At the turtle garden, located on the south end of the island, tracks from Northern Diamondback Terrapin hatchlings were found radiating from the nests and toward the bay. The newly emerged hatchlings were seen underneath the sand, seeking protection in the nearby vegetation.

“Between June 1 and July 20, 48 female turtles came ashore to lay eggs,” said Budd. “No mammalian or predator tracks were observed on the island.”

In addition, Budd said osprey nestlings that hatched during the spring have taken flight. She said American oystercatcher chicks are learning to forage at the north end and west beaches and are preparing to fledge soon.

Large flocks of tree swallows and barn swallows were observed flying over Mordecai’s marshes throughout last week,” she said. “Purple martins that nested in the artificial housing that were erected by homeowners along Mordecai’s east coast were also seen moving in small flocks along the east embankments and marsh.”

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

“That’s the area that takes a pounding during storms,” said Jim Dugan, an engineer and land trust board member. “The western shore of Mordecai Island has been eroding at an unsustainable rate due to wave action from winds and the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway boat traffic. 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.”

Dugan said each castle is 12 inches by 12 inches by 8 inches, weighs 30 pounds and is made of concrete, crushed shell, limestone and silica. They are shipped 72 per pallet, and each can be easily handled and stacked by volunteers.

“Different arrays of oyster castles were constructed to address stability, wave attenuation and habitat creation,” he said. “They varied from about 3 to 4 feet wide by 5 to 8 feet long. The arrays were spaced and staggered to allow tidal exchange.”

Linda Colgan, land trust president, said a long-term solution would be the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Coastal Wetland Restoration Project. She said the Corps is scheduled to complete a feasibility report in February 2020.

“The project has been years in planning and is a partnership between Mordecai Land Trust and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps,” Colgan said.

One aim of the project is the restoration of the north end as the most critical area to be dealt with.

“Protection of LBI  property is an important component of the restoration project and the living shoreline restoration elements must be balanced with preserving habitat,” she said. “We are pleased that the Army Corps has incorporated our input in their design drafts and is still gathering information from us for the completion of the project.”

— Eric Englund

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