WARETOWN – Native plantings, manmade devices to slow waves, and other efforts have been part of a plan to combat the loss of marshland and shorelines due to climate change, experts explained at a recent meeting.
The Natural Resource Education Foundation (NREF) hosted the meeting at the Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource Education (LHC) in Waretown. Guests were able to visit the Living Shoreline Project and see its progress.
Nancy Eriksen, NREF Board President, explained the need for this project. The shoreline erosion and loss of marsh were the result of climate change and sea level rise which included increased flooding intensity and frequency.
Eriksen noted that the salt marshes that sit adjacent to Barnegat Bay at the LHC provide valuable ecosystem services to both the Center and the surrounding communities. These benefits include nutrient filtration, storm surge protection, wave attenuation and blue carbon storage.
“We have lost a lot of our salt marsh habitat and in 2019 we were awarded a federal clean water grant through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” Eriksen said.
The first phase of this project included the installation of wave attenuation devices (WADs) along the northernmost 150 meters of shoreline. These are geometric sculptures that disperse wave energy before it hits the shore. This phase also included the planting of native vegetation to encourage sediment deposition and provide habitat for critical shoreline species.
“We contracted with Sovereign Consulting who installed the WADs. We could not have done this project without Doug Janiec who ran this huge shoreline restoration project. It was very impressive. He put his heart and soul and probably his job, on the line,” Eriksen said.
Doug Janiec of Sovereign Consulting provided some further technical details on what has been done so far and how the plan would progress. The work began in 2016 and involved an evaluation and lots of permitting.
“This year in the spring we came out and did the construction for the project and the plantings,” Janiec said. He noted that this type of approach in combatting erosion would not necessarily work for other aquatic environments but that it was the best solution for this site.
Also present were NREF Board Vice President Dane Ward, Township of Ocean Deputy Mayor Ken Baulderstone and Ocean County Soil Conservation District Director Christine R. Raabe.
Baulderstone remarked, “the good news is we are on the Barnegat Bay. The bad news is the bay is growing. There is nothing we can do about the sea level rise. This project will help with the erosion. That soil is going somewhere and I suspect it is going into the lagoon.
“The township will of course learn from your experience and over time we can look at the benefits you have achieved and we can look at other areas of the town that maybe we can apply those techniques that you did here,” Baulderstone added.
Ward said, “I think we all appreciate that we are in a tight spot. Doug did a great job in showing us what was done in phase 1 but that isn’t the end. There are many folks here that will be helping continue the natural resource education here at the Lighthouse Center. This is built on a long legacy of people doing academic research here at this site on the Barnegat Bay and we will be continuing to push that forward.”
He added that more funding was being secured for other projects that would collect additional data and allow for the designing of further designs that would help the facility “serve as a national laboratory.”
The location has an interesting history as well.
“We oversee this beautiful state-owned property. The Lighthouse Center was originally a camp for the blind that dates back to 1927. We were officially recognized as the overseer of this property by the State of New Jersey in 2001,” Eriksen said.
She added, “we are a 501C-3 nonprofit dedicated to environmental leadership education and communication. In the last 10 years our property has experienced significant shoreline erosion,” Eriksen said.
For more information about the Foundation and its work e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 609-698-8003. The Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource Education is located at 7th Street and Navajo Drive in Waretown.