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UCI to Assist Restoration of Barnegat Bay Marsh Islands

Barnegat Lighthouse

A view of the Barnegat Lighthouse overlooking the bay and marsh islands in Long Beach Township.

The Monmouth Urban Coast Institute (UCI) will serve on a team that has received $89,690 through the National Coastal Resilience Fund (NCRF) to develop a restoration plan for marsh islands in Barnegat Bay that can improve the system’s ecological health and protect nearby communities from flooding, coastal storms and climate threats.

Grantee Long Beach Township and the New Jersey Bay Islands Initiative (NJBII) will guide a core project team consisting of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Barnegat Bay Partnership, Stockton University, Ducks Unlimited, Mordecai Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and the UCI. The team will use a GIS decision-support tool to prioritize five islands adjacent to the township that are in greatest need of restoration and best-positioned to reduce flood risk and exposure to residents. Appropriate nature-based strategies will be determined for restoring the islands, such as depositing dredged sediments along their perimeters, growing oyster reefs to curtail wave impacts, and building up plant communities that can stabilize the areas.

UCI Associate Director Thomas Herrington, a coastal engineer, will advise on the project designs and work with the team to develop cost estimates and other documents for evaluation by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies that would handle their eventual construction. Monmouth University students will also assist with research on the project.

The team’s grant proposal noted that the many small marsh islands throughout the bay provide critical protections to nearby communities, citing a study that concluded natural wetlands reduced annual flood risk to properties within 5 feet of mean sea level in the area by up to 70% over a wide range of storm characteristics. It also noted that they were habitats for endangered, threatened and at-risk species including the northern diamondback terrapin, piping plover, least tern, black skimmer, red knot and American oystercatcher.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced funding for this and 48 other coastal resilience projects in 28 states and U.S. territories in a Nov. 18 press release. Click here to view a full list of projects funded through the NCRF 2021 grant slate.