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The mouth of Cox Hall Creek in Lower Township, Cape May County, New Jersey forms a wetland basin that was once tidally flushed.  In 1971, a pipe underneath the adjacent dunes was installed to allow some freshwater out of the system and to prevent tidal ingress resulting in a low quality freshwater system with a monotypic stand of common reed that provides minimal habitat value for fish and wildlife.  The community has pursued restoration of the basin since May of 2001 under an “Action Now” project of the Cape May County Watershed Management working group.

The preferred restoration alternative for the site is to increase the depth of water and salinity in the basin while not exacerbating freshwater flooding.  The project will include installation of a new 48-inch culvert underneath the dunes with a bidirectional water control structure similar to one that is currently in use at the Hieslerville State Wildlife Management Area.  The water control structure will provide flexibility in allowing water in and out of the system (e.g., tidal water can be allowed in at all depths but not allowed out up to desired depths to create brackish conditions in the wetland).  The ease of bidirectional manipulation of the water control structure designed by Ducks Unlimited will minimize the project’s cost and footprint while providing greater control of water depth and ensure the gradual conversion of the wetland to brackish conditions.  Restoring an open channel from Delaware Bay to the wetlands basin is impossible because a desire to protect the beach/dune system, a need to protect the road and houses that have encroached on the Creek’s previous footprint, fear of replacing freshwater flooding with uncontrolled tidal flooding, concern for movement of brackish water too far upstream where it could impact the federally threatened plant swamp pink (Helonias bullata), and the complications of longshore sediment transport.  Chemical and mechanical control of some of the common reed will speed the system’s restoration to the desired tidal marsh.

Cost/Budget cash and in-kind: $127,000 for preliminary studies, designs, permitting (secured and mostly spent); $155,000 for materials (approximately $30,000 still required not including any CWRP funding); $105,000 for construction (mostly in-kind from the Cape May Mosquito Control Department); $15,000 for initial chemical and mechanical control of common reed; and $3,000 for monitoring.

List of Partners: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Bird Habitat Conservation (NAWCA grant), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal program, Ducks Unlimited, Cape May County Planning Department, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, Cape May County Department of Mosquito Control, New Jersey Natural Lands Trust

CWRP contribution: $25,000 for the purchase of materials

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