Loss of Wetlands
Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area (WMA) along the Delaware Bay in Cape May, New Jersey has been confronted with a variety of issues over time. Pond Creek marsh was cut off from free-flowing tidal influences in the early 1900s, and the subsequent sand mining operations of a former magnesite plant continued to modify the upland areas of the WMA, resulting in the loss of wetlands.
Restore and Enhance
In response, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection implemented a multi-phased project to restore and enhance over 400 acres of wetland and upland maritime habitat. The project will re-establish tidal inundation to a large portion of Pond Creek marsh, reduce flood risk to the upper watershed and eastern freshwater marsh area, and allow for habitat management of the northern marsh area. Critically, the project will enhance the habitat for migratory birds, fish and various threatened and endangered species that stop over at Cape May as they travel along the Atlantic Flyway each fall.
Recreational and educational facilities designed into the project include wildlife viewing blinds and boardwalks that allow visitors a unique view from the inner-marsh, and an expanded trail network and interpretive signs describing the history of the site and its restoration. A future interpretive and educational facility will be situated within the diverse and ecologically significant landscape.
A Design Solution
To support conceptual design development, WSP USA performed baseline studies including habitat mapping, wetland delineations, biological benchmark assessment, salinity screenings, reference marsh assessment, fishery resources identification, threatened and endangered species surveys, floristic quality assessments, topographic and bathymetric surveys, and hydrologic, hydraulic and hydrodynamic modeling.
Our resulting design solution involves marsh restoration through inlet modification and construction of an earthen flood control berm. Four 48-inch water control structures with check valves and a single 72-inch water control structure with flap gates will be installed within the berm to drain stormwater runoff from the upper watershed while preventing tidal backflow. WSP obtained local, state and federal permits and will provide full time construction management services.