Tucked away on the east side of Cedar Neck Road, across from the main entrance to the James Farm Ecological Preserve, the Slough’s Gut marsh enhancement project has quietly been completed after years of monitoring, evaluation, planning, design and, finally, construction.
Construction on the 24-acre saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) marsh started this past winter and was intended to return a more natural flow of water into the marsh by filling in ditches once used for mosquito control, and for “creating more natural meandering tidal creeks, mudflats and pools.”
Center for Inland Bays’ habitat coordinator Eric Buehl said the project was completed sooner than expected because of some frost early on in the construction. The extra cold weather helped some of the equipment get the job done more efficiently.
“As far as I know, it went really well,” said Buehl of the project.
“Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC) Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Mosquito Control Section was responsible for the actual construction the project — in conjunction with logistical support from ENTRIX — CIB representatives explained that Mosquito Control’s expertise in wetlands management, plus their unique heavy marsh equipment and skilled equipment operators made them perfect candidates.
The work done has a variety of benefits, mainly for birds, fish and other wildlife species that inhabit the inland bays.
“We are excited about the opportunity to participate in such a large-scale enhancement project at the James Farm,” said C.J. Chalabala, restoration coordinator for the CIB. “The pools and channels will provide habitat for fish and crabs, and feeding areas for wading birds, more like what a natural or unaltered marsh does.”
The project is the last step in restoration from a fuel spill nine years ago.
“The James Farm marsh enhancement project is the final step in the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process to restore and compensate for environmental impacts resulting from a fuel oil release at the Indian River Power Plant (IRPP) owned at that time by DP&L, into the Indian River Estuary that occurred in early 2000,” CIB representatives said.
“As a Natural Resource Trustee, DNREC is authorized by law to recover damages for injuries to natural resources resulting from the fuel oil release. DNREC’s Divisions of Air and Waste Management and Water Resources led the state’s effort, with technical assistance, including design review, provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife.”
The CIB has been working closely with Conectiv Energy, ENTRIX Inc., an environmental and natural resource management consultant firm; and DNREC to “make this project a reality.”
In addition to the marsh enhancements, the project also allows for education and has signs describing the restoration efforts and explains the environmental benefits of such a project. The marsh is already showing signs of re-growth and greenery and will see more as the spring and summer months get under way.
For safety reasons, the area near the project is still closed, but the observation platform is open to the public. The Center for the Inland Bays has plans to unveil the completed marsh enhancement project later this spring, with the public invited.
Project partners include Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Fish and Wildlife/Mosquito Control Section; the Division of Water Resources; and the Division of Air and Waste Management; Conectiv Energy, Sussex County, Delmarva Power (formerly Delmarva Power & Light Company), National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For more information on the project, or to view answers to frequently asked questions, visit www.inlandbays.org online and click on the “restoration” tab at the top of the page.