The Stone Harbor beach nesting bird and shorebird habitat restoration project began its second year this past Friday February 19th. Our permit was approved in the early morning and we started work at about 10:30 am. The first job focused on restoring access to the beach, still damaged after Winter Storm Jonas. We created a simple crossover that got the machines moving. By 12 o’clock noon the H4 company excavators and dump trucks were already moving sand. By 3 o’clock they had moved over a thousand yards of sand.
L. Tedesco photographed at the beach access overpass which was destroyed by winter storm Jonas
Steve Hafner’s team set stakes on the island habitat on Stone Harbor Point
Steve Hafner and the Stockton team had already laid out the markers describing both the borrow zone and the southern habitat.The borrow zone distinguishes our project and its replenishment forms one of our project goals: can we harvest sand from Stone Harbor Point to elevate nesting areas and will it replenish itself through natural ocean processes in a year’s time? The answer at this point is yes. In one year it has accreted more than enough sand to maintain the bird nesting habitats.
Our project was made much more difficult by winter storm Jonas. This extraordinary weather system hit Stone Harbor and Avalon Island with the ferocity of a hurricane and bringing tide levels that rivaled those seen after Hurricane Sandy. Before Jonas, we intended only to restore habitat lost over the winter amounting to just over 6000 yards of sand, far less than the 52,000 yards moved last year to create the habitats. Last year we created three habitats: a northern and southern habitat area and a smaller island on the bayside. Winter storms had damaged the northern habitat and so this year was supposed to focus on the relatively small job of repairing the northern habitat. Jonas changed that.
A view of the southern habitat isolated by the high tide
On Monday February 22 Boomer Heun walked his million dollar excavator out to find high tide waters almost 2 feet deep, separating him from the Southern habitat and the borrow zone. He could not go on until the high tide passed. After waiting about three hours the tide began to run out enough to begin excavation. By the end of the day they had moved another 1000 yards to the southern habitat. Unfortunately another Northeastern is expected to come into the area tomorrow, with winds up to 25 knots. This will push the spring high tides even higher and create yet another problem for our project.
H4 begins the harvesting of sand from the borrow site at Stone Harbor Point