Standing atop a 10-foot dune at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refugeon Delaware Bay, refuge manager Al Rizzo describes one of the largest and most complex wetlands restoration projects ever mounted, a $38 million attempt to return 4,000 acres back to what nature intended.
Contractors hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dredged more than 1 million cubic yards of sand from Delaware Bay to create 2 miles of beach and barrier dune that had been washed away by a series of storms beginning in 2006 and culminating with Hurricane Sandy in 2012. To stabilize the recreated dune, workers then planted half-a-million American beachgrass plugs and erected 10,000 feet of fencing. Down the beach, Fish and Wildlife staff are enclosing the nests of piping plovers, a threatened species that started breeding at the refuge only three years ago.