11978 Turkle Pond Rd
Dune Repair Project
December 28, 2012
The final comprehensive conservation plan for the refuge published today outlines a plan for restoring a healthy and resilient marsh in Unit II. As a next step the Service is working to contract a breach engineering study to determine how many cubic yards of material will be needed to fill the dune breaches as part of the broader marsh restoration project. The same study will inform hydrological models and a design for repairing the breaches, which widened from 300 to 1,500 feet during Hurricane Sandy. It will be necessary to secure sand and sediment from other sites as well as funding to complete the work. Sand will likely have to come from offshore requiring a significant dredging effort.
The Service expects to complete a detailed salt marsh restoration plan in 2013. Marsh restoration will not eliminate all future flooding of Prime Hook Road during extreme high tides and storm events, since floodwaters enter the road through locations other than the breaches. However, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is working to identify short-term solutions for community protection and to minimize flooding to individual homes at Prime Hook Beach. The Service looks forward to the results of those studies, and will partner with the state to implement feasible short-term solutions.
October 24, 2011
On Oct. 6, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control repaired dune breaches near Fowler Beach at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. This action was undertaken in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a short-term fix to prevent the Delaware Bay from encroaching upon the freshwater areas adjacent to the Bay. On Oct. 12, strong winds and high tides caused several breaches in the dunes. The Service and DNREC are assessing the situation while the Service continues to develop a long-term management plan through the refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Planning (CCP) process. The Service will continue to keep the public apprised of the situation going forward.
September 22, 2011
The U.S. District Court ruled earlier this week on the November 2010 complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Delaware Audubon Society seeking summary judgment to prohibit the dune repair project. The Court ruled in favor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Depending on the results of its sand survey, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources could begin work to repair the dunes the week of September 26.
September 1, 2011
Due to the effects of Hurricane Irene, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must delay the dune repair project. The Court has agreed to the project delay.
A visit to the project site revealed that the storm moved a great deal of sand and widened the southern breach. The degree of change to the beach will require DNREC to complete a new sand survey before the project can proceed.
The DNREC engineers will visit the site as early as next week when waters recede to reassess the situation. There is concern that there may not be enough sand to complete the dune repair project. The next possible window for the project is the week of September 26 when the tides will allow adequate access to the site.
August 5, 2011
August 1, 2011
The dune restoration project at Prime Hook is scheduled to begin in mid-August. It is our understanding during the week of August 8th, surveyors from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) will visit the project site to map the location of available sand, and calculate if the amount of sand onsite is sufficient to repair the breach.
If the survey shows that enough sand is available and weather conditions are favorable, the DNREC would proceed with the project and could begin work as early as August 16. The ideal construction window is from August 16 to 26.
The crew would first move and pile sand at the northern end of the breach. Next, access would be created for construction equipment to reach the south end of the breach from Fowler Beach Road. This work would likely happen, weather permitting, on August 16 or 17, at the lowest point in the tidal cycle when the crossing can occur.
The DNREC crew would begin repairing the breach from its southern end where more sand may be available. The neap lunar cycle begins the week of August 21, making conditions less favorable. Work would proceed to continue closing the breach and to reform sand dunes, and the project would likely be done by August 26.
Approximately 700 feet of the project site is located on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge property. The remaining area is in private ownership.
June 1, 2011
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently received approved permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources to complete dune repairs at Unit II at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The Service on May 2 signed a compatibility determination marking the completion of National Environmental Policy Act review and the agency’s approval of the project.
It is the Service’s intention to begin the project on or about August 15, following the nesting season for migratory birds in its trust. As required by one of the permits, the State will reassess conditions at the site before any work takes place. The Service will continue to monitor conditions in the coming months and consider the responsible course of action should changes occur.
On November 8, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the final environmental assessment for dune work at the refuge and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on lands impacted by the proposed work. It took several months for DNREC to verify that neighboring landowners would allow access to their private property for the project. After landowner permission was granted, the Service continued the process to secure necessary federal and state permits.
Additionally, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Delaware Audubon Society filed a complaint in federal court on November 17, 2010, seeking an injunction to prevent dune work from taking place. The Department of Justice submitted a response to the U.S. District Court answering the plaintiffs’ complaint. Now that the Service has signed a compatibility determination for the dune work, the plaintiffs’ have the opportunity to respond as part of the resolution of this legal action.
The Service is committed to responsible management of fish and wildlife as well as cooperating with the community and will continue to update the public about the status of the dune repair project.
February 11, 2011
For Draft Environmental Assessment and news releases, please click here.
On November 8, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the final environmental assessment for dune work at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on lands impacted by the proposed dune work. In order to begin the dune work, the Service needed to receive four permits and complete a compatibility determination (see Question and Answer #5 below). DNREC asked neighboring private landowners for permission to access their land to complete the dune work. At the time we released our final environmental assessment, landowner permission had been granted and the Service expected the compatibility determination and permitting process to be complete by late 2010. However, landowner permission was later verbally revoked, putting the permitting process on hold while the Service worked to confirm previously granted landowner permission. At present time, we have re-confirmed landowner permission and continue to work with DNREC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to obtain the necessary permits.
The State has notified the Service that a public hearing has been requested for the wetlands permit. The public hearing has been scheduled for March 9, 2011.
Once all four permits have been approved, the Service will complete the compatibility determination to reflect any requested stipulations and issue a final agency decision, clearing the path for dune work to begin. However, given the time frames for the public review and permitting process, it is unlikely that State and Corps of Engineer permits will be issued before the March 1 deadline required to ensure protection for migratory birds. Therefore, dune work is unlikely to begin until after Aug. 15, 2011. The Service will continue to monitor conditions in the coming months and consider the responsible course of action should changes occur.
Additionally, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Delaware Audubon Society filed a complaint in federal court on November 17, 2010, seeking an injunction to prevent dune work from taking place. The Department of Justice has submitted a response to the U.S. District Court answering the Plaintiffs’ complaint. The status of the case is pending.
The Service is committed to responsible management of fish and wildlife as well as cooperating with the community and will continue to update the public about the process in the coming weeks and months.
Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 to preserve and protect habitats for migratory birds. Situated along the marshes of the western Delaware Bay, the refuge hosts thousands of ducks, geese and shorebirds each year and provides habitat for other species like the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel and bald eagle. Roughly 80 percent of the refuge is a mix of fresh and saltwater wetlands stretching from Slaughter Beach in the north to the Broadkill River in the south.
The Service has released an Environmental Assessment for Dune Restoration on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
Question 1: What is the Environmental Assessment and why was it conducted?
To address this issue, the Service conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The purpose of the EA is to determine the environment impacts of the potential alternatives, address unresolved environmental issues, provide a basis for a decision on the proposal, and facilitate interagency coordination between the Service and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to manage and protect natural and cultural resources.
Question 2: What action is the Service proposing?
Question 3: How does the current plan differ from the draft EA, issued on July 27, 2010?
Question 4: Will the Service continue to repair breaches in the Unit II dune line indefinitely?
Question 5: Now that the EA is final, what happens next?
Question 6: How can the public comment on the compatibility determination?
Question 7: Will dune restoration reduce flooding on Prime Hook Beach Road?
Prime Hook Road is maintained by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT). Maintaining the road to adequately function during storm events is a DelDOT responsibility. The refuge will continue to work with DelDOT to address the situation, since the road is located, via an easement, on federal land. While we recognize the repair of the dunes may temporarily reduce the frequency and alleviate the extent of the flooding of Prime Hook Road, it is not the only factor affecting the road flooding issues. Because Prime Hook Road is 18 inches lower than normal spring tides in several places, flooding will continue to occur to some extent, regardless of whether the dunes are repaired or not. It is also unclear how much the road serves to hold in flood waters and prevent draining of the system after large storms.
Question 8: What are the long-term plans and goals of the refuge as they relate to dune management and breach repairs?
The CCP will address impoundment and shoreline management in further detail and will contain long-term strategies to manage wildlife while considering the impacts to the surrounding community. The refuge will analyze new information and reassess refuge management options through the CCP and post-CCP planning process.
This EA details short-term, interim actions that will be pursued only until long-term decisions for management of the refuge are made via the final CCP, the draft of which is anticipated to be released in calendar year 2011.
Question 9: How has saltwater intrusion in Unit II impacted wildlife?
Question 10: Were the marshes in Unit II always freshwater?