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Beach rehab project targets the other Jersey shore



MIDDLE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - Far from the ocean beaches that were lavished with money and attention after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy is the other Jersey shore.

The Delaware Bay beaches are not nearly as famous or as heavily populated, but they could help keep a tiny shorebird from becoming extinct.

A massive project to restore five bayfront beaches has been completed just before the second summer after the storm arrives - and, with it, thousands of red knots and the horseshoe crabs whose eggs they eat on a stopover from their annual 10,000-mile journey from South America to the Arctic.

The Delaware Bay area is home to the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world, according to Larry Niles, a wildlife biologist working on the project. And because the crabs lay their eggs in the sandy beaches here, the area is the main stopover for red knots, a shorebird listed as endangered in New Jersey and proposed for listing as such with the federal government.

But when Sandy roared through on Oct. 29, 2012, the beaches were devastated, and 70 percent of breeding areas, coves and shoals were lost - not to mention the damage inflicted on waterfront homes.

All that needed to be fixed as quickly as possible.

"There were two main goals: to get good spawning grounds for the horseshoe crabs and to make sure there were sufficient horseshoe crab eggs so that when the shorebirds make their long trip up from South America, they have sufficient food reserves to make it all the way to the Arctic," said Eric Schrading, a supervisor with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "This is an absolutely critical spot for a host of shorebirds, including the red knot."

The red knot's numbers have declined by 80 percent since 2000, he said. There are about 35,000 left in the world. Other species that depend on the crab eggs include the ruddy turnstone and the short-billed dowitcher.

The birds have already started arriving. Their presence should drastically increase this week.

The red knots are important to the local tourism economy as well. Reeds Beach is a popular spot for the annual New Jersey-based bird-watching competition called the World Series of Birding.

At the same time, horseshoe crabs, while still plentiful here, are under major stress from commercial and recreational fishing (They are used as bait for conch and other species.) and are harvested for use in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. New Jersey has a moratorium on taking the crabs, and Delaware limits harvesting to males only. A steep population decline has been halted, but a hoped-for increase hasn't yet happened, Schrading said.

The crabs' commercial value has soared in recent years, from $1 apiece to $5 or $6 now. Pointing to a beach filled with crabs mating or laying eggs in the sand, Niles said, "Those are basically $5 bills lying all over the beach. So you can see how hard it is to protect them."

The $1.65 million project that started in March 2013 restored five beaches on Cape May County's Delaware Bay shoreline: Kimbles Beach, Reeds Beach, Moores Beach, Cooks Beach and Pierces Point. Over 800 tons of debris, including chunks of asphalt and bricks, concrete pipes, slabs and pilings were cleared from 1.5 miles of beach, and contractors brought in more than 45,000 tons of locally mined sand to replace what was lost in the storm.

"These beaches are not nearly as populated and don't have nearly the economic value as the ocean beaches do, and as a consequence, it's harder to get political resources to repair and maintain them," Niles said. "But people are finally realizing how critical they are to a variety of species and the value of this place."

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joper201 May 11 2014 at 10:37 PM

Just curious.
I live surrounded by the Sierra National Forest.
When a wildfire starts the environmentalists tell us all how great it is for the forest.
It's natures way of cleaning the Forest.
It doesn't matter to environmentalists that most wildfires today are killers of the forest.
It will take 100s of years for nature to restore most burned forest due to the inability of the Forest Service to properly manage our forest due to law suits by extreme environmentalists.

Isn't a hurricane natures way of cleaning the beaches????

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1 reply
Mike Keefer joper201 May 11 2014 at 11:03 PM

If left alone, forest fires would not kill all trees. A forest will pretty much recover in a few decades under normal conditions. But, by suppressing fires, we allow fuel to build up, then when a fire does occur it is much worse and kills everthing as it burns much hotter thanks to the all the fuel available.
When mositure levels are high fires should be allowed to burn themselves out.
During a drought, when mositure levels are low, need to fight the fires as usual.

That was the big mistake they made is Yellowstone over a decade ago. They had just started the let it burn policy, when the fire started with mositure levels very low. They let burn for a bit, until they realized that was a very bad idea.

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stubeugirl May 11 2014 at 3:21 PM

WELL THE GOVERMENT IS THINKING OF LETTING THE GOOD PEOPLE IN FLA. TO GET RID OF THERE RED WOLF POPULATION, AND THE GRAY WOLF, WHO WE REPOPULATED IN THE NORTH AND PARKS IN THE WESTERN STATES, BECAUSE THEY WHERE IN THE PEOCESS OF ONLY 1OO LEFT IN YELLOWSTONE. THE MONEY SPENT ON THAT WAS ASTRONOMICAL, BUT WE HAVE A GOOD POPULATION GOING NOW. WHAT WAS THE SENCE IN DOING SO . OH I KNOW LET'S PUT THEM IN THE ZOOS AROUND THE WORLD SO THAT WE MAY SEE THEM IN CAPTIVITY, AND NOT IN THE WILD. . SO WHY DON'T THEY JUST GET RID OF ALL OF GODS CREATURES????? ARE WE NEXT??? JUS SAYING

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3 replies
Harriet May 11 2014 at 3:24 PM

Glad some humans are taking care of other living things in our universe as all of us should be doing.

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anthony chavez May 11 2014 at 3:29 PM

humans could benefit from a population control program.

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Joebudgie May 11 2014 at 8:09 PM

Why do we feel compelled to "save" every endangered species? Maybe it's God's will that some species die out. And if you don't believe in God maybe it's nature's design. What would life be like today if dinosaurs hadn't become extinct?

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4 replies
SUNFLOWERgirl May 11 2014 at 3:48 PM

Something to think about..........I wonder why many humans will go the extra mile to protect these creatures and their eggs and young, but think human abortion is A-Okay. They think it's ok to butcher their own young.

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4 replies
DONNA May 11 2014 at 3:57 PM

I remember as a child, THOUSANDS of horseshoe crabs would line our CT shorelines to breed. For years, I haven't seen a one. Last year I saw a fisherman with a few on his truck. What would you do with a horseshoe crab? So sad.

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1 reply
leavesbound DONNA May 11 2014 at 4:47 PM

We used to round them up and grind them into fertilizer. We also use them for bait. I find it difficult to believe there is a shortage of them anywhere. The stench of millions of rotting horseshoe crab carcasses every spring when the thaw came made my neighborhood unbearable for about three weeks every spring.

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1 reply
moose leavesbound May 11 2014 at 5:20 PM

Let's get our priorities straight for once. Start experimenting and grinding up rapists, pedophiles and murderers that are costing billions in tax money to house them with more benefits than you or I as a 'free' person. Leave the animals alone.

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fred May 11 2014 at 4:17 PM

Once the crabs found out BO was going to tax 'em to help pay the enormous national debt increase on his watch, they took off.

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2 replies
Edwin Moore fred May 11 2014 at 4:46 PM

Another stupid, irrelevant wingnut comment. Go get a life.

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sableesp fred May 11 2014 at 7:35 PM

HAARP, HAARP, THAT'S WHAT CREATED THIS SO CALLED STORM

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pty014372 May 11 2014 at 4:48 PM

I participated in the WSOB yesterday. The beaches are in great shape. Already plenty of horseshoe crabs around. Numbers of birds are still low. I saw only a dozen Red Knots.

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bigred8690 May 11 2014 at 5:01 PM

This isn't going to help them unless they make their communities livable again, starting with reasonable tax rates and less government regulation. Stop interfering with the ability to defend's one's family with a gun. Let parents choose charter schools for their kids. This is what's killing California--beautiful shores to attract tourists but no one wants to live there except foreigners.

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3 replies
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