Even by this week's standard of cold weather, today was bitter. By mid-day, two of the three all-terrain dump trucks fell to hydraulic system failure related to the cold, even though Boomer Huen arrives at 5 a.m. to warm up the equipment.
Despite these difficulties the construction of the habitats continued because of H4's determination. Of equal fortitude were the 9 staff of DEP's Division of Land Use Regulation and US Fish and Wildlife Service's NJ Field Office, who visited Stone Harbor Point to see the work first hand.
The wind continued its assault on the habitat areas. Winds in excess of 20 knots have scoured the area for the last 48 hours. Thus far, however, the habitats appear resilient. As seen in the attached photo, small chunks of frozen sand help to anchor the areas. The gentle 30-to-1 slope surrounding the elevated habitats also resists the wind well.
H4 mechanic repairing all terrain dump trucks
DLUR Staff Colleen Keller Joanne Davis, Amy Wells Kara Turner Eric Virostek, USFWS staff Amber Carr and Brian Marsh NFWF Marty Mchugh
USFWS Staff Brian Marsh, Amber Carr; H4 Partners Vicky Huen, JR Huen and Boomer Huen; Marty Mchugh NFWF and Dianne Daly working For NJ Audubon.
Work continued on the coldest day thus far. Boomer Heun reported 152 truck loads today despite single digit temperatures made worst by a penetrating 25 knot wind (see video
). At times the wind drove temperatures down to below -20. Weather notwithstanding, the north habitat area is finished and the trucks began hauling sand to the site where we will begin a new phase of the project.
This part of the project aims to help people. As part of our team's (NJ Audubon, Conserve Wildlife Foundation,The Wetlands Institute, NJDEP, US Fish and Wildlife Service) commitment to the community of Stone Harbor, we will fortify natural dunes that protect the southernmost part of the town. Nearly a quarter of all the sand we harvest from our borrow site at the tip of the point, will be used to increase the height and width of an important dune that forms the best defense of the towns south face. It's our sincere hope this project will help this town face the dangers of coastal storms.
Even though the cold wind makes life difficult and continues to wear away at the habitat areas, it also helps. The deep freeze helps firm the sand making it more resistant to the punishing winds. The frozen beach also provide firm footing for the all terrain dump trucks. With loads of over 30 tons, a hard frozen sand roadway improves fuel efficiency by 50% and saves valuable time.
Tom Baxter, our field tech, keeps count of truckloads.
We nearly finished one of the three nesting and roosting habitats today. As seen in the engineering diagram of our work done by Steve Hafner of Stockton College, we are creating three new habitats for nesting piping plovers, oystercatchers, least terns and black skimmers. The habitat areas are about 2 to 3 feet above the surrounding area thus creating nesting habitat, safe from the infrequent but inevitable high tides that sweep the point during bad winds storms or New and Full moon tides. These floods have contributed to a failure of Stone Harbor nesting bird population.
The same elevated areas will provide roosting habitat for shorebirds that migrant through the area in the fall and the spring migrants that feed on horseshoe crab eggs on Delaware Bay. Its not well known that at times most of the shorebirds, including the red knot, fly to Stone Harbor Point to find roosting habitat safe from the ground predators that roam throughout the Delaware Bay beaches and marsh at night. In some years the entire population of rufa red knots roost on Stone Harbor Point. The roost have failed recently during the same extraordinary tides that destroy nests. Our work will help both groups of birds.
Phil Heun, has run the machine since the start of the project. Today he loaded 172 trucks, our best day yet.
Dunlin feed along the borrow area today in fresh wrack.
Work resumed on this snowy day. Thankfully the wind wound down to about 15 knots from the northwest with only a modest impact on the tide, which has already flooded and now recedes. The trucks have moved about 20 loads as of 830, so we can expect another day of about 3000 to 4000 cubic yards, well above what we had expected at the beginning of the project.
The wind took away some sand over the weekend. This morning Boomer Heun, the supervising contractor and operator of every machine out here, bulldozed the piles that we kept un-bulldozed on Friday in preparation for the wind which as predicted reached 60 mph. The habitat areas that were already created, weathered the storm fairly well probably losing about 10% of the sand. Not too bad for a truly awesome storm. This week, as we finish the first habitat area, we will spread with shell and roll the area to minimize further loss.
Stone Harbor North of Bridge