Portions of the wildlife management area, situated on Delaware Bay at the southernmost tip of the state, closed Monday, Jan. 29 for site preparation work. The meeting at the Lower Township Municipal Building will give the public an opportunity to learn more about the closure and construction schedule, as well as the benefits the Pond Creek Restoration Project will have for wildlife and ecosystems in this ecologically important area of the state.
The project, to be implemented by A.P. Construction of Philadelphia, will enhance wildlife habitats and re-establish tidal flow to the property’s marshes. The DEP anticipates that a 428-acre section of the wildlife management area will remain closed until approximately December 2026.
The closure will ensure public safety and protect and preserve the land and water areas of the 1,160-acre wildlife management area. Construction is anticipated to begin immediately following preparation work that includes fencing, signage, erosion prevention measures and site dewatering.
“The Delaware Bayshore is a globally unique place, vital to migrations of shorebirds and raptors and home to an abundance of wildlife,” said Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “The Pond Creek Restoration Project will restore a major section of the wildlife management area that was degraded many years ago by a magnesium-extraction plant. We are excited to share our progress as we begin the important work of restoring this land for wildlife and public enjoyment.”
The public meeting will be 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8 at Lower Township’s Municipal Hall, 2600 Bayshore Road, Villas, in Cape May County. Those unable to attend in person may participate virtually by registering here. DEP staff will present an overview of the project and respond to participant questions. Those unable to attend the meeting are welcome to email comments and questions throughout the project’s duration to NJDEP-HBRemail@example.com.
“We are excited to work together with other programs within DEP to restore this portion of Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area to maximize wildlife benefits and public access,” said Assistant Commissioner for Fish & Wildlife David Golden. “Once completed, the site will have a new trail network and multiple wildlife viewing platforms integrated into enhanced stopover habitat for migrating species. It will surely be one of New Jersey’s best wildlife viewing destinations.”
The Pond Creek Marsh Restoration site consists of the former Harbison-Walker magnesite facility and associated landfill, Davey’s Lake and most of the Pond Creek marsh. The plant extracted magnesium from seawater.
The main project goal is to re-establish tidal inundation to a large portion of Pond Creek Marsh without increasing flood risk to the upper watershed or inundating the eastern freshwater marsh area while allowing for habitat management of the northern marsh area.
Achieving these goals will require modifying the inlet channel to allow sufficient tidal flushing, developing a network of secondary and tertiary channels to assist tidal flow into the interior of the marsh, excavating deep flood pools for fish habitat and creating upland islands for shorebirds.
An earthen berm will also be constructed around much of the perimeter of the marsh, which will provide access to wildlife observation blinds and contribute to a trail system encircling the marsh.
The Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area is managed by NJDEP Fish & Wildlife for its value to endangered, threatened and nongame wildlife. It features 1.5 miles of pristine shoreline and has a blend of several habitat types, including dunes, forest, scrub and early successional fields.
The restored wetland project area will provide foraging and loafing habitat for raptors, such as osprey, peregrine falcons, merlins, kestrels, cooper hawks and sharp-shinned hawks during their migratory season. It also will increase food, shelter and general habitat for numerous species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
For a comprehensive project description and updated project schedule, visit the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area Tidal Marsh/Upland Restoration Project page.