A 65-foot long oyster reef is planned to be built in Barnegat Bay off the Lavallette boat ramp if approved by officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The long-discussed plan, intended for its dual benefit of improving water quality and marine habitat while also restoring the adjacent shoreline and protecting the boat ramp from shoaling, was submitted to the DEP about two weeks ago. Officials are hopeful the reef, if approved, will also finally solve the shoaling issue at the West Point Island Bridge as well.
The borough has partnered with the American Littoral Society, an environmental conservation group, on the project, with ALS having been the party that formally submitted the application for development. The permit application calls for a 65-foot oyster reef that will extend perpendicular from the municipal bulkhead just north of the ramp. The reef will have its base formed by two rows of right Hesco units, a cage-like structure consisting of galvanized steel baskets that are filled with another material. Such units are common in flood-prone areas as well as in deployed military settings, where they are used for security and anti-rocket purposes.
For local use, however, the Hesco units will be transformed into an environmentally-friendly ecosystem for marine life. The baskets, which will make up a 16-unit reef, will be surrounded by shell faces on their outer sides. On the inner side, they will be filled with rock while the shell faces will be be filled with clam and whelk shells and seeded with oyster larvae. The oysters will then begin growing in the newly-formed structure and shell base. The reef structure will stand about 4-feet high.
“The oyster reefs will mitigate wind-driven wave energy to reduce further sand transportation near the boat ramp and West Point Island Bridge navigation channel, as well as create habitat for species in the ecosystem,” the application states. “Further, the seeded oysters will reduce turbidity and remove nutrients via the active filtration of seston.”
The long form plan detailed in the application is on file at the municipal clerk’s office at borough hall, officials said.
“It’s going to provide some habitat for shellfish that help purify the bay,” said Councilman James Borowski, adding that he plans on reaching out to state and county representatives to explore funding opportunities for such a project.
There is no start date proposed as the funding source for the project has yet to be determined and the DEP permit review may take an extended period of time due to lingering backlogs in Trenton.