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Delaware Audubon Urges Prime Hook NWR
To Revise Its Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP)

Needs Long-Range View Considering Sea Level Rise

The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge issued its required Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) during the summer of 2012, and the Delaware Audubon Society was one of many organizations in the state which provided comments and suggestions about the plan.

Prime hook NWR was established in 1963 "for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds." Current Refuge System policies direct refuge managers to assess the historic or natural conditions of refuge ecosystems to inform management decisions. These policies direct the Service to avoid additional degradation of environmental conditions and natural processes and to restore degraded environmental components, according to the official CCP document. The refuge is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Because of its location on the Delaware Bay near the ocean, Prime Hook NWR has been hit hard in the past few years by a combination of sea level rise and major storms, turning former fresh water impoundments into salt water marshes, and impacting roads and homes near the refuge.

The full CCP is available on the Prime Hook web site. The plan outlines three alternatives for the future, including the refuge's preferred plan, and invited public comment on the alternatives.

The alternatives are:

  • Alternative A: Current Management—This alternative fulfills the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirement for a no-action alternative, one that proposes no change in the current management of the refuge. Alternative A is to continue to manage the refuge as we do at the present time.
  • Alternative B: Preferred Alternative—This alternative will focus on focal species with proactive habitat management and expanded public use. Alternative B is our [the Refuge's] preferred alternative and the action that we recommend for final selection.
  • Alternative C: Historic Habitat Management.—This alternative proposed a return to habitat management programs which were conducted on the refuge for several decades, but had been stopped in recent years for various reasons. Re-establishment of such programs would require substantial refuge action. This alternative includes some modifications to public use programs.

Delaware Audubon Position

Delaware Audubon opposes Alternative A, and urged the refuge to consider combining parts of B and C. More importantly, the Delaware Audubon position called for working with inland farmers and land owners to acquire additional property for moving the refuge westward in the long term, including the possible creation of new freshwater impoundments that will strategically survive long enough to justify their creation, subject to long term sea level rise and subsidence projections.

Delaware Audubon's statement concluded with a reference in the CCP to using dredge spoils to build a protective berm. Delaware Audubon believes that if the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) elects to move forward with the service preferred Option B or any derivative thereof, that the "use of dredge spoils in the creation of berms and elevating the salt marsh be done only with dredge materials consistent with soils necessary for horseshoe crab spawning and salt marsh creation. Any spoils used should not include materials from the Delaware River Deepening Main Channel Project or Maintenance Dredge unless these materials are screened and inspected independently by a non-governmental party."

Read Delaware Audubon's complete position statement in the following PDF documents:

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This page was last updated on Nov. 9, 2012.