Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sunken Meadow salt marsh restoration, Eastham: construction is complete!

An excavator removes the berm at Sunken Meadow.

by Martha Rheinhardt, Coastal Wetland Restoration Project Manager, Cape Cod Conservation District
Removal of the 610-foot long earthen berm at Sunken Meadow in Eastham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod has been completed! This berm had separated two salt marshes for over 100 years.  The Eastham Department of Public Works and the Natural Resources Department teamed up to send out a well-organized crew for the removal of the berm, removal of an old, under-sized culvert and re-building of the creek bank. Despite the cold and wind, and occasional snowfall, the crew worked flawlessly. 
The excavator and “The Crawler,” a tracked carrier, were a particularly effective team. Not a motion was lost by the excavator operator, and The Crawler was able to travel back and forth along the berm without having to make any turns, thanks to its swiveling bucket.
In less than a week’s time, the berm had been removed, the area re-graded back to proper marsh elevations, and water was flowing un-impeded through the creek and up and over the new marsh surface on the spring tide. A pair of Canada geese even came by for a swim.
The new creek bank and adjacent areas will be planted this spring. The new surface of the salt marsh is expected to re-vegetate quickly on its own. The inundation of salt water to the back marsh should also help to beat back the Phragmites that has invaded the area.
The Association to Preserve Cape Cod, working together with the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the Cape Cod Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, will be monitoring the site to determine changes to vegetation and salinity.
This work finished well ahead of schedule thanks to the efforts of many people, including Neil Andres, Eastham DPW director; Henry Lind of the Eastham Conservation Trust; Amy Usowski, the Town of Eastham Conservation Agent; the private landowners who own the land containing the culvert and the berm and where most of the work was staged; and many others. It was a wonderfully successful team effort!

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