Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thousand Acre Marsh, Delaware

View north across the marsh.  Bridge at far right bears Del. Rte. 9 over the C&D Canal
I attended the Third Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware over the last two days.  The first day's activities included a field trip to one of five sites along the Delaware Estuary to see conservation and restoration projects. I chose to visit Thousand Acre Marsh.  This extensive freshwater wetland is a well-known birding destination that is at risk for a wide range of impacts due to sea level rise.

The marsh is a freshwater impoundment located in the southwest corner of the intersection of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal and the Delaware Bay.  The northern levee of the marsh (along the canal) was created when the C&D Canal was dug, and the eastern levee (along Delaware Bay) was created to protect the right-of-way of Delaware Route 9, which hugs the bay shore. 
A ship eastbound from the Chesapeake to the Delaware Bay in the C&D Canal
Representatives from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control informed our group about the efforts of a multi-agency partnership to expand habitat and bolster ecotourism while addressing the failing bay shore levee and combating the expansion of invasive phragmites reeds. 
Tour group at the water level control structure on the failing bay shore levee
Best feature of the tour:  I added a new bird to my life list, a Little Blue Heron!  In addition, there were more Bald Eagles flying here than I have seen anywhere else except in Alaska; most were immature.

Salem Nuclear Power Plant in Salem, NJ directly across Delaware Bay


packrat said...

Blue Heron, good. Bald Eagles, good. Cooling tower, bad.

From your photo the group at the event seemed fairly substantial.

Mark P said...

Pretty cool looking. So, is this whole wetland area manmade?

Scott said...

Packrat: Earlier that morning, we'd had a session about water consumption from the Delaware River watershed. The speaker noted that thermoelectric generation (e.g., coal-fired, gas-fired, and nuclear power plants) uses tremendous quantities of water, but the speaker specifically mentioned that the Salem nuclear plant uses a once-through cooling system that does not consume (e.g., evaporate) water from the river. So, I was surprised to see the ominous cooling tower with billowing clouds of steam. Looked pretty "consumptive" to me.

Scott said...

Mark: Before all the alterations, there would have been brackish marshes lining the bay, and the marshes would have been threaded through with tidal guts and channels. I think that early settlers probably diked the land first so that they could control water levels and use the land for productive purposes (i.e., agriculture). When the canal was dug and the bay shore highway built, the marshes were permanently isolated from the bay. It's a shame.

robin andrea said...

How wonderful to see a Little Blue Heron! I would love to see one of those. It's been a very long time since I've seen Bald Eagle. When we were living in Port Townsend, WA on the Olympic Peninsula, we saw eagles everyday. Since we've moved back to California, I've only seen one Bald Eagle in the seven years we've been back. Interesting reading about the wetlands. We humans have sure left our mark, haven't we.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: Kali was sure we had seen Little Blue Herons when we lived in Florida, but I wasn't so positive; it turned out I was right. They eluded us for the seven years we lived in the Sunshine State.