The Lower Cape May Meadows (The Meadows) in southern New Jersey is an internationally renowned bird migration area within the Atlantic Flyway and the site of many rare coastal habitats. This complex of freshwater wetlands, forests and fields and an ocean dune and beach system hosts the migration of over one million birds each year. The Meadows is also home to a large variety of wading birds, songbirds, raptors, waterfowl and shorebirds, including the Federally threatened piping plover. Cape May Point State Park and The Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, which is owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), are located in this area.
Since the mid-twentieth century, The Meadows has experienced significant erosion leading to habitat loss and dune breaching, which in turn resulted in salt water inundation of sensitive ecosystems. The salt water intrusion lead to the death of trees, shrubs and freshwater wetland vegetation and allowed for the proliferation of Phragmites australis, a highly invasive plant that can develop monotypic stands which choke out other vegetation and provide little value to wildlife.
In response, the Corps Philadelphia District initiated an ecosystem restoration plan after careful study and evaluation. Beachfill activities pumped approximately 1,406,000 cubic yards of sediment from an offshore borrow source onto the beach and dune complex between September 2004 and March 2005. Phragmites control efforts began in the fall of 2005, and construction related to internal hydrology, water control structures and endangered species habitat was completed in the spring of 2007.
As a result of these efforts, Phragmites dominance has decreased and plant diversity has flourished, particularly native flowers and state-listed plants. Foraging habitat in the wetlands is improving, and the population of rare and threatened birds is increasing as nesting habitat expands in the marshes and on the beach. This project remains in the monitoring and adaptive management phase, which will continue through 2012. With the support of many key partners, including divisions of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nature Conservancy and the Mosquito Commission, the Corps has successfully implemented restoration of this vital and vibrant wildlife area.