Littoral Society Receives Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award For Neptune Living Shoreline Project
The American Littoral Society's South Riverside Drive living shoreline project recently received two awards. In addition to being named as a 2023 New Jersey Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards (GEEA) winner, the project and Neptune Township, NJ were selected by the Monmouth County Planning Board for a 2023 Merit Award.
The restoration project's initial phase was completed earlier this year and focused on stabilizing an eroded section of beach in the Shark River Hills section of the township. It was one of nearly a dozen individuals organizations recognized annually through the Governor's Awards for demonstrating commitment and leadership on a variety of environmental issues, including environmental justice, climate change, sustainability and education.
This is the fourth GEEA the Littoral Society has received in 10 years.
“The achievements of this year’s award winners capture the essence of environmentalism in New Jersey and set a shining example for us all to follow,” said NJ Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “It’s an honor to celebrate their determined efforts to protect the state’s natural resources and help others connect to nature.”
The GEEA recognized the South Riverside Drive project, as well as Neptune Township and the Littoral Society, in the Healthy Ecosystems and Habitats category for "improving resilience for natural and built communities, spawning habitat for horseshoe crabs, marsh habitat for juvenile fish and crabs, dune habitat for avian species and reef habitat for shellfish. Additionally, stormwater outfalls were replaced and affixed with tide valves to reduce periodicity of flooding and to better treat stormwater runoff."
“The Monmouth County Planning Merit Award Program recognizes plans, projects, programs, individuals, municipalities, businesses, community leaders and stakeholder organizations that have made a significant contribution to the advancement of planning and planning outcomes in Monmouth County,” said Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone. “The purpose of the awards is to honor exceptional examples of planning in Monmouth County and to inspire others to pursue the same level of planning achievement and excellence.”
"Following Hurricane Sandy, the shoreline along South Riverside Drive experienced major erosion and flooding throughout the area due to a dilapidated and failing bulkhead," said Capt. Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Program Director for the American Littoral Society. "We were brought in to help design a solution that would not only offer protection for the adjacent community but also preserve the natural space along the Shark River that is prized by area residents and crucial for several avian and estuarine species, including horseshoe crabs."
The initial phase of restoration at the site was designed to stabilize more than 2,000 feet of shoreline, raise the beach, and build a dune to provide added protection during storm or high-tide events. It involved installation of Tensar mattresses - large, mesh polymer bags that are filled with rock and shell - which have been placed in the Shark River just beyond the old wooden bulkhead, as well as lining the shore with coir "logs" made from coconut husks. Tons of sand were also poured onto the beach and a small dune was created with walkways for the public to access the beach.
That work was followed with volunteer opportunities that included a adding native plants. Monitoring at the site will continue for five years and involve volunteers from the community members.
With funding provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant, the Township of Neptune chose to pursue a living shoreline project at the South Riverside Drive site rather than replace the existing bulkhead. Living shorelines are nature-based solutions that can provide shoreline stabilization, reduce shoreline erosion rates, improve community resiliency, and create or enhance habitat for other organisms.
Besides protecting homes and infrastructure, living shorelines can create a healthier ecosystem by increasing plant and animal biodiversity, filtering stormwater, and removing carbon from the air.
Local residents opposed designs that focused on “harder” solutions, such as a large wall or stone revetment. Those designs would have provided flood protection but at the expense of habitat.
In addition to Neptune Township, project partners include Leon S. Avakian Consulting, and Albert Marine Construction. Funding for the project comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Neptune Township. Go to the Littoral Society website for more project information and updates.
In addition to the Littoral Society, 11 other individuals and organizations were 2023 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award winners.
The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards has been New Jersey’s premier environmental awards program since 2000. The DEP, New Jersey Infrastructure Bank and the New Jersey Corporation for Advanced Technology sponsor the program.
A panel of judges reviewed and scored the nominations on criteria including documented environmental benefit, contributions to meeting the state’s environment needs, replicability by others, leadership and innovation, and education and outreach undertaken as part of the effort. To learn more about the program and other winners, visit dep.nj.gov/awards.