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On the Road to Implementation: Large-scale Ecosystem Restoration in the South River, NJ, Watershed (sub watershed of the Hudson – Raritan Estuary)

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The United States Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, is in the process of producing design plans and specifications for a large-scale aquatic ecosystem restoration project in the South River, NJ, watershed. After a thorough and comprehensive plan formulation process, a National Ecosystem Restoration (NER) plan was selected in April 2001. The NER plan maximizes applicable Federal, State, and local/watershed interests in a costeffective and incrementally justified manner.

The primary goal of the NER plan is to restore biodiversity and ecological functioning in the South River watershed through meeting specific objectives, such as diversifying wetland habitat, expanding under-represented wetland habitat (especially for rare or special interest wildlife), and increasing tidal wetland flushing. The existing inter-tidal wetland complex is dominated by Phragmites australis. Through extensive Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEP) field data collection for six species, the more than 400-acre potential restoration area was characterized and assessed for habitat quantity and quality. The resulting species-specific habitat unit information was used in the Corps' Institute of Water Resources decision support software to formulate and compare alternative restoration plans. Targeted habitat types, including low emergent salt marsh, mudflat, tidal creeks, tidal ponds, and wetland forest/scrub-shrub, were combined at different percentages and at different scales. For the resulting thousands of restoration alternatives, projected ecological benefits (using HEP data) and implementation costs (using estimates of real estate, mobilization/demobilization, site access, site preparation and excavation, material disposal, planting, erosion and sediment control, and monitoring costs) were calculated on an average annual basis (50-year project life) in order to conduct cost effectiveness/incremental cost analyses among the alternatives.

In this way, an array of “best buy” plans was generated. The NER plan was selected from this array after an assessment of certain non-quantitative characteristics of each plan, including: degree to which they would 1) increase nationally and regionally recognized wetland types, 2) support rare or endangered/threatened species, 3) promote watershed habitat conservation plans, 4) receive public recognition and support, 5) promote watershed connectivity, and 6) contain an acceptable level of risk and uncertainty.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2002

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