The event wasn’t the most photogenic, but the sand was the final step in a frenetic effort to restore a portion of what Hurricane Sandy washed away so horseshoe crabs have a place to lay eggs this spring.
The prehistoric crabs provide a critical food link for migratory shorebirds, including the red knot, that use the Delaware Bay as a rest stop on their way to summer breeding grounds in the Arctic.
For the scientists and conservation advocates involved with the effort, the sand deliveries were nothing short of miraculous. The project began in late January, with regulators all but laughing at the proposal because the work needs to be complete by April, said wildlife biologist and shorebird expert Larry Niles. Project leaders needed to obtain a half dozen permits and consult not just with federal and state agencies, but get written permission from landowners, notify shellfish lessees and even wait for the grant check to clear.
The check cleared Monday, said Bill Shadel, habitat restoration program director with the American Littoral Society, which was one of the leaders of the effort. “We were all doing work not knowing if the funding would happen or, if it did, would it come in time,” he said.
Niles said the speed of the effort — about six weeks from proposal to the first truckload of sand arriving — was unprecedented in his 30-year career.
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