GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Wildlife Drive at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge will close until 4:30 p.m. weekdays from Aug. 1 through September, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The weekday closure is necessary for repairs to improve the freshwater impoundment system following damage by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and to make it more resilient to future storms and sea level rise, according to USFWS.
But it will remain open on weekends, with two-way traffic on the drive until the Turtle Cove observation tower, officials said.
The $30 million project is funded through the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, officials said.
The refuge is adding a living shoreline and other stabilization features along Wildlife Drive, which is the most visited area of the refuge. About 100,000 visitor a year drive the circuit road from the mainland out into the wetlands and back.
Closure updates will be added to the refuge's website and Facebook page. Visitors can also find out the most current information by calling 609-652-1665.
“This is the last phase of construction to make our Wildlife Drive more resilient to future storms and better habitat for wildlife,” said Marc Virgilio, wildlife biologist at the refuge. “We recognize that this is an inconvenience to visitors, but it’s a short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.”
Work on the 1,500-acre Wildlife Drive Impoundment System includes:
— rebuilding the breached dike that bisects Northwest and Southwest pools to regain independent water level control of each pool;
— replacing the undersized water control structure on the northeast corner of East Dike; and
— re-surfacing six miles of the driving surface with crushed concrete to limit rainfall erosion and provide better driving for visitors.
Hurricane Sandy flooded the road and inundated the freshwater impoundments with salt water, according to the USFWS.
Emergency repairs were done to maintain the integrity of the system, built in the early 1950s, and re-open the drive to visitors as quickly as possible. But more work needs to be done, officials said.
The refuge is designed to meet the habitat needs of migratory birds such as waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds.