NCDOT assists Pea Island refuge with habitat restoration near Oregon Inlet Terminal Groin

Excavators working in 2020 to create more favorable habitat on the north end of Pea Island. [courtesy USFWS]

Habitat restoration activities will begin this week on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, as the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Fred Smith Construction will excavate sand in an area behind the Oregon Inlet Terminal Groin.

They will be digging out sections within a three acre area in order to create open water intertidal pool areas for multiple shorebird species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service anticipates approximately 25,000 cubic yards of sand will be excavated and deposited on the upper beach adjacent to the work area. The work will take one to three weeks to complete, weather permitting.

As part of the ongoing planning efforts with the N.C. 12 Transportation Management Plan, NCDOT requested a new permit from Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to retain the Oregon Inlet Terminal Groin.

The granite structure was built on Pea Island’s northern shoreline to protect the landing of the bridge spanning Oregon Inlet from erosion.

The rock structure, known as a terminal groin, was built to protect the south landing of the bridge crossing Oregon Inlet. [Sam Walker photo]

When the Terminal Groin permit was updated in 2012, it required several monitoring and management conditions, including moving sand to create suitable habitat conditions for migratory birds or other federal trust species within 0.5 miles of the terminal groin.

It was anticipated that habitat management would be necessary at approximately five year intervals, plus or minus two years, depending upon storm frequency and intensity, and habitat monitoring results.

These actions have occurred several times in the winters of 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2020.

According to USFWS, it is anticipated by the moving of sand to create moist sand and intertidal pool habitats with unvegetated shoreline with coarse shell substrate that habitat quality for these nesting shorebirds and waterbirds will be greatly improved.

These habitats are important areas for foraging, breeding, and nesting activities of many different shorebirds including piping plovers, black skimmers, American oystercatchers, and least terns.

For more information, contact Refuge Manager Scott Lanier at 252-473-1132 x223 or Refuge Biologist Becky Harrison at 252-423-1839