MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Fans of the Delaware Bay can get an update on an artificial oyster reef Wednesday during a Veterans Day celebration at Reeds Beach.

What do veterans and oysters have in common?

The project was sponsored by a grant designed to engage veterans and children, both of whom played a large role in the construction of the 200-foot-long reef, said Al Modjeski, of Bradley Beach, habitat restoration director for the American Littoral Society.

The society used the grants to hire nine veterans to work on this and other projects, he said.

Modjeski is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served during the Gulf War.

Conservation groups on Wednesday will let residents dedicate the reef to veterans in their own families, he said. People can sign the veterans’ names to whelk shells that will be added to the reef.

More than 140 volunteers, including children, helped build the reef in April, hauling bags of shells to be set in the parallel reefs. The reefs’ hard structure was designed to reduce wave action on the beach to prevent erosion.

The early results suggest the reef is working to keep more sand on the beach and provide habitat for crabs, fish and other marine life, said Shane Godshall, a U.S. Army veteran who works as habitat restoration coordinator for the Delaware Bay.

The group will wait a full year before drawing conclusions about the reef’s ability to protect the shoreline. But the early results are encouraging, he said.

“Anecdotally, it looks like it’s doing its job. We’ll have to wait and see. We have a lot of 3D scans of the site by Stockton University,” he said.

These beaches are crucial to breeding horseshoe crabs. The crab eggs are an important food source for endangered shorebirds such as red knots that stop on bay beaches every spring on their migration.

This spring the reef did not appear to interfere with the crabs during the annual spawn, Modjeski said. Meanwhile, the first wild oysters have taken root. These will not be harvested, but will provide food and shelter for other marine animals, he said.

If the reef is successful, Modjeski said he would like to replicate it next year on more Delaware Bay beaches.

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