In advance of next week’s one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined Interior and local officials at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey to announce that $162 million will be invested in 45 restoration and research projects that will better protect Atlantic Coast communities from future powerful storms, by restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, and researching the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.
The investments are consistent with President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Strategy Report and the Administration’s commitment laid out in the Climate Action Plan to build resilience by restoring natural features along shorelines to help better protect communities from future storms. The Department of the Interior has already invested $480 million in Hurricane Sandy response and recovery efforts since the storm hit last October.
“What we witnessed during Hurricane Sandy was that our public lands and other natural areas are often the best defense against Mother Nature,” Jewell said. “By stabilizing marshes and beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the resiliency of coastal areas, we not only create opportunities for people to connect with nature and support jobs through increased outdoor recreation, but we can also provide an effective buffer that protects local communities from powerful storm surges and devastating floods when a storm like Sandy hits.”
With more than 47,000 acres of wetlands spanning from Brick Township to the suburbs of Atlantic City, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge absorbed much of Sandy’s energy and storm surge, protecting some of the local communities in the path of the storm. Hurricane Sandy destroyed refuge roadways and dumped boats, fuel oil tanks, chemical drums and other debris across 22 miles of refuge lands. The natural buffer provided by the refuge’s marshes, beaches, and forests protected the refuge’s visitor center, headquarters and surrounding local communities from severe flood damage.
These same Forsythe refuge lands provide outdoor recreation opportunities for over 250,000 visitors each year who support $8 million in economic activity. The refuge is also one of the most important habitats for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds east of the Mississippi River.
The funding announced today provides $113 million for 25 on-the-ground projects to restore coastal marshes, wetlands and shoreline, create habitat connectivity, improve flood resilience and undertake other efforts to protect nearby areas from future storms. A total of $15 million will be spent to better protect communities along 60 miles of the New Jersey coast, including Forsythe, by restoring and enhancing salt marshes. An additional $4 million will be provided for infrastructure resiliency investments at the Ohmsett national oil spill response research and energy test facility in New Jersey.
Other examples include:
– $19.8 million to restore a highly damaged tidal salt marsh/barrier beach ecosystem within the former impounded wetland system on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware;
– $24.9 million to restore Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve south of Alexandria, Virginia, which is currently retreating six to eight feet a year;
– $11 million to restore natural functions in damaged and degraded salt marshes at Seatuck, Wertheim and Lido Beach National Wildlife Refuges on Long Island, New York.
An additional $45 million is being invested in assessments, modeling, coastal barrier mapping, and other projects to provide Federal, State, and local land managers and decision makers the information and tools they need to improve resiliency and prepare for future storms.
Press Release, October 29, 2013