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Contact: Bill Hulslander, 410-629-6061
Contact: Rachelle Daigneault, 410-629-6088
Berlin, Maryland – It has been a year since Hurricane Sandy made an unwelcomed visit to the Delmarva Peninsula. While recovery has been ongoing, there are lessons to be learned that can help community and park managers better prepare for these events in the future. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined Interior and local officials at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey recently 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. Assateague Island National Seashore will participate in four projects along with other public and private lands. The Projects total $10,000,000.
“The critical scientific information gathered from these projects will enable coastal communities and parks to anticipate future challenges caused by storms and evaluate our responses,” said Superintendent Debbie Darden. “Coastal resiliency is our ultimate goal.”
Assateague will take part in the following projects:
• Acquire High-resolution Data to Improve Storm Surge Forecasting and Mitigation Planning - Data acquired from this project will facilitate the development of a seamless mapping of the interface between land and water. Topographic features, the depths and shapes of the land surface both underwater (bathymetry) and on land (topography) act as natural barriers that help to reduce storm surge, wave forces, and coastal flooding. Having complete and up-to-date data (both submerged and terrestrial) in coastal areas is critical to storm surge forecasting, hazard mitigation, community preparedness, and ecosystem management and planning. Assateague Island National Seashore, Gateway National Recreation Area, and Fire Island National Seashore will benefit from this $3,000,000 project.
• Linking Coastal Processes and Vulnerability, Assateague Island Regional Study - Results from this study will improve the understanding of coastal sediment supplies and sand movement, driving processes, and effects on coastal vulnerability. This information and data will be made available to decision makers and the public through web-based portals. It will assist managers with planning for improvements to coastal habitat and infrastructure. Public, private, federal and state land managers will benefit from this $4,000,000 project, which will be directed by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey.
• Submerged Marine Habitat Mapping: A Foundation for Enhancing Resilience to Coastal Storms and Other Climate Change Drivers - Resource maps have guided conservation decisions for terrestrial environments for decades. This project will produce similar maps for the marine environment. A comprehensive submerged mapping effort will be conducted to improve the ability of park managers to effectively identify and design adaptation strategies that will enhance the ability of marine ecosystems to withstand major storms, other climate drivers (ocean warming), and stressors (such as pollution, nutrient enrichment, invasive species and others). Assateague Island National Seashore, Cape Cod National Seashore, Gateway National Recreation Area, and Fire Island National Seashore will participate in this $2,400,000 project.
• Living Shoreline-Oyster Reef Restoration and Construction at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia - This $600,000 project will construct two acres of new oyster reefs to protect existing roads and infrastructure and mitigate impacts from future flooding at two locations within the refuge.
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.
Assateague Island experienced significant impacts from Hurricane Sandy. Flooding closed large areas of the park for weeks. The storm surge and resultant overwash damaged parking areas along both ocean and bay sides of the island. The cycling/pedestrian bridge crossing to the island from the mainland was undermined. Campgrounds, trails, boardwalks, and other visitor facilities were also damaged by waves and storm surge. Despite the damage to park infrastructure, Hurricane Sandy also created significant new barrier island habitat, serving as a reminder that intense coastal storms are part of the natural coastal processes that continue to shape and move Assateague Island.
This funding 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. 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.
A Technical Review Panel of ten experts from eight Interior bureaus and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration evaluated all 94 submitted projects totaling a requested $541 million. Using a framework developed by Interior’s Strategic Sciences Group, the panel scored each project within the Sandy impact area based on the ability to strengthen Federal assets and build coastal resilience to withstand future storms. Projects were selected based on their ability to provide measurable restoration outcomes and resilience benefits or useful data or management tools in a short timeframe. A priority was given to projects that will employ youth and veterans.
Jewell also announced that the Department would issue a Request for Proposals on October 29 for an additional $100 million in grant funding under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program announced in August. States, local communities, non-profit organizations and other partners can compete for funding for innovative projects under the program, which is being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
“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.”
About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at https://www.nps.gov.