Enhanced natural features eyed as buffers to coastal storm impacts
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — The U.S. Department of Interior plans to help protect the Atlantic Coast from future storms with a competitive $100 million grant program, eying projects that will restore coastal marshes, beaches and wetlands that can buffer storm impacts.
“By stabilizing marshes and beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the resilience 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,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
“In cooperation with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, this competitive grant program will fund innovative projects by States, local communities, tribes, non-profit organizations and other partners to rebuild, restore, and research these natural areas along the Atlantic Coast,” Jewell said.
Jewell made the announcement with U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, U.S. Representative Jim Moran, and other local officials at National Park Service’s Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, where a $24.9 million project announced last week will restore wetlands that are currently retreating 6 to 8 feet each year due to erosion.
It is one of 45 restoration and research projects to restore marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, and researching the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.
Dyke Marsh once encompassed more than 200 acres of emergent marshland, but sand and gravel-mining operations between 1940 and 1972 reduced the marsh to only 83 acres. The mining operations destabilized the marsh’s historic configuration, and since 1972 another 23 additional acres have been lost to erosion resulting from hurricanes and northeastern tracking storms. Today, fewer than 60 acres remain.
“Dyke Marsh is the largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh in the Washington metropolitan area, providing rich wildlife habitat outdoor recreational opportunities, and critical flood protection for the neighboring community,” said Jewell. “With each major storm, we see more and more destabilization and erosion, which threatens both the local community it helps protect and the outdoor recreation it supports. This funding will allow the National Park Service and its partners to reconstruct the marsh and make it more resilient when big storms roll in.”
The $25 million will be used to design a peninsula and to construct 13 containment cells that will be filled with donated dredge spoil material, allowing vegetation to be planted that will re-establish more than 150 acres of marsh wetland. Youth and veteran volunteers and contractors will be used on the project.
The project will protect and restore one of the most popular areas on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which attracted 7.4 million recreational visits in 2011. These visitors pumped $34 million into the local economy and supported 50 jobs.
The funding is part of $162 million Jewell announced last Thursday for restoration and resiliency projects under the Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Appropriations Act. This includes $113 million for 25 on-the-ground projects to restore coastal marshes and shoreline, create habitat connectivity, improve flood resilience and undertake other efforts to protect nearby areas from future storms.
Another $45 million will fund assessments, modeling, coastal barrier mapping, and other research to improve the ability to mitigate and reduce the impacts of powerful storms.