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Interior Secretary Jewell Announces $162 Million for 45 Projects to Protect Atlantic Coast Communities from Future Storms

LCCs will play a key role in coordinating and delivering science to inform coastal restoration and resiliency efforts

October 24, 2013 – In advance of next week’s one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today 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.

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.

Northeast region Landscape Conservation Cooperatives will play a key role in helping coordinate and deliver science to inform coastal restoration and resiliency efforts. The LCCs will help coordinate two projects totaling nearly $4 million to develop decision-support tools for understanding future impacts of sea-level rise and storms – along with other predicted effects of climate change, urban growth and conservation – on beach and tidal wetland areas throughout the coastal region impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

These projects will include evaluating the effectiveness of restoration and management, as well as resiliency of habitats and species; and ensuring that results and decision-support tools are made available for use by DOI, other federal agencies, states and local communities. The LCCs will work with DOI Bureaus, Climate Science Centers (CSCs), coastal states, tribes, NGOs and university partners.

DOI bureau partners that have received funding for science projects are all part of the North Atlantic LCC including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs. These bureaus will use the LCC to help coordinate the development and delivery of this science, not only among the DOI bureaus but also with other partners in the LCC. This includes the Northeast state fish and wildlife agencies, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Ducks Unlimited, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and National Wildlife Federation.

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.

A list of all 45 approved projects can be found HERE.

This report is based on the Department of the Interior news release.

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