Hurricane Sandy one year later: building coastal defenses to keep the lights on

Blackout: Before and after Sandy hit the NY-NJ metro region. CREDIT: NASA
Blackout: Before and after Sandy hit the NY-NJ metro region. CREDIT: NASA

Halloween Blackout: Before and after Sandy hit the NY-NJ metro region. CREDIT: NASA

This year, Halloween marks the anniversary of a dark nightmare that was all too real for the people, places and wildlife of the Atlantic Coast: Hurricane Sandy. What are we doing to prepare for the possibility of another super storm? Scientists, engineers and other experts at the at the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies have put a great deal of thought into planning for such contingencies. A week ago, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a multi-pronged plan to fund resiliency projects up and down the Atlantic coast that are specifically designed to build up natural barriers in the region, including wetlands, dunes, tidal marshes and other features of “green infrastructure,” recognizing their critical role as buffers to probable future storms and sea level rise.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announces $162 million in Hurricane Sandy resiliency funding. CREDIT: Keth Shannon/USFWS

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announces $162 million in Hurricane Sandy resiliency funding. CREDIT: Keith Shannon/USFWS

“What we witnessed during Hurricane Sandy was that our public lands and other natural areas are often the best defense against Mother Nature,” said Jewell, at an event at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, where she announced more than $162 million of funding, more than $100 million of which will go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 30 projects. Many national wildlife refuges and other federal lands along the coast are recognized for their potential ability to absorb the brunt of extreme weather events, serving as natural protectors for coastal communities and infrastructure. The projects will also restore and create healthy environments for dozens of species, and ensure the integrity of major migratory bird stop-over points at places like the Forsythe refuge and the several refuges that make up the Long Island Complex (dunes at Amagansett NWR shown below).

Dunes, beaches and tidal marshes provide a natural defense against coastal flooding and storm surge. CREDIT: USFWS

Dunes, beaches and tidal marshes provide a natural defense against coastal flooding and storm surge. CREDIT: USFWS

For more information on ongoing repair, restoration and resiliency projects, visit our Hurricane Sandy home page.

Thomas Sturm is a Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast Regional Office. 

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