Storm proofers: Preparing a New Jersey refuge for the next big event

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

When Hurricane Sandy hit at the end of October, 2012, the refuge staff at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, N.J., just 26 miles west of Manhattan’s Times Square, thought they were prepared. Winter hadn’t yet fully kicked in, and most of its buildings were equipped with generators that would provide backup power.

But no one expected that the severity of damage to the regional power grid would leave the refuge and general area without electricity for nearly two weeks. With numerous blocked roads and regional fuel shortages, trucks scheduled to deliver propane and diesel fuel were delayed, adding additional stress to an already difficult situation.

“We had to go as far as Pennsylvania to get fuel for the generators,” says refuge manager Bill Koch. “Some local gas stations that had fuel and the power to pump it were rationing at limits insufficient to our needs.”

Hurricane Sandy Damages at Great Swamp NWR

A tree blown down by the storm falls on electrical power lines at the refuge. (Credit: David Sagan/USFWS)

Faced with the likelihood that there will be more frequent, intense storms like Hurricane Sandy in years to come, Koch and his staff have been planning and preparing the refuge for the next big one. Thanks to funding from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, a propane tank at the refuge’s visitor center will be replaced by a permanent natural gas pipeline that will feed furnaces and generators. Solar-powered systems will be installed at headquarters and the visitor center. A gas line and generators will also be installed at the refuge’s dormitory and one of the living quarters. These measures will assure both uninterrupted heat and emergency electricity for headquarters, the dormitory, staff housing and the visitor center.

A rooftop solar array similar to the one pictured here is being designed and installed at the Great Swamp visitor center, which will make its electrical system more resilient to future storms. (Credit: USFWS)

A rooftop solar array similar to the one pictured here is being designed and installed at the Great Swamp visitor center, which will make its electrical system more resilient to future storms. (Credit: USFWS)

The headquarters and visitor center solar-powered systems will be installed on new metal roofs which will be more durable, longer-lasting and recyclable. A small diesel generator will be installed at a heated public restroom, to prevent the recurrence of frozen pipes.

“We are in the planning and design stage of doing everything we can to become more self-sufficient,” says Koch.

To learn more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience projects, visit our Hurricane Sandy Recovery page. For more about Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, click here.

One Comment on “Storm proofers: Preparing a New Jersey refuge for the next big event

  1. Pingback: Great Swamp’s wilderness is one wild place | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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