Tag Archives: Delaware

Wednesday Wisdom – Margaret Mead

delmarva fox squirrel

Original image by the Delaware DNREC

This Delmarva fox squirrel was caught on a remotely triggered camera located in Delaware back in 2004 when this species was teetering on extinction.

Over forty years of concerted, “on-the-ground” conservation efforts by states, landowners and others working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including bands of “thoughtful, committed citizens,” contributed to the Delmarva fox squirrel’s leap off the Endangered Species list last year.

This major conservation success story highlights exactly what Margaret Mead spotlighted in her famous quote: that “just a few” can bring about change and make a major impact on the health of the “whole.”  Anthropologist, explorer, writer, and teacher Margaret Mead who worked for over fifty years at the American Museum of Natural History was acutely aware of the natural world’s impact on culture and the human experience.  We celebrate her insights this National Women’s History Month as her quote alone has lit many conservation “fires.”

Three Years After Sandy: Building a Stronger Atlantic Coast

Three years ago this week, Hurricane Sandy devastated communities along the Atlantic Coast with record storm surge, fierce winds and torrential rain. Earlier this month Hurricane Joaquin again reminded us of nature’s power, inundating much of the Atlantic Seaboard with heavy rains and chest-deep floodwaters and setting historic records in the Carolinas. And only days ago, Hurricane Patricia — the most powerful tropical cyclone ever measured in the Western Hemisphere with maximum sustained winds of 200 m.p.h. — threatened the coast of Mexico before weakening significantly after landfall.

Visit doi.gov/hurricanesandy to learn more about how Department of the Interior investments are helping to build a stronger Atlantic Coast three years after Hurricane Sandy.

In this age of uncertainty we have come to expect the unexpected. The science tells us that climate change will cause hurricanes and tropical storms to become more intense — lasting longer, unleashing stronger winds, and causing more damage to coastal ecosystems and communities. The question is, what can we do to help coastal areas stand stronger against the storm?

An aerial view of coastal damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in Mantoloking, NJ. Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

An aerial view of coastal damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in Mantoloking, NJ. Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

Federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery has spurred an unprecedented effort to strengthen natural defenses along the Atlantic Coast to protect communities and wildlife against future storms. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Department of the Interior agencies are investing $787 million in hundreds of projects to clean up and repair damaged refuges and parks; restore coastal marshes, wetlands and shoreline; connect and open waterways to improve flood control; and increase our scientific understanding of how these natural areas are changing.

The Service is investing $167 million in more than 70 projects to clean up refuges, restore and strengthen coastal areas (marshes and beaches), connect and open waterways for better fish passage and flood protection and support other efforts to protect wildlife and communities from future storms. These investments support the goal of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to make communities more resilient to increasingly intense storms predicted with a changing climate. They also create jobs and provide opportunities for fishing, hiking, wildlife watching and other recreational opportunities. Here are a few projects that have been completed or are under way:

Cleanup of post-Hurricane Sandy debris, removed from coastal marshes at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey made possible through Department of the Interior funding. Credit: (before) Ryan Hagerty/USFWS, (after) Virginia Rettig/USFWS

Post-Hurricane Sandy debris removal from the coastal marshes of Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey, made possible through Department of the Interior funding. Credit: (before) Ryan Hagerty/USFWS, (after) Virginia Rettig/USFWS

  • In New Jersey, we’ve completed a $13 million debris removal project at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge to clean up more than 32,000 acres of saltmarsh and coastal habitat. The project removed 1,900 tons of debris from 22 miles of coastline and employed more than 100 workers. Removing the debris allows coastal areas to recover, providing healthier habitat for native wildlife while acting as a buffer against future storms.
  • In Maryland, we’re constructing 20,950 feet of living shoreline to protect marshes at Fog Point, a coastal section of Maryland’s Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge in Smith Island. The $9 million project will help protect more than 1,000 acres of interior tidal high marsh, sheltered water, submerged aquatic vegetation and clam beds against the effects of future storms. It also will enhance the natural defenses of saltwater habitats important to the island’s soft crab fishery, a natural resource local Smith Island residents depend on for their livelihoods.  

Learn more about the Fog Point living shoreline project in this video.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge marsh restoration - dredge work to drain flooded marsh CREDIT David Eisenhauer

Dredge work drains a flooded marsh in Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, part of an ongoing $38 million marsh restoration effort in Delaware. Credit: David Eisenhauer/USFWS

  • In Delaware, we’ve invested $38 million in a marsh restoration effort under way to build storm and sea-level rise resilience into the natural landscape at Delaware’s Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The project is repairing breached marshes and reconstructing severely damaged shoreline, including critical dune restoration. Restored marshes at the refuge will provide a more resilient coast against future storms and create additional habitat for birds, including American oystercatchers and federally listed species such as rufa red knots and piping plovers. Along with the restoration of coastal wildlife habitat, the project provides the added benefit of enhanced storm protection for nearby residents.
Removal of the White Rock dam in Westerly, R.I. and Stonington, Conn. open up close to 25 miles of the Pawcatuck River and associated wetlands for migrating American shad, alewife, blueback herring, American eel, and sea-run trout. Credit: USFWS

Removal of the White Rock dam in Westerly, R.I. and Stonington, Conn. opens up close to 25 miles of the Pawcatuck River and associated wetlands for migrating American shad, alewife, blueback herring, American eel, and sea-run trout. Credit: USFWS

  • In Connecticut and Rhode Island, we worked with The Nature Conservancy to remove White Rock dam. The $794,000 project will reduce flood risk to local communities, restore habitat for fish and wildlife and open up several dozen miles of  fish passage in the Pawcatuck River for the first time in nearly 250 years. It is among 13 Hurricane Sandy-funded  projects to remove dams or  evaluate them for removal in four states.

Three years after Hurricane Sandy, communities, government and nonprofit organizations are working together like never before to better understand and adapt to changing conditions. Clearly it will take time and careful planning before we see a return on many of these investments. But the Service is confident the long-term benefits of building a stronger coast will far outweigh initial costs when it comes to protecting communities, sustaining wildlife and lessening the financial impact of damages resulting from future intense storms. To that end, we are establishing systems to carefully monitor and evaluate our progress to ensure this work is effective and lasting. The nature we care about and the public we serve deserve no less.

You can track the status of our projects and investments by visiting the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hurricane Sandy website at www.fws.gov/hurricane/sandy/

The Spy Who Came in From the Marsh: New Sensors Gather Intelligence on Storms Like Joaquin

October 2, 2015

Dear Joaquin,

I’ve been watching the news coverage of your impending arrival. They’ve been interviewing coastal scientists in the mid-Atlantic states. They’re onto you. Head out to sea!

Sandy

—–

Intrepid scientists from FWS and USGS venture out in Nor'easter conditions to to deploy sensors designed to measure wave dynamics during storms.

A team of intrepid scientists from US FWS and USGS venture out in Nor’easter conditions to deploy sensors designed to measure wave dynamics during storms. Credit: Laura Mitchell/USFWS

If you happened to be at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge on Friday, October 2 — just 48 hours before the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Joaquin — you might have wondered if you were witnessing a qualifying event for the next season of “Survivor,” or perhaps just an ill-advised dare.

You would have been witnessing something much more exciting: coastal resilience science in action.

In spite of the conditions — extreme high tides, poor visibility, gale-force winds — a team of scientists from the Coastal Delaware National Wildlife Refuge Complex and the U.S. Geological Survey were out on foot and in canoes installing wave sensors at docking poles, many of which were under water at the time.  

Perhaps it’s a little misleading to say the scientists went out “in spite of” the conditions; they went out because of the conditions. Prime Hook is one of dozens of study sites in the Surge, Wave, and Tide Hydrodynamics (SWaTH) Network – an effort initiated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to measure wave height, force, speed, and extent during hurricane-induced storm surges. It’s just one of a suite projects supported by Department of Interior Hurricane Sandy Recovery Funding to help natural and human communities weather the storms that are predicted to become increasingly frequent and intense as a result of climate change.

The data collected by the SWaTH sensors will be used to refine storm-surge models, create more accurate flood forecasts, design more effective flood-protection infrastructure, and develop wiser land-use policies.

Although Joaquin veered off into the Atlantic before reaching Prime Hook, the preceding Nor’easter provided useful wave data for SWaTH, that will also provide positive reinforce for another project inspired by Hurricane Sandy: the restoration of 4,000 acres of marsh that had been impounded in the 1980s to create freshwater habitat for waterfowl.

Just after the turn of the 21st century, a succession of major storms breached the barrier dunes between Delaware Bay and the impoundments, inundating them with saltwater to the dismay of the freshwater vegetation within.

“Sandy was the final nail in the coffin,” explained Restoration Project Manager Bart Wilson. “About four breaches turned into seven, and suddenly we had this huge area of free-flowing water between the bay and the refuge.”

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Prime Hook received resilience funding to dredge 1.1 million cubic acres of sand from a historic salt marsh to restore natural flow, and ultimately, restore the system's natural capacity to serve as a buffer for storm surges.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Prime Hook received resilience funding to dredge 1.1 million cubic acres of sand from a historic salt marsh to restore natural flow, and ultimately, restore the system’s natural capacity to serve as a buffer for storm surges. Credit: Richard Weiner

But Sandy was also an opportunity. Prime Hook received $38 million in recovery and resilience funding to fill the breaches in the barrier dunes, and dredge more than a million cubic yards of sand from the historic salt marsh channels.

“Once the breaches have been filled, and we have natural channels flowing again, the water level will drop, exposing mud flats that will recolonize with saltmarsh vegetation over the next several years,” Wilson said.

Bart Wilson

Prime Hook Restoration Manager Bart Wilson. Credit: FWS

Although the primary motivation for the project was to restore salt marsh habitat, Wilson pointed out that in the context of future storms, local communities will reap the benefits as well. Literally. As a result of severe flooding from storms, farmers neighboring the refuge have seen the edges of their fields go fallow. Thousands of acres of healthy saltmarsh would have provided a tremendous natural buffer for upland areas.  

“If we had a giant marsh where we have open water now, we wouldn’t even blink an eye during these storms,” Wilson said. “Seawater would wash over the dunes, saltmarsh grass would catch the sand, life would go on.”

It’s a plausible scenario, but Wilson explained that the added value of Prime Hook’s participation in the SWaTH Network is that it will enable them to quantify the value of the restoration project in terms of increasing storm-surge protection. By continually deploying the sensors in advance of storms throughout the multi-year restoration process, scientists will be able to measure how wave dynamics change as the area transitions from open water, to mudflats, to 50-percent vegetation, to a fully restored marsh.

“We can say that salt marshes reduce wave action and flooding, but it will be great to have data to back that up,” he said.

In time, that data can be used to support similar salt marsh restoration projects that will help fortify human and natural coastal communities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rise and major storms.

Considering climate change predictions, Wilson noted, “It’s great timing that we’re doing this now.”

Spread the word, Joaquin.