Tag Archives: Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge

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/

Progress and Protection in the Chesapeake Bay

At Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge in Smith Island, Maryland, construction of a 21,000 foot living shoreline consisting of protective sand and rock structures has been underway for three months in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. This $9 million project, funded by the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, will help protect nearly 9,000 feet of shoreline and nearby communities from the effects of intense storms and sea-level rise, reduce erosion, provide habitat for aquatic species and help protect 1,200 acres of interior tidal high marsh against future storms. The barriers will also enhance the natural defenses of saltwater habitats important to the island’s soft crab fishery, a resource which the local residents of Smith Island depend on for their livelihoods.

Matt Whitbeck at Fog Point living shoreline

Matt Whitbeck, supervisory wildlife biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, explains the living shoreline under construction at Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Margie Brenner/USFWS

On a recent tour of the project site and surrounding islands during a clear day in August, several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff hopped on a 30 minute boat ride from Crisfield, Maryland to survey the construction progress. Upon arrival, there were several barges in view, anchored immediately offshore holding sand and rock material. Smaller barges with tugs brought materials closer to shore, while a shallow draft barge held excavators that continued building the massive rock structures. Where the water was too shallow for barge access, articulated dump trucks moved rock and sand along the shoreline that were placed by excavators. Later that afternoon, the group spoke with local Smith Islanders who shared personal stories and expressed appreciation for the living shoreline project benefits that support their way of life as fishermen and crabbers.

“The project is coming along quickly. There are about 12-15 workers on site each day and two biotechs living on Smith Island to monitor work. We are 75% completed with placement of the rock and sand. This part of the project should be done by November 2015. We expect to plant wetland vegetation next Spring.” – Matt Whitbeck, supervisory wildlife biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Learn more

Read more about the Fog Point living shoreline project

News Release 

Blog Post on Sandy-funded living shorelines 

More Photos (opens flickr website)

A partner-funded “oyster castle”, an example of a living shoreline technique using blocks made of shell, limestone and concrete, is being monitored for effectiveness at Gandy’s Beach on the Jersey shore.

A Natural Approach to Building a Stronger Coast

What is a “living shoreline?” An article recently posted in the Spring 2015 edition of Fish and Wildlife News and the Service’s Open Spaces Blog details how this natural method of shoreline protection is being used to support four Hurricane Sandy recovery projects led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the article, Brittany Bowker, a former Hurricane Sandy youth story corps Student Conservation Association (SCA) intern, provides an overview of the federally funded living shoreline projects making progress in New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

Coir logs, an example of a living shoreline technique using interwoven coconut fibers bound together with biodegradable netting, are set in place at Gandy’s Beach on the Jersey shore to provide temporary physical protection to a site while vegetation becomes established.

Coir logs, an example of a living shoreline technique using interwoven coconut fibers bound together with biodegradable netting, are set in place at Gandy’s Beach on the Jersey shore to provide temporary physical protection to a site while vegetation becomes established. Credit: Katie Conrad/USFWS

There was a time when shoreline protection often meant installing hard structures like bulkheads or riprap to armor the coast against erosion and rising sea levels. But starting in the early 1980s, a “softer” approach — called “living shorelines” — has been transforming the conservation of these important natural areas by allowing the coast to heal itself.

By using a variety of natural materials such as sand and marsh grasses combined with some structure, this method not only protects vulnerable coasts, but also maintains their ecological continuity and stability. Living shorelines have become a new and widely used method of shoreline protection, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

Federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery has boosted this effort along the Atlantic Coast, currently supporting four living shoreline projects managed by the Service:

  •  Fog Point in Smith Island, Maryland, where 21,000 feet of living shoreline planned for the site will protect near by communities and coastline.

    Aerial view of Fog Point in Smith Island, Maryland, where 21,000 feet of living shoreline planned for the site will protect nearby communities and coastline. Credit: Keith Shannon/USFWS

    At Hail Cove on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, $1.5 million will help construct 4,000 feet of living shoreline. By placing sand within rock breakwaters along the eroded marsh banks, the project will create a more suitable environment for the island’s migratory birds and nesting diamondback terrapins.

  • At Fog Point, also on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a $9 million project to build 21,000 feet of living shoreline will help protect nearby communities from the effects of intense storms and sea-level rise, as well as wildlife and habitat at Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge. Matt Whitbeck, a biologist with the Service’s Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, says this is considered an area of extremely high wave energy, so complex-hybrid construction will be used.
  • Waves crashing at Gandy’s Beach before living shoreline construction. Hurricane Sandy flooded Delaware Bay and eroded salt marsh habitat.

    Waves crashing at Gandy’s Beach before living shoreline construction. Hurricane Sandy flooded Delaware Bay and eroded salt marsh habitat. Credit: Katie Conrad/USFWS

    At Gandy’s Beach in New Jersey, $880,000 in Sandy funds will help construct living shoreline along 4,000 feet of shore to restore its salt marsh and adjacent uplands. By enhancing these areas’ natural defenses, communities will be better protected against future storm surges.

  • At Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, $550,000 will help construct 3,650 feet of living shoreline and two acres of oyster reef to help protect the refuge as well as its surrounding communities. Kevin Holcomb, a wildlife biologist at the refuge, says this will be an opportunity “for people to see what we’re doing and how living shorelines can lessen the impacts of storm surge on their own properties.”

Finish reading this post at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Open Spaces blog!