This week marks the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, an event that lives on in the minds and hearts of many of us who call the East Coast home.
In the wake of Sandy’s destruction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received $167 million in federal funding to strengthen natural defenses and protect communities and wildlife along the Atlantic Coast from future storms.
Four years later, here’s a by-the-numbers look at what we’ve done to build a stronger coast as of October 2016:
- 3,500 tons of hurricane debris removed from refuges;
- 5 badly eroded beaches restored on Delaware Bay;
- 7 refuges installed with solar and back-up power;
- 20 refuges repaired for visitor and staff safety;
- 6 dams removed to improve river flow and reduce flood risk;
- 4,000 acres of invasive species treated;
- 30,000 feet of living shoreline developed;
- 1000s of native plants planted to restore wetlands, rivers and marshes;
- 4 breaches fixed, 9,000 feet of shoreline restored, 500,000 plugs of beach grass planted, 1,000 acres of marsh seeded, and 25 miles of channels dredged at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge – one of the largest coastal restoration projects on the East Coast.
Some highlights of our 2016 work:
Removal of the 150-foot-long Hughesville Dam on the Musconetcong River in New Jersey to restore fish passage and reduce flooding risks for the local community – a project that caught the eye of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who toured the site in September.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visits Hughesville Dam removal in New Jersey. Pictured with Beth Styler Barry (left) and Eric Schrading (right). Credit: USFWS
Completion of a 21,000-foot living shoreline at Glenn L. Martin National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland’s Eastern Shore to protect tidal wetlands that support a crab fishery essential to Smith Islanders – and that help buffer this island community from storms and sea-level rise.
At work creating the living shoreline at Fog Point in Glenn L. Martin NWR on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Credit: USFWS
Removal of the Pond Lily Dam in New Haven, CT, where local community members and politicians mobilized to bring attention to the flood risks of this dam. In April 2016, volunteers planted native vegetation at the dam site to help stabilize the riverbanks and create an urban nature park for the community.
Volunteers planting native vegetation along the river banks following removal of Pond Lily dam in New Haven, CT. Credit: USFWS
Completion of a $38 million marsh and beach restoration and resilience project at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. The work is already showing signs of success — including helping to absorb impacts of storms and heavy rains to attracting record numbers of wildlife such as horseshoe crabs and migratory birds.
Recently planted beach grass at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Citizen Racecar
Engagement of dozens of student volunteers to help build oyster reefs – along Delaware Bay in southern New Jersey and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia – that will filter water and buffer the shore from wave energy.
East Windsor Middle School students and families helped build oyster reefs at Gandy’s Beach, NJ. Credit: Project PORTS
The staff, community and partners collaborating with us across the region from Virginia to Maine, people who are dedicated to making their communities #StrongAfterSandy – people like FWS staff Matt Whitbeck and Miles Simmons who are working at the front lines of climate change in the Chesapeake Bay.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about what management actions we can employ that will increase the resiliency of the salt-marsh community to sea-level rise, to storm impacts and how can we do that in a way that really maximizes the benefit to the wildlife that depend on it,” says Whitbeck. Credit: Steve Droter
Science tells us that the future will include more intense hurricanes and storms like Sandy, causing more damage to coastal ecosystems and communities. In fact, a recent study predicts disastrous floods like those seen during Hurricane Sandy may hit New York City 17 times more often in the next century.
With anticipated rising sea levels, more frequent and intense storms, shifting seasons and higher temperatures, we need to continue to work together to better understand and adapt to changing conditions. Strong natural defenses will help all of us better weather future storms.