In advance of next week’s one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell Thursday announced that $162 million will be invested in 45 restoration and research projects that will better protect Atlantic Coast communities from future powerful storms. The projects will aim to restore marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuild shorelines, and research the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surges.
The investments are consistent with President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Strategy Report and the Administration’s commitment laid out in the Climate Action Plan to build resilience by restoring natural features along shorelines to help better protect communities from future storms.
The funding will provide $113 million for 25 on-the-ground projects to restore coastal marshes, wetlands and shoreline, create habitat connectivity, improve flood resilience and undertake other efforts to protect nearby areas from future storms. A list of all 45 approved projects funded nationally can be found, here.
Two projects submitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Rhode Island were among those approved for funding.
A $4 million project submitted by the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex was also approved, and will focus on improving coastal habitats in Rhode Island, in particular salt marshes and maritime shrublands. These habitats are especially important to a wide range of wildlife, and salt marshes provide important buffers for storm events, aide in water quality enhancement, and provide open space for communities. These estuaries are vital as a “nursery” for saltwater fish and provide for abundant recreational and commercial fishing opportunities.
The project will focus on enhancing the Narrow River in South Kingstown, Narragansett and North Kingstown, as well as the Maidford River in Middletown.
Efforts on the Narrow River and Pettaquamscutt Cove will focus on determining the current
health and condition of saltmarsh habitats and coastal shrub communities as influenced by flow
regimes, invasive species, erosive forces working on saltmarsh shorelines, and how best to improve
their productivity and restore them.
The project will also identify opportunities for the use of dredging to restore estuarine aquatic habitats, provide for the restoration and protection of saltmarsh habitats, and to identify the beneficial use of dredge materials for saltmarsh restoration, and beach sand replacement over time.
In addition, the Coastal Program received $2 million to support evaluation and removal of three dams on the lower Pawcatuck River and the Fisheries office received $80,000 for removal of the Shady Lea Mill Dam on the Mettatuxet River and creation of a new riparian corridor.
The projects will improve fish passage, aquatic habitats and river connectivity as well as reduce river flow elevations during storm events. Ultimately this will provide flood resilience for local communities, improve sediment transport to downstream estuaries, and improve fresh and marine fisheries stocks.
Secretary Jewell also announced that the Department would issue a Request for Proposals on Oct. 29 for an additional $100 million in grant funding under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program announced in August. States, local communities, non-profit organizations and other partners can compete for funding for innovative projects under the program, which is being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Information on the competition can be found at www.doi.gov/hurricanesandy.
"The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will use its networks of partners to promote the grant opportunity, aid potential grant applicants in shaping proposals that meet our objectives and to identify opportunities to leverage the $100 million with other funding sources to rebuild, restore, and research natural defenses that protect communities," Jewell said. "I am certain that we will see innovative ideas and projects that will help us be much better prepared the next time a super storm rolls up the Atlantic coast."