By Lauren Wanko
Sprawled across 47,000 acres is the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Biologists there immerse themselves in the wetlands to determine if the marshes are growing at the same rate as the rising sea levels, vital research since the refuge protected the surrounding communities during Sandy experts say.
“It became the buffer that stopped the wave attack and absorbed the flood waters, rather than allow them inland further,” said Richard Stockton Coastal Research Center Director Stewart Farrell.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell agrees and joined congressional leaders at the refuge today to announce $162 million of the Sandy relief package will be allocated for 45 restoration and resiliency projects along the East Coast.
“These are forward looking projects. This is saying, what did we learn from this storm and how do we protect these landscapes from the future?” Jewell explained.
The money will be used to restore wetlands, marshes and beaches, rebuild shore lines, make infrastructure improvements and research. The $162 million comes in addition to the $480 million dedicated for clean-up and waste removal along the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern states most impacted by the storm.
“It certainly is a far greater amount of money that could ever be expected to fall into our hands based on not having a storm. The storm is an ill-wind that ultimately blew some good in forcing us to respond and react to the changing climates,” Farrell said.
“As we’re coming on the one-year anniversary, it’s a very vivid reminder of the devastation that we all went through so having the emergency supplemental in place is really critical not just for long-term recovery of the storm but preparing and protecting what may come in the future and that’s really what today is all about,” said Congressman Frank LoBiondo.
“For those of us who say the ferocity of this storm, it’s hard to imagine we have to get used to thinking of this as the new normal, the climate is changing in ways that are deadly and dangerous and costly,” said Congressman Rush Holt.
Back at the National Wildlife Refuge, staffers will begin to determine how to use the funding in order to build resiliency against future storms.