Aerial view of a breach at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (Photo: WBOC Chopper 16)
PRIME HOOK, Del.- Del. Gov. Jack Markell and members of the state's congressional delegation of U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. John Carney on Wednesday announced funding to restore the marsh and dune system at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge that has been degraded by coastal storms including Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Earlier Wednesday, the Department of the Interior released $475.25 million in emergency Hurricane Sandy disaster relief appropriations. The funding will also provide investments in scientific data and studies to support recovery in the region.
"[The breaches] are in critical condition and need fixing," said Prime Hook homeowner Joe Sock. "There are some things that need priority over others and I think this is one of them."
"We've been pushing on them pretty hard trying to get something done," said Richard Roger, also of Prime Hook. "Anything that will translate to activity."
Officials said Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge will receive $20 million from the appropriation to the Fish and Wildlife Service to begin a multi-year marsh restoration project. This project is in accordance with the recently released Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the refuge. FWS will restore coastal dunes that were significantly eroded by Sandy and begin restoring the degraded marsh with additional sediment, officials said.
Officials said that large dune breaches and severe flooding has converted the man-made freshwater marsh system at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge into an open water system which no longer provides the same quality of habitat for migratory birds, and other wildlife that are reliant on marshes and wetlands. This area is a major stopover point in the Atlantic Flyway for migratory waterbirds. The degradation of marshes reduces the resiliency of Refuge lands and adjacent resources to erosion and future storms, according to officials, who added that Hurricane Sandy greatly accelerated the degradation of these areas.
"One of my top priorities has been to restore areas of Delaware damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and the impact of future storms mitigated," said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. "Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge's critical habitat, which was further damaged during this storm, needs to be restored and stabilized according to its Comprehensive Conservation Plan, and I'm so pleased that this funding will address the short-term needs in accordance with the long-term plan."
"Today's funding announcement as part of the Superstorm Sandy relief package is much-needed good news for Prime Hook," said U.S. Rep. John Carney in a statement. "I am hopeful that this assistance will be an important part of building a sustainable solution for the refuge and the residents of Prime Hook. Our goal should not only be returning the marsh system to the way it was before Hurricane Sandy, but also to ensure that the refuge is protected from damage by future storms."
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