The Department of the Interior approved the funding to repair a breach in the dunes at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
The dune at Fowler Beach near the refuge was originally breached during a nor’easter on Mother’s Day 2008. Since then, the refuge has been taking on water from the Delaware Bay, turning fresh water impoundments into salt marshes. That process has exacerbated flooding of nearby communities and has had a big negative impact on the ecosystem within the refuge.
Hurricane Sandy’s visit last October didn’t help the matter. Sandy’s wind and storm surge further eroded the dune line at Fowler Beach and allowed even more salt water to enter the refuge. Now, the National Fish and Wildlife Service will get $20 million to build a low dune as the first step in the process of eliminating the dune breach.
State Senator Gary Simpson’s district includes Prime Hook and many of the bay beach communities affected by the breach. “Can you imagine waking up on a normal high tide day and your road coming into your house or your whole community is flooded.” He says the fix has been a long time coming, “It’s been something I’ve been preaching now for six years. Stop the flooding, fix the breach and at the same time rebuild that marsh, but first we’ve got to fix that breach.”
The money for Delaware is just a small chunk of the $475 million emergency funds for Hurricane Sandy disaster relief. More than 230 projects will be completed with the money including rebuilding parks, refuges and other areas damaged by the storm.
“The funding we are making available today will help repair and rebuild facilities, reopen roads, and restore services in order to get our parks, refuges, beaches and public lands fully operational and open to the public this summer,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
Following Superstorm Sandy, the Interior Department received more than $800 million in the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. That funding was reduced by $42 million to $786 because of the sequester budget cuts. With this latest funding announcement, the department has allocated about 60 percent of the Sandy funds. The remaining money will be allocated over the coming months.