Four years ago, Hurricane Sandy worsened the ongoing dune breaches at Prime Hook, sending salt water into the nearby marsh and killing lots of habitat. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently visited the area to see how it’s been restored.
More than a mile of dunes have been rebuilt at Prime Hook. Breaches have been closed and 4,00 acres of tidal marshes have been restored as part of a restoration effort that started in 2015. The project was completed using $38 million in federal funding from the Hurricane Sandy relief package.
During her visit, Sec. Jewell said Prime Hook is one of the larges and most complex marsh restoration projects on the East Coast. She called it an example for other states trying to improve coastal resiliency for major storms like Sandy. “Sandy taught us that if we listen to Mother Nature and learn what she does so well, we might be able to make our natural systems more resilient,” Jewell said. “There’s no better example than right here at Prime Hook.”
The improvements have already paid off in protecting Prime Hook. A strong winter storm this January caused higher tides than Sandy and caused lots of erosion further south at the Delaware beaches, but staff at Prime Hook noticed the restored areas held up better than non-restored areas. They’ve also seen record numbers of horseshoe crabs and migratory birds.
“The costs associated with responding to and recovering from a hurricane such as Sandy- both the human and financial costs- are so severe that we simply cannot afford to face this devastation over and over again,” said. U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D- Delaware. “I am proud this recovery effort used sound science and mitigation to protect this refuge for years to come.”
Up and down the East Coast., the Department of the Interior will spend $787 million in Sandy recovery funds for similar projects.