As part of the Obama Administration's commitment in the Climate Action Plan to make local communities more resilient against future storms, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced $102.7 million in competitive matching grants to support 54 projects along the Atlantic coast. The grants will fund science-based solutions to restore wetlands and other natural areas, better manage stormwater using green infrastructure and assist states, tribes and local communities in protecting themselves from major storms such as Hurricane Sandy, which devastated much of the East Coast in 2012.
"We are taking the lessons learned from this natural disaster to help local communities strengthen natural barriers between themselves and major storms such as Sandy that can cause major flooding and other damage," Jewell said. "Together with our partners, we are stabilizing beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the hydrology of coastal areas, both protecting local residents from the next big storm while creating jobs and restoring habitat for wildlife."
Projects under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program will also provide an economic boost, creating hundreds of jobs in local communities. Many of the projects will place special emphasis on engaging and employing youth and veterans.
"These grants have the dual benefit of providing jobs while supporting the goal of President Obama's Climate Action Plan to make communities more resilient to future storms, predicted with a changing climate," Jewell said. "Using sound science, these innovative projects will help rebuild, restore and research the natural areas along the Atlantic Coast."
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is administering the grant program, helped guide the process that led to Interior's selection of the 54 projects out of 375 proposals submitted after Secretary Jewell announced the availability of the grants last October at an event with U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, U.S. Representative Jim Moran, and other local officials at National Park Service's Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in Virginia.
"The grants announced today are in many ways symbolic of the core mission of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "They address current challenges, but at the same time, they lay the groundwork for addressing community needs and advancing long-term conservation of critical habitat and species. And these grants leverage the initial investment from the Department of the Interior with millions of dollars of additional funding and in-kind contributions, leading to a much greater conservation impact for those regions devastated by Hurricane Sandy."
Interior's commitment of $100 million was matched with $2.7 million in funding from the U.S. Attorney General's offices in New Jersey and Deleware, as well as donations from Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The $102.7 million grant commitment was further leveraged by $72 million in grantee partner match, making the entire conservation impact of the grant program more than $175 million.
The majority of the projects are in areas severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy, including 24 projects in New York and New Jersey receiving nearly $50 million.
The projects will restore an estimated 6,634 acres of wetlands and marshes, 225 acres of beach, 364 acres of riparian buffers, and 16 miles of streams. The efforts will also open 287 miles of streams to fish passage and restore 147 acres of flood plain.
The competitive grants are part of the $787 million the Department of the Interior received in supplemental appropriations for recovery and resiliency in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. This includes $176 million in internal funds allocated to resiliency projects including 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.