U.S. FWS, NWF Team Up to Highlight Sandy Restoration in Great Marsh

New NWF President & CEO Collin O’Mara Tours "National Treasure" in Massachusetts

07-18-2014 // Miles Grant

Collin O'MaraThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today joined the National Wildlife Federation and its new President and CEO Collin O’Mara in highlighting the national significance of efforts to restore the Great Marsh in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The work to strengthen New England’s largest contiguous estuarine system to protect communities against future storms predicted with a changing climate. 

“Restoring the Great Marsh with our allies in the Great Marsh Resiliency Partnership is a top priority for the National Wildlife Federation,” said O’Mara. “Especially in the face of a changing climate, the investments we make now to protect this natural treasure and other places like it will pay off for generations to come.”

During a week in which President Obama pledged federal aid for state, tribal and local actions to battle climate change, Service Director Dan Ashe lauded complementary projects funded through the Department of the Interior and managed by the Service and NWF to protect communities by enhancing the Great Marsh’s natural defenses.

“The Great Marsh provides critical habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife. At the same time, it provides a natural defense system that can help reduce the risk from coastal storms, flooding and erosion to coastal and inland communities,” Ashe said. “Through funding from Interior and support and contributions from local partners, on-the-ground efforts guided by the Service and our partners at the National Wildlife Federation can help safeguard the Great Marsh so it can continue to sustain the people and wildlife of Massachusetts’ North Shore.”

Last month Interior Secretary Sally Jewell 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 storm water 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. The funds will be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Great Marsh Harbor SealsAmong the competitive grants is $2.9 million awarded to NWF to work with local partners to protect coastal communities along the North Shore from storms and flooding by strengthening the resiliency of natural systems upon which those communities depend.

NWF President and CEO Collin O’Mara said the grant managed by NWF will fund five separate projects coordinated through the Great Marsh Resiliency Partnership, a coalition of local conservation groups, regional planning entities, state and federal agencies, local communities, and two existing regional environmental coalitions working to protect the Great Marsh. Major partners include the Merrimac Valley Planning Commission/ MassBays Estuary Program, Ipswich River Watershed Association, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and the University of New Hampshire’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory.

Together, these groups will work to provide:

  • Dune nourishment and native vegetation planting
  • Native habitat restoration through invasive species removal
  • Hydrological barrier assessment and prioritization
  • Hydrodynamic and sediment transport modeling, and
  • Coastal community resilience planning

“Great Marsh restoration efforts will benefit an incredibly broad range of Massachusetts residents, from families that live in flood-prone areas to the fishing industry to weekend bird-watchers,” said Sen. Edward Markey. “By taking a climate-smart approach to coastal restoration, we can leave a lasting conservation legacy.”

Funding for the competitive grants is part of the $787 million the Department of the Interior received in supplemental appropriations for recovery and resiliency in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received $102 million of this funding for 31 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.

“I am pleased that my office was able to work with the National Wildlife Federation to help facilitate the $2.9 million federal restoration grant that will enable NWF and its partners to undertake the Great Marsh Restoration project,” said Congressman John Tierney. “This important project will strengthen the local ecosystem while helping to protect local communities from the threat of erosion, flooding and other extreme weather related events. I look forward to working with NWF and the Great Marsh Resiliency Partnership as they move forward on this important environmental project.”

Among these is a $340,000 project that complements the NWF-led effort by increasing the natural defenses of a 27,000-acre tidal marsh system in the Great Marsh. The project will gather research through salt marsh assessment, employ both traditional and innovative techniques to improve channel hydrology and tidal flow, combat invasive plant species and restore native maritime forest.

For more information on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, including a state-by-state list of funded projects, visit http://www.fws.gov/hurricane/sandy/index.cfm