VIRGINIA

Future storm protection with multi-million dollar project

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The wrath of Hurricane Sandy taught environmentalists and the government a valuable lesson -- the storm highlighted the importance of strengthening coastal wetlands.

On Tuesday, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell launched a multi-million dollar program that will help protect communities against future storms. One of those areas includes Dyke Marsh.

Located between Alexandria and Mount Vernon, fewer than 60 acres remain at the largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh in the DC region.
Powerful storms create even more erosion each year at Dyke Marsh.
But a new federal grant will help begin the road toward restoration, and rebuild this local treasure for generations to enjoy.

For three decades, Chip Johnston with the Mariner Sailing School has called the Potomac River his office. But over the years, the view began to change.

He describes the drastic transformation of the marsh -- an oasis of wildlife and recreational opportunities. This decline caught the attention of the Department of the Interior.

"This land was set aside about 50 years ago. There were 200 acres of wetland marsh, which are really critical to the ecosystem. We now have only 60 acres left," said Jewell.

At least one acre erodes every year at the wildlife preserve.

"It's a combination of dredging, a combinations of storms, a combination of tidals eating away at the marsh," said Alex Romero, Superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

But on Tuesday, a wave of promising news.

"A 25 million dollar grant enables us to rebuild that ecosystem which also protects the people who live behind Dyke Marsh," said Jewell.
The plan is to use that money to design a peninsula and construct containment cells that will allow vegetation to be planted.

In addition, $100 million will be set aside for a program that will fund science-based solutions to strengthen areas along the Atlantic coast.
It's a measure that could offer protection, if and when storms like Sandy hit again.

Reflecting on what happened one year ago Jewell said, "Where we had natural marshes, it absorbed the fury of the storm and the communities behind were protected."

The Dyke Marsh project is just one of 45 projects that will tackle the problems now, so we don't have bigger issues in the future.

The funding is all made possible under the Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Appropriations Act.

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