Building a Stronger Coast
Recovery, restoration & building coastal resilience
salt marsh at Prime Hook NWR

What have we accomplished so far?

DOI and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) commissioned Abt Associates to conduct an initial external evaluation of the projects funded through the Hurricane Sandy program. The evaluation includes a main report as well as six in-depth case studies focused on specific project areas.

Read the report overview here.

Find the full report and case studies here.

Tracking progress

But the work isn't done when the project is complete. To ensure our efforts are effective and lasting, we've invested more than $9 million from DOI's Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency competitive grant program (administered by NFWF) in four monitoring studies to assess 38 funded projects.

The studies will evaluate the ecological and socioeconomic benefits, as well as the cost-effectiveness, of various resilience and restoration approaches through 2023. Results will guide future coastal resilience efforts.

  • Assessing the Ecological Effectiveness of Hurricane Sandy Marsh Restoration Activities ($2.6 million) will measure ecological effectiveness at 23 innovative marsh restoration sites regionwide.
  • Marsh Restoration - Southern Refuges ($2.7 million) will conduct ecological monitoring of marsh restoration techniques and effectiveness at national wildlife refuges, including Prime Hook, Forsythe, Cape May, and Great Dismal Swamp.
  • Aquatic Connectivity ($2.8 million) will monitor ecological resilience metrics at nine sites in the Northeast where we are restoring healthy river systems to benefit wildlife and people.
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of Living Shoreline Projects at Maryland and Virginia National Wildlife Refuges and at Gandy's Beach, New Jersey ($1.1 million) will record ecological data for living shoreline restoration projects in the Mid-Atlantic.

What's working?

With $167 million in funding from the Department of Interior following Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set out to restore and rebuild coastal areas better than before. In partnership with other agencies and groups, the Service implemented more than 70 projects in areas damaged by Sandy.

Below are some stories of early success.

river flowing through land

When Dams Come Down, Fish Come Back

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey

Since 2013, the Service has used Hurricane Sandy resilience funds to remove 12 dams and improve fish passage at two other sites, re-opening more than 100 miles of river to migratory fish. With obstacles gone, the fish are returning to their old ways across the Northeast, often at the first opportunity. Read more

river flowing through land

Restored River Helps Residents and Migratory Fish

Taunton, Massachusetts

The removal of obsolete dams and creation of a fish ladder have allowed river herring to once again migrate up the Mill River to their historical spawning grounds. The river restoration also reduces the risk of flooding -- good news for a community threatened with dam failure in 2005. Read more

New channel at Maidford Marsh in Sachuest NWR. Credit: Ben Gaspar / USFWS

Improvements Help Refuge Weather the Storm

Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Rhode Island

When another severe storm struck the Rhode Island coast five years after Sandy, it was a much different scene at Sachuest Point NWR, thanks to increased resilience to heavy rain, strong winds, and storm surge. Read more

Pawcatuck River. Credit: Ayla Fox

Dam Removals Increase Access for Fish and Paddlers Alike

Pawcatuck River, Rhode Island

Restoration of the Pawcatuck River has led to increased numbers of migratory fish, more recreation opportunities, and reduced risk of flooding. Read more

Culverts in Maryland. Credit: Steve Droter

Science Assessment of Impact and Response

Maine to Virginia

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, scientists surveyed thousands of coastal marsh sites, beaches and road stream crossings in order to help communities understand how to strengthen these natural defenses against flooding and other storm impacts. Read more

Piping plover. Credit: Don Freiday/USFWS

A Dramatic Recovery Along the Delaware Coast

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Beach and marsh restoration at Prime Hook NWR has produced incredible results in just two years, surprising even the refuge biologists. Results so far include the transformation of hundreds of acres of open water into healthy stands of salt marsh grasses and the first piping plover nests. Read more

Oyster castles at Chincoteague NWR.

Living Shoreline Helps Protect Coastal Areas

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

Installation of 13,750 oyster castles will help prevent erosion to salt marshes, which in turn help protect communities from flooding. The oyster reefs also provide habitat for other marine life and will grow on their own, hopefully keeping pace with rising sea levels. Read more

 Culvert construction at Wreck Pond. Credit: American Littoral Society

Restoration Project Withstands the Impacts of a Powerful Nor’easter

Wreck Pond, New Jersey

A new box culvert in the coastal community of Spring Lake is improving water quality and fish passage while reducing flood risk. A March 2017 storm brought high rainfall and storm surge, but Wreck Pond did not overflow into the surrounding neighborhood and no properties were damaged. Read more

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Evaluation Report of
Hurricane Sandy Resilience Program

Hurricane Sandy Evaluation Report

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Last updated: March 16, 2020