ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Eleven states in the eastern U.S. will share $102.7 million in grants from the federal government to protect against future storms, with the greatest amount of funded projects in New Jersey and New York.
The U.S. Department of the Interior's Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resilience Grant Program will fund a variety of projects to protect communities at risk from future big storms like the October 2012 event that pummeled the East Coast.
The money comes from a Sandy relief bill passed by Congress.
"We know we have a lot to learn from Mother Nature," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Monday. "Climate change is going to make weather events more frequent and more severe."
She said natural infrastructure like wetlands and dunes provide the best protection against storms.
The Interior department said the projects will restore an estimated 6,634 acres of wetlands and marshes; 225 acres of beach; 364 acres of tidal buffers, and 16 miles of streams. The efforts will also open 287 miles of streams to fish passage, and restore 147 acres of flood plains.
New Jersey has the largest number of approved projects at 13, including restoration of beaches, salt marshes and urban areas including Hoboken. The grants also will fund projects to improve water quality in the 1.1-million acre Pinelands region; improve shoreline conditions along seven miles of Cape May County beaches; better protect the Delaware Bay shoreline in Cape May and Cumberland counties; and restore wetlands in Newark Bay, Great Egg Harbor Bay, and Little Egg Harbor.
"We've seen the vulnerability in the communities where Sandy hit," said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the New jersey-based American Littoral Society. He said projects such as the ones funded on Monday are indicative of "reshaping our relationship with the coast in anticipation of the next storm."
Funding also went to several projects along rivers, including in the inland states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
New York has 11 projects, including an oyster colony in Jamaica Bay, flood mitigation in Coney Island, and wetlands restoration in Suffolk County. Other projects will restore the Bronx River shoreline at Starlight Park; better protect Sunken Meadow State Park; improve Harlem River water quality and resiliency, and reconnect 10 land-locked areas to the Allegany Reservoir in Cattaraugus County.
Grants will also fund projects in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Virginia, and two regional multi-state projects.
The competition for the grants began last year on the anniversary of Sandy. Recipients are putting up $72 million in matching funds for part of the work.
The Interior department says the projects will create 600 jobs in local communities, and that young people and veterans will be given special consideration in hiring.
A list of state-by-state projects can be found at http://www.doi.gov/news/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=537484 .
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC