Post-Sandy Funding Released For Lower Shore, Assateague

ASSATEAGUE — Nearly one year to the day when Super Storm Sandy smashed into the mid-Atlantic region, federal officials this week announced millions of dollars in grants for restoration and research across Maryland’s Lower Shore including Assateague.
On Monday, Maryland’s U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, along with Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown, announced the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is awarding $19 million in federal funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to Maryland coastal communities hit hardest by Super Storm Sandy late last October.
The following day, Assateague Island National Seashore officials announced the barrier island would be among the recipients of a $162 million investment in restoration and research projects that will better protect Atlantic coastal communities from future powerful storms by restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines and researching and mitigating storm surge impacts.
The $19 million HUD grants are dedicated to the Lower Shore communities impacted the most by Super Storm Sandy. Maryland will be required to develop and submit an action plan to HUD describing the needs, strategies and planned uses of the funds. HUD will then review and approve the plans to ensure the federal funding will flow to the areas of greatest need. CDBG disaster funds are flexible and can be used to address severely damaged housing and infrastructure and to assist with economic development in areas impacted by Sandy, many of which are still slowly recovering.
“I promised residents of the Eastern Shore that I would continue to fight for communities struggling to rebuild lives and livelihoods,” said Mikulski. “Today’s announcement demonstrates that promises made are promises kept. These funds in the federal checkbook will help restore and rebuild critical infrastructure including roads, homes and businesses on the Eastern Shore. Super Storm Sandy was one of the most destructive storms ever to hit the U.S. and had a measurable impact on Marylanders.”
Cardin said the much-needed federal assistance will be made available to families and businesses that are still rebuilding a year after Hurricane Sandy.
“We have not and will not forget their struggles,” he said. “I will continue to work with all appropriate federal agencies to ensure that funds reach the people and neighborhoods most in need.”
Meanwhile, in a separate allocation, Assateague Island National Seashore (AINS) will be among the recipients of a $162 million federal grant to be invested in 45 restoration and research projects in mid-Atlantic coastal areas from Virginia to New York. More specifically, Assateague will participate in four projects along with other public and private lands totaling $10 million.
“The critical scientific information gathered from these projects will enable coastal communities and parks to anticipate future challenges caused by storms and evaluate our responses,” said AINS Superintendent Debbie Darden. “Coastal resiliency is our ultimate goal.”
One of the projects for Assateague and other locations will acquire high-resolution data to improve storm surge forecasting and mitigation planning. The $3 million project will create a seamless map of the interface between land and water which will be used by the barrier island to predict and mitigate storm surge, wave forces and coastal flooding.
A second project is an Assateague Island Regional Study, the results of which will improve the understanding of coastal sediment supplies and sand movements, driving forces and the effects on coastal vulnerability. The $4 million project will be directed by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey.
A third project involving Assateague will include submerged marine habitat mapping. Resource maps for the land on the barrier island have been available to park managers for years, but the new study will create maps for the submerged marine habitats just off the shore. The $2.4 million project will improve the ability of park managers to identify and design adaptation strategies that will enhance the ability of marine ecosystems to withstand major storms and other stressors.
Finally, a third project will include a major living shoreline and oyster reef restoration at Chincoteague. The $600,000 project will construct two acres of new oyster reefs to protect existing roads and other infrastructure and mitigate the impacts of flooding during future storms.
Overall, the funding provides $113 million for 25 on-the-ground projects to restore coastal marshes, wetlands and shoreline to improve flood resilience and undertake other efforts to protect nearby areas from future storms.  Another $45 million is being invested in assessments, modeling, coastal barrier mapping and other research projects at Assateague and other mid-Atlantic coastal areas.