The Nature Conservancy applauds an announcement by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today to invest $162 million in 45 restoration and research projects that will better protect Atlantic Coast communities from future powerful storms. These projects will restore marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuild shorelines, and drive important research.
“Investing in conserving and restoring nature helps sustain economies, communities, and the environment, and we greatly appreciate this investment by the Department of the Interior,” said Lynn Scarlett, Managing Director of Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy. “Natural systems such as wetlands and dunes provide a natural defense against storms like Hurricane Sandy, while also filtering drinking water, supporting fisheries, and providing other services vital to the health and welfare of our nation.”
“Our changing climate is increasing the odds for more extreme and erratic weather. Stronger and more extreme events bring with them the potential for unprecedented loss of lives, property and businesses,” continued Scarlett. “Investments in restoration projects have demonstrated how we can reduce flood risk to people and property, thereby reducing economic impacts of storm events and providing a valuable asset for the region.”
The Nature Conservancy is a key partner in several of the projects along the Atlantic Coast that will receive support through today’s announcement, including:
A partnership of nonprofit groups and state and federal agencies brought about the Mill River Restoration, a project that includes the removal of three dams and the instillation of a fishway at a fourth dam on this important Taunton River tributary, allowing migratory species like river herring and American eel to access an additional 30 miles of river habitat as well as upstream lakes and ponds. The final dam removal is scheduled for next summer, and the effort is being led led by the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration.
“The Mill River has long been home to one of New England’s richest fish runs, and removing these barriers will allow the river to provide habitat, flood control and other benefits that will serve nature as well as local people, ” said Alison Bowden, director of freshwater conservation at The Nature Conservancy.
A recent study by The Nature Conservancy and Stanford University’s Natural Capital Project shows natural habitats shelter at least 1.3 million people and billions in property value along the U.S. coastline.
The Nature Conservancy has also developed online tools that help coastal communities, municipal and conservation planners and government agencies identify risks from rising sea levels and other climate impacts. These tools inform local decision makers as they develop plans to guide risk reduction strategies to better protect their communities against these growing risks.
“We need a smart portfolio of infrastructure options—one that includes a mix of built and natural defenses to natural disasters,” concluded Scarlett. “Natural defenses such as oyster reefs, coral reefs, sand dunes, mangroves, flood plains, and forests as well as ‘built’ defenses such as breakwaters, levees and seawalls all contribute to reducing our risks. They all need to be part of the equation.”
The Mill River Restoration Partnership includes dam owners, Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, MA Division of Ecological Restoration, NOAA-Restoration Center, The Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Save The Bay, American Rivers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, MA Department of Transportation, Massachusetts Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Mass Audubon, Taunton River Watershed Alliance, and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.