New project to bolster Cedar Island

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VIMS photo.

By Carol Vaughn —

Federal money will help pay for a project to restore and expand 217 acres of marsh along the southern part of Cedar Island.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week announced $7.7 million in new grants using funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other sources to support ongoing natural infrastructure projects in seven states.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science was awarded $310,300 for the Cedar Island project.

The grant will be matched by $253,400 for a total project cost of $563,700. The goal is to enhance marsh and lagoon habitat on the landward side of Cedar Island, which should help protect nearby coastal communities against the impacts of coastal flooding and storm surge.

“The new funding is to move our team (VIMS, Stantec, Randolph-Macon College, George Washington University, and the A-NPDC) to the next stage of this project: final engineering design and permitting,” said Chris Hein, co-director of VIMS’ Undergraduate Program in Marine Science and principal investigator for the project.

Stanec is a coastal engineering firm working on design and hydrodynamic modeling for the project. In addition to paying for permitting and design, the grant will pay to provide outreach to resiliency planning organizations and Shore residents.

The project was awarded a previous NFWF grant of nearly $250,000 in 2018.

Of the Shore’s 13 barrier islands, Cedar Island was chosen for the project because it is among the most dynamic and because deterioration of its southern end poses a threat to the town of Wachapreague.

Additionally, the changes threaten navigation routes and could have adverse effects on the local economy.

Cedar Island is migrating landward at a rate of up to 15 meters per year, according to an article written by Hein and his colleagues and published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science in 2021.

The hope is the approach used to build up marshland behind Cedar Island using material dredged from nearby channels could be applied to other localities to improve coastal resilience, according to the article.

“Maintaining and rehabilitating our coasts is critical for the health and economic well-being of coastal communities, especially in the face of impacts from climate change like flooding and extreme storms,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo about the grant awards.

“Thanks to funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden administration is making meaningful long-term investments that will strengthen coastal communities and allow them to flourish for generations,” she said.

In addition to the Cedar Island project, grants will support the design and implementation of projects to enhance the resilience of coastal communities and improve habitat for fish and wildlife in Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, according to a press release.

“Climate-driven floods and storms threaten all coastal communities, and these locally driven projects are critical for developing effective natural infrastructure,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, adding, “By investing in local communities, we invest in our nation’s resilience.”

The eight grants will leverage more than $3 million in matching contributions for a total impact of $11.1 million.

The grants were awarded through the National Coastal Resilience Fund, a partnership between NFWF, NOAA, Shell, TransRe, and Occidental, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bezos Earth Fund, and from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

NFWF worked to award an early slate of grants in August, ahead of its standard annual award date, so communities experiencing increasing impacts from rising seas, more intense storms, and other coastal hazards would have funding to spend toward resilience projects, according to the release.

“As coastal communities face growing threats including coastal flooding and hurricanes, communities need resources immediately to help them reduce threats and increase resilience,” said Jeff Trandahl, NFWF executive director and chief executive officer.

NFWF anticipates investing approximately $140 million in grants through the NCRF this year once additional awards are announced in November.

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