By: Ron Ohrel
The 2012 storm known as Sandy inflicted severe damage to communities over large areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, leaving a swath of destruction and large amounts of debris in coastal waters and marshes. While the majority of debris was removed in the storm’s immediate aftermath, Sandy-caused debris still remained—particularly in marshes, wetlands, tidal creeks, and other sparsely populated or difficult to access areas. That remaining debris continued to pose hazards to safety, navigation, fishing grounds, and sensitive ecosystems.
The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 provided NOAA with supplemental funding to support the removal of debris generated by Sandy. This allowed NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (MDP) to partner with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to remove derelict vessels and other large debris items from the state’s waterways.
MDP and DEP established a formal agreement providing $454,000 to DEP in May 2014. Debris removal started in July and by the project’s conclusion in late September, DEP contractors had removed 270 tons of debris from eight different locations (see map and NOAA’s Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA); click the Legend tab on ERMA to view site-specific details). The removed marine debris consisted of docks, construction-related items, and several boats ranging from 14 to 55 feet long. Project work involved manual and mechanized removal of debris from tidal estuary, salt marsh, and forested wetland habitats.
In addition to New Jersey, NOAA has agreements with the states of New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey, as well as New York City. Those projects are underway and will be highlighted in future posts.