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Alexandria's Dyke Marsh Nature Preserve Receives $25 million for Wetlands Restoration

7:15 PM, Oct 29, 2013   |    comments
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ALEXANDRIA, Va.  (WUSA) -- Hurricane Sandy ripped up miles of coastline and wetlands. Today, the federal government formally announced a major investment and grant program to restore natural shorelines and key wildlife habitats.

One of them is just a few miles from the Nation's Capital.

Launching a boat off Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria, wildlife is everywhere on this perfect autumn day. You can even see bald eagles nesting on Dyke Marsh Wildlife preserve. It's all Just a few miles from the Nation's Capital.

"It's a freshwater tidal marsh which are rare," said Glenda Booth, President of the Friends of Dyke Marsh.

Dyke Marsh use to be 180 acres in 1940. Now it is only 53.

Metal and steel remnants remain of the operations that dredged the Potomac for sand and gravel. Between 1940 and 1972 when the dredging was halted, around 101 acres were removed, according to Booth. She says those projects were strong destabilizing forces which accelerated the erosion. And, the depleted shoreline could not hold back the surging tides from Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

National Park Service Supervisory Biologist Brent Steury pointed out the area of the shore near Belle Haven where the tide surged over the bank, across the George Washington Parkway and into a housing development.

On this 1st anniversary of Hurricane Sandy which devastated the coasts of New York and New Jersey, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a $162 million effort to restore wetlands. $25 million will go to Dyke Marsh.

Steury explained that dirt from channel dredging would be put into large containment cells where plantings would be done. As those plants take hold, the dirt should fill in and create wetlands.

"With this money, National Park Service can begin restoring the wetlands and bring Dyke Marsh to what it should be," said Booth.

The restoration project will also involve community volunteers to help with the plantings.

The Dyke Marsh Nature Preserve also serves as an outdoor classroom for local school children.

Marking the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Secretary Jewell appeared with Senator Tim Kaine and Rep. Jim Moran to announce a new $100 million Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competition Grant Program. 

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