U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell and other local officials officially announcing nearly $25 million in funding for the restoration of Dyke Marsh in the Alexandria area in a ceremony Tuesday morning.
The funding is part of a $162 million investment by the Department of Interior in 45 projects for wetland and beach restoration, rebuilding shorelines and researching the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surges.
"We all care passionately about the beauty of this community. Today is a good step forward," U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine said. "We have a lot of work to do and you have to involve the local community like Friends of Dyke Marsh."
Jewell said places like Dyke Marsh — the largest remaining freshwater marsh in the area — don't maintain themselves. Instead, they're created with the help of local officials, volunteers and groups like the Friends of Dyke Marsh who know the importance of restoring them.
"We're investing $25 million to restore more than 100 acres of marsh. This park will be able to connect youth and veterans with nature and that's great," she said.
Funds for this project were awarded as part of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act and will immediately go toward restoration efforts and long-term preservation of the marsh. Plans for restoration are expected to come forward in September 2014, according to the National Park Service.
"The money [for this project] has been set aside, and this project is expensive," said U.S. Rep. Jim Moran. "There was no sense in making plans before without the funds. It will take time to make plans, but we want to do this right."
Moran said it's important that Jewell noted the significance of needing to restore Dyke Marsh not only for the D.C. metropolitan area, but for the entire country.
"It is a unique inland marsh,” Moran said. “We dreamed of the complete restoration of Dyke Marsh, but we had to be realistic. That's were U.S. Secretary Jewell and USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] came in."
Friends of Dyke Marsh President Glenda Booth also spoke of the importance of the restoration and how it will contribute to local education in the area in the future.
"Today represents the U.S. recognition of the importance of wetlands. These precious funds are important for many reasons," Booth said during Tuesday's announcement. "The restoration will perform a major ecological role. In addition, it can be used as an extended classroom for many students."
Jewell, joined by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation at National Park Service’s Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, also marked the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and officially launched the $100 million Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program during Tuesday's ceremony.
"Hurricane Sandy was tough on this region, and it is the one year anniversary," Jewell said. "Last week, we announced $162 million for preparing for things we have learned from Mother Nature. This $100 million grant program is open to anyone who is out there studying and researching this. We have learned hard lessons from nature, but there are some good lessons we can learn."
After the announcement, Jewell joined local officials and students from the Alexandria Seaport Foundation to participate in a STEM-based outdoor learning activity in the marsh.
Other officials who attended the ceremony on Tuesday include National Capital Parks-East Superintendent Alex Romero, Del. Scott Surovell, Del. Rob Krupicka and city of Alexandria Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg.
Applications are now being accepted for the grant program. For more information, visit the Hurricane Sandy Resiliency Competitive Grant Program website.