As Hurricane Sandy left a wake of destruction across the Mid-Atlantic States and New England, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) mobilized resources to speed storm recovery on Federal and tribal lands in the impacted region and to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in its efforts to assist States and local governments in the disaster area. At the peak, over 1,500 DOI employees were supporting response and recovery missions for Hurricane Sandy, through deployments and disaster recovery work in at their home locations. Currently, we still have 195 employees deployed.
Key areas for Department of the Interior response and recovery activities include the following:
- Approximately 260 wildland firefighters from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park service have responded with fellow wildland firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and State Forestry Divisions to support FEMA staging areas, assist in emergency operations centers, and provide crews to clear trees for emergency access and power crews. More than 1,200 wildland firefighters from all agencies were a part of this effort.
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is leading a Tribal Assistance Coordination Group (TAC-G), enhancing communications and coordination between Native American Tribes in the disaster area, other Federal agencies, and non-profit relief organizations. American Red Cross, FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were key participants in this effort.
- The National Park Service (NPS) has deployed more than 800 incident management personnel, technical experts and work crews to assist personnel at parks throughout the region in recovery operations. As of December 5, 400 NPS employees from 99 parks were supporting NPS and interagency recovery efforts for Hurricane Sandy. Expedited recovery will speed the resumption of tourism in impacted communities. Extensive recovery work is needed at the National Parks in New York and New Jersey. Working with interagency partners, NPS has also established debris transfer sites at Jacob Riis Park in New York to support local clean-up activities and is providing feeding for emergency workers in the vicinity of its logistics base at Fort Wadsworth in the Gateway National Recreation Area. In addition, the NPS Emergency Services has extended their logistics operations to assist the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and BIA.
- The U.S. Park Police, an agency of the NPS responsible for law enforcement in urban parks, deployed its “Eagle-1” helicopter from Washington, DC to New York to assist with damage assessment, law enforcement, and emergency medical support at impacted parks. U.S. Park Police also provided law enforcement officers to support a Disaster Medical Assistance Team from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, two U.S. Park Police command officials from the Washington Metropolitan Area responded to the NY-NJ area to support the NPS Incident Management Teams.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) continues to assess damage to its facilities and natural habitat throughout the area impacted by Hurricane Sandy. More than 42 FWS staff deployed to assist fellow employees with damage assessment and repairs in the hardest hit areas, including S.B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in CT; Great Swamp and E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuges in NJ; and Long Island National Wildlife Refuge in NY. FWS response efforts were demobilized on November 12.
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) applied its broad technical expertise to support a number of interagency requirements during this emergency with 200 employees engaged in supporting the USGS response. USGS deployed 231 sensors prior to the landfall of Hurricane Sandy to record the level of storm surge and coastal inundation. After the storm passed, field crews moved in quickly to recover equipment as well as identify and flag high-water marks throughout the impacted area. Data were posted to a website as sensors were retrieved. In addition, aerial Lidar surveys were initiated from New York to North Carolina to assess coastal erosion; a landslide alert was distributed to state geologists and the National Weather Service; water-quality samples were collected on swollen rivers and the Chesapeake Bay; and the Bureau disseminated aerial imagery and geospatial products to Federal, tribal, state and local organizations.
- The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which is responsible for managing energy and mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), is dedicating personnel and resources to the response efforts for Hurricane Sandy and the need for OCS sand to rebuild and project the Nation’s coastlines and wetlands. Prior to Hurricane Sandy making landfall, models predicted that more than 90 percent of coastlines along the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia (Delmarva) Peninsula, New Jersey, and New York would experience beach and dune erosion. BOEM is currently focusing on the direct needs of localities and States impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The bureau is communicating with stakeholders in the affected areas regarding site analysis and resource availability, and identification of environmental concerns in preparation of potential projects to replenish dunes, coasts and coastal marine habitats damaged by the storm.
- Department of the Interior’s Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance (OEPC), working with DOI bureaus and interagency partners, is providing technical expertise to FEMA and other interagency partners to support tribal, state and local governments in the mitigation of damage to and protection of natural and cultural resources and historic properties. OEPC is coordinating Mission Assignments from FEMA for Response and Recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey.In addition OEPC is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard and DOI Bureau’s on marine debris salvage issues.OEPC currently has 6 personnel involved in response and recovery and have had a total of 11 personnel involved to date.