As Hurricane Sandy left a wake of destruction across the Mid-Atlantic States and New England, the Interior Department 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 Interior employees from 47 states supported response and recovery missions for Hurricane Sandy.
Nearly 70 national parks and dozens of wildlife refuges sustained damage from the storm. Among those hardest hit were the 15 parks located in the metropolitan New York area, where visitors to sites like Gateway, Fire Island, and the Statue of Liberty contributed more than half a billion dollars to the local economy in 2011 and supported nearly 4,400 jobs.
The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, appropriated $829.2million ($786.7million post‐sequester) for the Department of the Interior to rebuild and repair its assets and make strategic investments in future coastal resilience.
On May 7, 2013, in accordance with its approved strategic spending plan, the Department released $475.25 million of this funding to 234 projects that will repair and rebuild parks, refuges and other Interior assets damaged by the storm. The funding will also provide investments in scientific data and studies to support recovery in the region, as well as historic preservation efforts.
The remaining funding will be allocated competitively in the coming months for mitigation projects that increase coastal resiliency and capacity to withstand future storm damage and to restore and rebuild public assets across the Sandy-affected region. Of this competitive mitigation funding, $100 million will fund an open competition while the rest will support innovative resilience work undertaken by the Department.
On August 12, 2013, the Interior Department selected the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to administer the $100 million Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program. As called for in the President's Climate Action Plan, the competition will fund projects that promote resilient natural systems while enhancing green spaces and wildlife habitat in needed areas along the Sandy-impacted landscape, enabling coastal communities and key habitats to withstand the impacts of future storms. Projects in areas eligible to receive funding include: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The Department's Executive Council will select projects for mitigation funding based on criteria and a process developed by Interior's Strategic Sciences Group and project evaluation conducted by a panel of federal technical experts. The program criteria will incorporate infrastructure resilience guidelines recommended by Secretary Donovan's Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.