USGS SWaTH science supports USFWS wetland management through improved understanding of storm impacts

Last edited 09/05/2019
Contact Information

Contact: Mark Nardi, USGS MD-DE-DC Water Science Center,, (302) 734-2506  x227

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are collaborating to better understand the hydraulics of storm surge and tidal action over marsh land through the Surge, Wave, and Tide Hydrodynamics (SWaTH) Network in two national wildlife refuges in Delaware

In order to assess ecological and societal vulnerabilities to coastal change, it is necessary to understand physical changes along wetland coastlines. In addition, understanding the impacts of overland storm tides and waves as they move across wetland landscapes is critical to establishing early warning systems for coastal-storm hazards and ultimately managing resources for increased coastal resilience. With Congressional funding provided to the Department of the Interior following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the USGS constructed and implemented the SWaTH Network along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Maine to provide storm-tide and wave data that will enhance public awareness, improve coastal-flooding predictions, and inform emergency responders. To collect storm-tide and wave data in critical wetland environments, the USGS partnered with USFWS to install and pilot a series of “ready when needed” SWaTH data collection platforms at two national wildlife refuges in Delaware -- Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuges. Four storm surge sensors each were installed from the water’s edge to the wetland landward boundary in Bombay Hook NWR, near Smyrna, Del., and similar sensors were installed in Prime Hook NWR near Milton, Del., At the onset of the an approaching storm, USFWS and USGS personnel mount SWaTH sensors to brackets to measure the impact of waves and water across the wetland. Recently, USGS and USFWS were able to conduct a successful deployment during the Joaquin/nor’easter that impacted portion of the mid-Atlantic. The instruments also will be able to measure erosion and accumulation of wetland sediments, and will provide data necessary to track and potentially mitigate wetland submergence or erosion as sea levels rise.  This collaboration between the USGS and USFWS will provide data critical to both agencies and other stakeholders concerned with sustaining or building coastal marshes for wildlife habitat and shoreline protection.

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