Thank Sandy for Prime Hook focus

November 15, 2013

For those who believe the federal gov­ernment should live up to its promise to maintain Prime Hook National Wild­life Refuge as an important habitat for migratory waterfowl in the Atlantic Flyway, news is good indeed that serious money is in place to repair storm damage that has ravaged the refuge’s marshes. Thanks in this case go to an improbable recipient: Hurricane Sandy.

Despite the devastation visited to the north of us, Sandy is bringing long-needed emer­gency aid to Prime Hook. Without Sandy demonstrating how quickly Prime Hook’s marshes could be eaten away without the refuge’s protective dunes, the dithering underway the past several years would have likely continued for several more.

The coastal community of Primehook Beach would have continued to suffer the increasingly frequent and dangerous isolation brought by dune breach-exacerbated flooding. And more and more valuable farmland would have been lost as saltwater poisoned edges exposed by the loss of the marsh buffers. Meanwhile, the critically important waterfowl habitat driv­ing Prime Hook’s existence would have been quickly written off as a lost cause.

The storm clearly demonstrated what was going to happen without intervention.

The really good news is that there is enough money allocated for refuge repairs to rebuild the marshes lost as discussions inched along and the breaches grew wider. The breaches will be repaired, but they stand no chance of surviving without a strong marsh system backing them up. A timeline for the rebuild­ing project starting in fall 2014 stipulates that marsh reconstruction will proceed simultane­ously with breach repairs.

Similar restoration projects have also been authorized at other waterfowl refuges along the Atlantic coast. They signal that as a na­tion we value our diverse, dynamic and rich coastal resources and the many forms of life, recreation and beauty they support. We won’t simply turn our backs, throw up our hands and say “Oh, well.”

Isn’t it amazing how quickly an emergency situation can bring clarity and focus to the decision-making process?

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Dave Frederick, sports editor.