NORFOLK, Va. - After more than a decade of waiting for federal funding, a jetty and a seawall will finally be built to protect Tangier Island's harbor from erosion, officials said Tuesday.
The 3-mile long island sits in the Chesapeake Bay not far from Maryland waters and it has been threatened by erosion and storm surges for years. The island can only be reached by aircraft and boat, making the harbor a critical lifeline. The 430-foot-long seawall and 50-foot spur jetty is intended to protect the harbor from waves as well as damage caused by sheets of ice that are pushed into the inner channel and harbor.
"As Hurricane Sandy demonstrated all too clearly, it is critically important to protect the harbor with this barrier to clouding and coastal erosion. Also, this project will enable us, at the same time, to continue to preserve a culturally significant way of life that has changed little over centuries," Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement.
The island was discovered by explorer John Smith in 1608 and has served as a hub for watermen for centuries, with some residents still speaking in a dialect that dates back to Smith's time. While tourism plays a part in the island's modern economic fortunes, much of the island's economy is still dependent upon the harbor serving as a home for commercial fishermen. The island has fewer than 500 residents and more than 125 of them are licensed commercial watermen, landing $3.4 million worth of seafood in 2011.
The cost of the seawall and jetty project will be about $4.2 million, with the federal government paying for about $3.2 million and the state paying the rest. Plans for the seawall had been on the drawing board for 15 years, but federal funding was never made available.
Under the agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state will pay for half the cost of a feasibility study that will take two years to complete. The state's cost will be $175,000 this year and $96,000 next year.
Construction is expected to be completed in 2017.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis
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