Appropriately enough, two days before Thanksgiving last week the good folks on Tangier Island got some welcome news: a long-awaited seawall and jetty project to protect the island’s main harbor will finally become a reality.
Flying out to Tangier to deliver the news personally was a passel of state and federal officials, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. Paul Olsen, Congressman Scott Rigell, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech, and other state and local officials.
Remotely situated in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island is home to some 450 residents whose livelihoods depend upon catching fish, crabs, and oysters. The island has had serious erosion problems for decades. (Take a look at this interesting Washington Post graphic showing Tangier Island erosion over the past 150 years.) The seawall and jetty are aimed at protecting the channel that leads to the island’s harbor, helping to shield it from damaging waves and ice flows and reducing erosion that silts in the channel.
“This is fantastic news,” Gov. McDonnell said in a news release. “The harbor is the economic heart of Tangier Island, and the center of a significant commercial fishing industry worth millions to Virginia’s economy. As Hurricane Sandy demonstrated all too clearly, it is critically important to protect the harbor with this barrier to clouding and coastal erosion.”
Tangier Islanders were happy, too.
“We're pretty excited," Tangier Mayor James "Ooker" Eskridge (above left with Gov. McDonnell) told the Virginian-Pilot’s Scott Harper. "This will give folks a boost. After each storm, people were losing their desire to reinvest here, kind of losing hope. We weren't quite sure if we'd ever see this day."
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), which has a long history of friendship and cooperation with Tangier, also applauded the news. CBF operates its Port Isobel Environmental Education Center right across from Tangier’s harbor. The education center allows students and teachers from across the six-state Bay watershed to experience the wonders of the Bay, visit Tangier, and better understand this historic waterman community.
In fact, students from Providence Middle School in Chesterfield County, Va., were on Tangier as part of a CBF field trip on the day of the big jetty/seawall announcement. Consequently, they had the chance to meet and visit with Gov. McDonnell and Tangier citizens. They also took the opportunity to thank the governor for the state’s long-standing financial support of environmental education and to present him with a CBF hat.
That wasn’t as big a deal as a new jetty, but if you’re a middle schooler pretty exciting nonetheless.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Photos, Michaele White/Va. Governor's Office