TANGIER, Va. -- In front of a mostly packed house in the island’s combined-school cafeteria, a panel of Norfolk District leaders, engineers and scientists briefed the community on progress of the jetty project here.
The group announced the study period for the project was nearing an end and was moving to review by higher headquarters.
They also listened to watermen and other community members who were concerned about the speed of the process.
“We don’t need another study, we need a seawall and we need it yesterday,” said one waterman in the crowd.
Under the guidelines of the Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program, after the study is reviewed, it is eligible to be selected to receive funding for design and construction. Eddie DuRant, chief of Norfolk District Planning Resources Section, said the district anticipates jetty construction to begin in fiscal year 2018.
That funding eligibility is on the federal side; the cost-share partner, the commonwealth of Virginia, would need to have its portion of the funding in place in order for the project to move forward.
The watermen’s angst is based on what they are seeing firsthand happen to their island, and in reaction to new research released a few days after the meeting bolstered their concerns.
According to the report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Engineer Research and Development Center, the island may be uninhabitable by 2063 if nothing is done due to a combination of sea-level rise, erosion and subsidence.
But attempts are being made to stave off the water. The district dredges material from the navigation channels and places it in strategic locations around the island to help offset erosion.
The new, roughly $2.5 million jetty will help to attenuate wave action protecting the harbor from damaging wave attacks when storms blow through the area.
The district also has another project that will also benefit the threatened island.
“Another Continuing Authorities Program project, currently inactive, is the Section 206 Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration project.” DuRant said. “This project consists primarily of construction of segmented breakwaters immediately offshore of the western shoreline of the Uppards Island.”
The breakwaters would buffer the western side of the Uppards, one of the most vulnerable portions of the island, from wave attack, protecting valuable sea grasses and marshland.
The district wrapped up the feasibility study for that project in 2013 and it is currently on the shelf, awaiting a cost-share partner to move forward.
However, according to Corps experts, these projects won’t be enough to change the impending fate of the island.
“What is truly needed is a large general investigations study to determine the overall solution that could be engineered to save this island,” said Susan Conner, Norfolk District chief of Planning.
Studies and projects of that magnitude take political will and a substantial funding, which the research paper estimates to be around $20 –$30 million.
As for residents of Tangier, many said they appreciated a chance to voice their concerns though they didn’t get the answers they wanted to hear in terms of construction.
“We are so happy the folks from the Army Corps of Engineers came out, I know coming to the island takes a lot of effort, so it means a lot for us to have folks make the effort to come out and talk to us,” said James “Ooker” Eskridge, mayor of Tangier.