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USGS Publishes a Joint Report with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Sediment Management Impacts to Barrier Island Systems

On June 1, 2021, USGS and USFWS published a joint report in response to a request from the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources to evaluate the impacts of sediment removal and placement within barrier island systems.

Photograph of ocean side homes on  Fire Island, New York
Ocean side homes on Fire Island, New York. (Credit: Erika Lentz, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.)

The Open File Report (OFR), “Impacts of Sediment Removal from and Placement in Coastal Barrier Island Systems,” contains a comprehensive summary of the available scientific understanding of the physical, ecological, and coastal resilience impacts of sediment removal (i.e., dredging) and placement (i.e., nourishment) within barrier island systems. Barrier islands play a key role in storm protection for coastal communities and infrastructure and serve as critical habitats for many coastal and marine species. Sediment management actions are typically done for coastal hazard mitigation, such as erosion prevention and flood control, yet can lead to some adverse impacts to coastal habitats, wildlife, and long-term resilience. The synthesis describes both beneficial and detrimental impacts to barrier island systems from sediment management practices depending on the timing and location of these actions.

Originally requested by the House Committee on Natural Resources in 2019, the report was compiled to address questions related to sediment removal within the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS). The CBRS includes barrier islands along the U.S. Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico coasts, and was established in 1982 via the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) with the goals of minimizing loss of human life by discouraging development in high-risk areas and protecting natural resources in barrier systems. SPCMSC Research Geologist Jennifer Miselis led the team that produced this report, including authors from six USGS science centers and two mission areas, as well as partners at the USFWS. USGS, USFWS, and other federal and regional entities are expected to use the knowledge gaps identified in the study to prioritize research and monitoring needs, and work with partners to identify best practices to mitigate adverse impacts of sediment management practices.

For more information:

Report: https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ofr20211062

News Release: https://www.usgs.gov/news/usgs-fws-report-highlights-impacts-sediment-management-barrier-islands-wildlife-and-ecosystems

USFWS Q&A Document: https://www.fws.gov/cbra/documents/FAQs-USGS-FWS-Coastal-Barrier-Report.pdf

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