NOAA selects Virginia's Middle Peninsula for habitat and climate change resiliency effort

Watchful Eye

Virginia’s Middle Peninsula has been selected as NOAA’s next Habitat Focus Area (HFA), the agency revealed.

NOAA explains that its HFAs are places where it focuses programs and investments to address a high priority habitat issue. Those issues are addressed by applying science and solutions on the ground and in the water to help communities protect and restore valuable natural resources.

Why VA’s Middle Peninsula

The Middle Peninsula faces significant challenges from sea level rise, but nature-based infrastructure can help it become more economically and ecologically resilient, the agency said in an article about its latest HFA selection.

NOAA said working in the Middle Peninsula presents excellent opportunities to restore oyster reefs, fish habitats, and shorelines.

What will be done?

“NOAA will work to conserve fish habitat and build the region’s ability to bounce back in the face of climate change. With our partners, we have developed plans for habitat restoration, water quality improvement, and climate resilience work, and we’re looking forward to diving into this work,” the agency explained.

Its plans for the region include building support for wetlands and oyster restoration projects and for fish habitat assessments. NOAA plans to support a State of the York Report to review the health of the region and steps to improve it annually. The agency said it will also research and model how restored and natural oyster reefs, submerged aquatic vegetation, marshes, and living shorelines contribute to the economy of the Middle Peninsula.

To expand the impact of work in the Middle Peninsula, NOAA said it will collaborate on projects and planning with federal, state, tribal, and regional partners who share its restoration and resiliency goals.

“The Middle Peninsula of Virginia is a key habitat area for many fish and other wildlife but is experiencing significant environmental challenges that have stressed shorelines and marshes that affect not only wildlife but also residents in these coastal communities who face increased flooding risks. I am thrilled that NOAA will be establishing a Habitat Focus Area in the Middle Peninsula,” said U.S. House Representative Rob Wittman in a statement on the topic.

“We absolutely must do what we can to improve our environment, and the nationwide work by NOAA and their Habitat Focus Area programs are inspiring and critical to getting some of our most environmentally important regions back on track,” he added

NOAA has worked on 10 other HFAs before the Middle Peninsula, including Biscayne Bay, Florida; Muskegon Lake, Michigan; Northeast Corridor & Culebra Island Puerto Rico, and West Hawai’i.

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