Virginia, Feds Reach Agreement on Tangier Island Jetty

Tangier Island, which has been getting national attention at the center of the sea level rise issue, will finally get a jetty to help protect it.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam just announced an agreement between the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and construct the jetty in Accomack County.

The Army Corps of Engineers first began looking into a possible jetty way back in 1995. In 2009, the agency explored several possible options to protect Tangier, but found a jetty was the only effective, feasible measure.

The jetty will protect the western portion of the navigation channel and harbor for the Town of Tangier, and the associated seafood industry infrastructure. The straight stone jetty will extend from the southwestern tip of Uppards Island, into the water about 494 feet to the middle of the channel.

“As everyone should know this jetty project is very important and vital to all the residents of Tangier…That it will be built gives our Island and residents young and old renewed hope that we can save our homes and our way of life,” said Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge.

The $2.65 million project relies on federal and state funds, with 20 percent coming from the state of Virginia. The state says the funds are an investment in the seafood industry:

“The jetty project will help protect the Town’s navigation channel and harbor from wave action and adverse weather conditions than can damage work boats, docks, and crab houses,” said VMRC Commissioner Steven G. Bowman. “It’s therefore critical for supporting the Chesapeake Bay seafood economy.”

The residents of Tangier Island have emerged as poster children of the nationwide climate change crisis. Tangier’s geography and its population are both shrinking. Scientists say erosion is eating away at the island at the same time that sea levels are rising, and increased severe storms have whittled away at the island even more. Studies predict its people may have to abandon their homes in the next 25 to 50 years.

In addition to Tangier’s jetty, Governor Northam wants to put tens of millions of dollars per year int flooding adaptation and preparedness measures.

“This jetty will help the people of Tangier in the short term but it is not a long term solution to the greater problems the island faces. It is clear that in many areas we will not be able to engineer our way out of trouble,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler.

-Meg Walburn Viviano