Mayor Mike Purzycki today announced that the City of Wilmington has been awarded a nearly $3 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support the South Wilmington Freshwater Tidal Wetland Habitat Restoration for Flood Prevention, commonly known as the South Wilmington Wetland Project. The grant, which totals $2,999,972, is the largest of 35 grants awarded nationwide through the National Coastal Resilience Fund.
The Mayor today thanked Delaware’s Congressional Delegation—Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester—for their support in securing the grant. “Lisa, Chris, and Tom are fighting for us in Washington every day on a number of fronts, and on this one in particular they pushed especially hard because we’ve applied for federal grant funding a few times in the past and had not succeeded until now.”
The purpose of the wetland park, scheduled to begin construction in spring of 2019, is to create a stormwater management facility that will reduce flooding in Southbridge, and create a new open space for the community. The project will restore 14 acres of degraded wetland to a high-functioning freshwater tidal wetland habitat in South Wilmington with a trail system. The project will enhance coastal resiliency, improve soil and water quality, and restore habitat for a variety of fish and wetland and aquatic wildlife.
The Mayor also thanked Wilmington’s Economic Development Director Jeff Flynn and Project Manager Leah Kacanda for their hard work and persistence in guiding this important project. “This project and certainly this supporting grant are a big deal for Wilmington,” said the Mayor, “especially for the residents of the Southbridge community. To receive this award – the largest in the country – is a testament to a whole series of efforts on the part of City and Federal officials, and local citizens and organizations.”
“The Southbridge neighborhood in Wilmington has dealt with terrible, consistent flooding after rainstorms for far too long, so I’m thrilled that after years of hard work, we were able to secure $3 million in federal funding to finally fix this issue for the long term,” said Delaware U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This is a great example of community leaders and government officials from the state, local, and federal levels all working together to make a real difference for a community in need.”
“This federal grant will go a long way toward alleviating some of the man-made effects that the environment in the Southbridge community is facing, including flooding,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate. “I toured this area not too long ago to see first-hand how this grant will transform the community – not just by fixing the flooding problems – but by also restoring the natural habitat and providing a safe place for residents and visitors to walk, run and take in the beauty of our coastal areas.”
“For too long, Southbridge neighborhood residents in Wilmington have endured chronic flooding – damaging homes, businesses, and infrastructure,” said Delaware U.S. Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. “I am proud of the state, local, and federal partners who helped bring people together to get this much-needed grant secured. I am optimistic that the wetland project will help promote economic growth and environmental justice, protect home and business owners, and provide an open and accessible community space for Southbridge residents.”
Mayor Purzycki said he is also most appreciative of the support from Wilmington City Council for this project and in particular District Council Member Michelle Harlee, City Council President Hanifa Shabazz and Council Member At-Large Rysheema Dixon.
Economic Development Director Flynn said the City is appreciative of the support the grant application received from its South Wilmington Wetland Project partners which include Marie Reed, President, and all Members of the Southbridge Civic Association, Brandywine Conservancy, Christina Conservancy, Delaware Nature Society, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Riverfront Development Corporation, South Wilmington Planning Network, The Nature Conservancy, and the University of Delaware Water Resources Center. Flynn said the application was jointly authored by the City’s Economic Development Office and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Fish & Wildlife.
“This grant not only places the South Wilmington Wetlands Park and the City itself in its rightful place on a national stage,” says Richie Jones, Delaware State Director of The Nature Conservancy, the world’s leading conservation organization, “it also tackles some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing post-industrial American cities – buffering the impacts of climate change, reducing urban stormwater runoff and realizing the ecological, economic and social benefits that nature brings to people.”
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and their partners are distributing $28.9 million in new grants throughout the United States. The funding will assist with the restoration or expansion of natural features such as coastal marshes and wetlands, dune and beach systems, oyster and coral reefs, mangroves, forests, coastal rivers, and barrier islands that help minimize the impacts of storms, rising sea levels and other extreme events on nearby communities and infrastructure. NFWF, in partnership with NOAA, launched the National Coastal Resilience Fund (NCRF) in May 2018 with the goal of restoring and enhancing natural resource infrastructure to reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities to storms, floods, and other detrimental natural events.