Tangier Island Receives Funding for Critical Environmental Projects

small boat moored in the wetlands of tangier island, virginia.

$2.3 Million Grant to Protect Tangier’s Environment and Residents. (Credit: Canva Pro)

by | May 31, 2024

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The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has announced a significant financial boost for Tangier Island, a unique and vulnerable community in the Chesapeake Bay. A $2.3 million grant has been awarded to the Virginia Island to plan and implement crucial environmental protection and mitigation projects.

The primary focus of the funding is safeguarding Tangier’s sole petroleum storage facility, which is currently at high risk due to its exposure to flooding. Enhancing environmental controls around this facility is essential to prevent potential petroleum spills, which could devastate the local ecosystem. The continued safe operation of this storage facility is also critical to supporting the Island’s fishing fleet and other essential equipment.

Allocation of Resources

A portion of the grant will be allocated to purchasing the tank facility from its existing owner. The Town of Tangier plans to replace aging and deteriorating infrastructure with modern, double-walled tanks and updated infrastructure. These improvements, expected to be completed by the end of 2024, aim to significantly reduce the risk of spills or breaches that could contaminate the Chesapeake Bay waters.

In addition to the tank facility upgrades, the grant will fund the acquisition of essential equipment and spare parts for the Town’s wastewater treatment plant. This will ensure the plant operates efficiently and can handle the community’s needs without interruption. Moreover, part of the funding will be directed toward installing floodgates in areas around the island that are particularly susceptible to recurrent flooding.

Comments from Stakeholders

DEQ Director Mike Rolband emphasized the agency’s commitment to Tangier Island, stating, “When we learned about the significant threats to this unique community from an unprotected fuel facility and recurrent flooding, DEQ was ready and eager to help. We are pleased that DEQ was able to provide funding and technical support that Tangier Island and its residents so critically need.”

Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge expressed his gratitude for the support, saying, “On behalf of the residents of Tangier Island, many thanks to DEQ for its financial and project management support. DEQ’s assistance will allow us to move these important projects forward.”

Environmental Significance

Tangier Island, renowned for its rich cultural heritage and picturesque landscapes, is increasingly threatened by environmental challenges, primarily flooding and sea level rise. The grant from DEQ is a crucial step in mitigating these threats and preserving the island’s ecosystem and residents’ livelihoods.

Replacing the old petroleum storage tanks with new double-walled ones represents a significant environmental safeguard. Double-walled tanks are designed to provide an extra layer of protection against leaks, significantly reducing the risk of spills that could contaminate the surrounding waters. This is particularly important for Tangier Island, where the fishing industry is vital in the local economy and community life.

Enhancing the wastewater treatment plant is another critical measure. Reliable wastewater management ensures that the island’s water resources remain unpolluted, supporting human health and the environment. Properly functioning wastewater systems are essential in preventing contamination and protecting the delicate balance of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Installing floodgates will help manage and mitigate the impact of recurrent flooding, which threatens the island’s infrastructure and homes. Floodgates can effectively control water flow during high tides and storms, reducing the risk of damage and maintaining the integrity of critical services and infrastructure.

Future Implications

This substantial investment by the DEQ underscores the importance of proactive environmental management and community resilience. By addressing these immediate threats, the grant-funded projects will help secure Tangier Island’s future in the face of climate change and environmental pressures.

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