Hurricane Sandy Marine Debris

During the 2012 hurricane season, Sandy inflicted severe damage to communities and coastal resources over large areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states, leaving a swath of destruction and large amounts of debris in the waters and marshes of affected states. This debris poses hazards to navigation, commercial fishing grounds, and sensitive ecosystems.

Sandy Marine Debris Response

NOAA is leading efforts with federal, state, and local partners to collect data, assess the debris, and reduce possible impacts to our natural resources and coastal communities. After the initial emergency response, the NOAA MDP pulled together state and local agencies in impacted states to determine needs, coordinate debris response activities, and begin initial assessments. The program worked with partners to develop a model showing areas where debris most likely accumulated and analyzed sonar and LiDAR survey data to find submerged debris.

Removal of debris takes great effort but is necessary to maintain navigation routes, ensure safe boating, swimming, and other recreational activities, and protect sensitive ecosystems. Much debris has been removed, but more remains.

Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013

In the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, Congress provided the program with $4.75 million to locate and potentially remove the marine debris Sandy generated. The program will continue activities in FY14 with a combination of aerial, underwater, and shoreline surveys necessary to assess the quantity and location of marine debris in the impacted coastal areas. These assessments allows NOAA to estimate the debris’ impacts to economies and ecosystems, identify priority items for removal, develop best removal practices, and support limited removal efforts.