Idea for Tangier Island sea wall funding gets support from local officials

(Delmarvanow.com) -- An Accomack County official on Wednesday urged the county to support Tangier and its mayor, James "Ooker" Eskridge, in their efforts to save the island from erosion.

"Should we leave him and the other 700 residents of Tangier Island to fight this battle alone? I hope not," said Paul Muhly, Accomack County supervisor.

That battle most likely involves an effort to secure governmental funding for a sea wall and other protection measures.

"Let us resolve to support the people of Tangier to get their needed sea wall in any way we can. Save Tangier Island," Muhly said, ending his speech with a slogan that has become increasingly popular among island residents and supporters.

The Chesapeake Bay island — a Republican stronghold that lies within Accomack County's boundaries — received national attention when President Donald Trump picked up the telephone in June and made a call to Eskridge to thank him for his and the island's support. The community drew Trump's interest after a CNN story on the island's battle with erosion. 

During the call, Trump reportedly told the mayor not to worry about sea level rise.

Nearly 90 percent of Tangier voters voted for Trump last November.

Chairman Robert Crockett, who represents Tangier on the Accomack County Board of Supervisors, said the board has sent a letter, signed by himself, to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Congressional representatives "and several more, to support Tangier's bid for a sea wall and also to replenish with dredge spoil during future dredging projects."

Muhly in his comments — made during the Board of Supervisors' regular monthly meeting — referred to Eskridge's exchange with Al Gore during a CNN town hall on climate, change which aired earlier this month.


Eskridge was one of several audience members who had the opportunity to ask a question of Gore at the event.

He asked, "I'm not a scientist, but I'm a keen observer. If sea level rise is occurring, why am I not seeing signs of it?"

Eskridge attributed the rapid loss of land from the island to erosion due to storms and wave action, not to sea level rise.

Still, he spoke to Gore about the need for a sea wall to protect Tangier from further land loss.

"Unless we get a sea wall, we will lose our island," he said.

Muhly praised Eskridge's performance during the exchange.

"On CNN, he went toe-to-toe with the inventor of the internet and producer of science fiction films," Muhly said, in an apparent dig at Gore.

"Mayor James Eskridge's own keen observations of the Chesapeake Bay, gathered from a lifetime of work as a professional waterman, has convinced him that Tangier Island can be saved," Muhly said.

The authors of a 2015 study proposed a plan they said could significantly extend the island's lifespan: building a breakwater system offshore, together with a dune system that would catch wind-borne sediment along the shore between the breakwaters and the existing shoreline.

In addition, dredged material could be used to restore former island ridges that have become marshland, according to the plan.

The cost, however, is steep — an estimated $20 million to $30 million.

Tangier council member Anna E. Pruitt-Parks started an online fundraiser after Trump's call to the mayor, with the initial goal being to raise enough money to send a copy of a documentary about Tangier's land loss problems to every member of Congress.

After that modest goal was achieved, she boosted the goal to $1.5 million, with the new objective being "to help raise monies to fund jetty projects in the future, projects that are 'shovel ready' such as the breakwaters that have been proposed for the area to our north called 'Uppards.'"

As of Thursday, the fund stood at $5,370.

Delmarvanow.com


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