wetlands.pngFrom the Lower Mississippi River Delta to the North Carolina coast, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will undertake 183 construction projects focused on energy efficiency, habitat restoration and facility improvements at national wildlife refuges across the agency’s Southeast Region, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced yesterday.

The projects, totaling $56.5 million, will create jobs while conserving fish and wildlife resources and treasured landscapes for future generations. 

Work will begin in the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge and the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, on two new visitor centers that will include office space for Service employees, eliminating thousands of dollars in annual rental payments. 

Funding for these projects and hundreds more across the nation comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  Of the $3 billion appropriated to the Department of the Interior, the Act provides $280 million to the FWS – which includes $115 million for construction, repair and energy efficiency retrofit projects at Service facilities, and $165 million for habitat restoration, deferred maintenance and capital improvement projects.

The investment will immediately create local jobs in the communities, says Salazar. “These projects will help get our country moving again, while preserving important historic sites and crucial wildlife habitat.”

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rice and the Virgin Islands will all benefit.

$2 million will fund the largest floodplain reconnection project ever in the Mississippi River Basin. 16 miles of levee will be breached at the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, reconnecting roughly 16,000 acres of floodplain to the Ouachita River to restore vital habitat for migratory birds, aquatic species, and other wildlife.

“These projects will strengthen our conservation work, enhance the experience of visitors at our national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, improve energy efficiency, and save money in the future by eliminating thousands of dollars in rental payments for office space

“These projects will help us improve the experience of hunters, anglers, birders, and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts at wild places across the Southeast,” said Sam Hamilton, Regional Director in the Service’s Southeast Region.

All the projects announced represent long-standing priority needs identified by the Service through its capital planning process. The Service worked through a rigorous merit-based process to identify and prioritize investments meeting the criteria put forth in the Recovery Act: namely, that a project addresses the Department’s highest priority mission needs; generates the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time; and creates lasting value for the American public. 

One of the priorities at Interior is making an investment in renewable energy projects, employing youth and promoting community service. 

For a full list of funded projects nationwide, go to the Department’s Recovery Web Site. Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department of the Interior’s economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on the recovery web site, which will include an interactive map that enables the public to track where and how the Department’s recovery dollars are being spent. In addition, the public can submit questions, comments or concerns at [email protected]  

Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force. Henderson and the Task Force will work closely with the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General to ensure the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency that President Obama has set.

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