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Tybee Island Storm Risk Management Act heads to Biden

Neal Estroff and a friend board up his house on Tuesday in Tybee Island, Georgia, in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian.
Bobby Allyn
FILE - Neal Estroff and a friend board up his house on Tuesday in Tybee Island, Georgia, in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian.

Federal legislation that extends funding for beach renourishment projects and other protective resources for a Georgia barrier island is headed to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature.

Recent passage of the Tybee Island Storm Risk Management Act was a key legislative priority this year for local, state and federal officials, The Savannah Morning News reported.

Official passage of the act means Tybee Island gains authorization to continue implementing coastal storm risk management projects for an additional 12 years, a key change to the original legislation which asked for an extension of 50 years. The current contract is set to expire in 2024.

Authorization of the act is the first step towards procuring funding for the projects.

Beach renourishment projects, which consist of pumping sand from an off-shore borrow site onto Tybee's shores, have helped reinforce the low-lying barrier island's coastline for decades. Since 1974, Tybee Island has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to periodically build up its receding shores that often fall victim to storms, hurricanes and other inclement weather.

Rising sea levels and increasing storm surge forecast even greater threats to the island community and its natural resources. Tide gauge data at Fort Pulaski shows that Tybee Island has experienced 10 inches (25 centimeters) of sea level rise since 1935. Data also indicates the sea has been rising at a rate of 3 millimeters a year for the last 75 years, which amounts to about a foot a century, the newspaper reported.

Renourishment projects, which will include reinforcing Tybee's sand dunes, typically cost between $10 million and $18 million. Federal dollars usually cover about 60% of the costs. A local match is required as well.

Renourishment, though a costly ongoing commitment, has made visible progress, according to officials, and Tybee continues to ramp up other efforts to increase funding. Local leaders say they are looking into ways to funnel more local dollars into the projects as well as they await the federal decision.

Tybee Island is a small coastal community about 18 miles (29 kilometers) east of Savannah.