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Three Years after Sandy: FEMA Funding for Recovery in New Jersey Exceeds $6.8 Billion

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 10/27/2015 - 08:35

EATONTOWN, NJ. -- In the three years since Hurricane Sandy scored a direct hit on New Jersey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been actively engaged in the recovery effort, providing $6.8 billion to date to help the state recover and rebuild.

This money has helped to restore critical facilities, clear debris, replace boardwalks along the Jersey Shore, rebuild public infrastructure, and reimburse municipalities throughout the state for the enormous costs of clearing debris and restoring public safety in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

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Categories: Federal News

Disaster Recovery Centers Open in Berkeley County to Help South Carolina Flood Survivors

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 17:22

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Two disaster recovery centers are open in Berkeley County to help South Carolina flood survivors. The centers, one in Goose Creek and the other in Huger, are open

8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

The new centers are located at 303 N. Goose Creek Blvd. in Goose Creek and at the Berkeley County Emergency Medical Services No. 7 at 1501 Recreation Road in Huger.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Special deer hunting day for youth and disabled hunters set for Nov 7

DNREC News - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 15:13
DOVER (Oct. 26, 2015) – To promote and provide additional hunting opportunities, DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife has designated Saturday, Nov. 7 as a special deer hunting day for youth hunters ages 10 through 15 and non-ambulatory disabled hunters on both public and private lands statewide.

Ancient Permafrost Quickly Transforms to Carbon Dioxide upon Thaw

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 15:00
Summary: Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and key academic partners have quantified how rapidly ancient permafrost decomposes upon thawing and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process.&nbsp

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Kim Wickland ( Phone: 303-541-3072 );



General view of a 35-meter-high riverbank exposure of the ice-rich syngenetic permafrost (yedoma) containing large ice wedges along the Itkillik River in northern Alaska. Copyright-free photo courtesy Mikhail Kanevskiy; University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Northern Engineering; 8/13/2011. (High resolution image)

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and key academic partners have quantified how rapidly ancient permafrost decomposes upon thawing and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process. 

Huge stores of organic carbon in permafrost soils ­­— frozen for hundreds to tens of thousands of years across high northern latitudes worldwide — are currently isolated from the modern day carbon cycle. However, if thawed by changing climate conditions, wildfire, or other disturbances, this massive carbon reservoir could decompose and be emitted as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, or be carried as dissolved organic carbon to streams and rivers. 

"Many scientists worldwide are now investigating the complicated potential end results of thawing permafrost," said Rob Striegl, USGS scientist and study co-author. "There are critical questions to consider, such as: How much of the stored permafrost carbon might thaw in a future climate? Where will it go? And, what are the consequences for our climate and our aquatic ecosystems?"

At a newly excavated tunnel operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers near Fairbanks, Alaska, a research team from USGS, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Florida State University set out to determine how rapidly the dissolved organic carbon from ancient (about 35,000 years old) “yedoma” soils decomposes upon soil thaw and how much carbon dioxide is produced. 

Yedoma is a distinct type of permafrost soil found across Alaska and Siberia that accounts for a significant portion of the permafrost soil carbon pool. These soils were deposited as wind-blown silts in the late Pleistocene age and froze soon after they were formed. 

"It had previously been assumed that permafrost soil carbon this old was already degraded and not susceptible to rapid decomposition upon thaw," said Kim Wickland, the USGS scientist who led the team. 

The researchers found that more than half of the dissolved organic carbon in yedoma permafrost was decomposed within one week after thawing. About 50% of that carbon was converted to carbon dioxide, while the rest likely became microbial biomass. 

Map of the northern circumpolar permafrost zone, highlighting the extent of the yedoma permafrost region (indicated in yellow and red). Map image and copyright permission courtesy of Macmillan Publishers Ltd, from NATURE, Schuur et al., 2015, Climate change and the permafrost carbon feedback, doi:10.1038/nature14338, copyright 2015. (High resolution image)

"What this study adds is that we show what makes permafrost so biodegradable," said Travis Drake, the lead author of the research. "Immediately upon thaw, microbes start using the carbon and then it is sent back into the atmosphere." Drake was both a USGS employee and a master’s degree student at the University of Colorado during the investigation. 

The researchers attribute this rapid decomposition to high concentrations of low molecular weight organic acids in the dissolved organic carbon, which are known to be easily degradable and are not usually present at high concentrations in other soils. 

These rates are among the fastest permafrost decomposition rates that have been documented. It is the first study to link rapid microbial consumption of ancient permafrost soil-derived dissolved organic carbon to the production of carbon dioxide.

An important implication of the study for aquatic ecosystems is that dissolved organic carbon released by thawing yedoma permafrost will be quickly converted to carbon dioxide and emitted to the atmosphere from soils or small streams before it can be transported to major rivers or coastal regions. 

This research was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs provided essential support for the investigation. 

Uncovering the Mighty Mississippi's Natural Potential for Nitrogen Removal

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 14:52
Summary: Working throughout the Mississippi River basin, USGS scientists and collaborators from the University of Texas at Austin have established the river’s own potential to decrease its load of nitrate and identified how certain basic river management practices could increase that potential. 

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Jud Harvey ( Phone: 571-420-7616 );



Working throughout the Mississippi River basin, USGS scientists and collaborators from the University of Texas at Austin have established the river’s own potential to decrease its load of nitrate and identified how certain basic river management practices could increase that potential. 

"Increasing nitrogen concentrations, mostly due to the runoff of agricultural fertilizers, in the world's major rivers have led to over-fertilization of waters downstream, diminishing their commercial and recreational values,” said William Werkheiser, USGS associate director for water. “Understanding the natural potential of rivers themselves to remove nitrogen from the water, and boosting that potential, is a promising avenue to help mitigate the problem." 

Beneath all streams and rivers is a shallow layer of sediment that is permeated by water exchange across the sediment surface. This thin region in the sediment beneath and to the side of the stream is referred to by scientists as the "hyporheic" zone, from Greek words meaning "under the flow." 

"We’ve found in previous studies,” said Jesus Gomez-Velez, lead author of the study, “that the flow of stream water through this thin zone of sediment enhances chemical reactions by microbes that perform denitrification, a reaction that removes nitrogen from the aquatic system by converting it to nitrogen gas.” A USGS post-doctoral scientist at the time of the study, Gomez-Velez is now an assistant professor at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. 

The research team determined that, throughout the Mississippi River network, vertical hyporheic exchange (with sediments directly beneath streams and rivers) has denitrification potential that far exceeds lateral hyporheic exchange with bank sediments.

"Rivers with more vertical exchange are more efficient at denitrification, as long as the contact time with sediment is matched with a reaction time of several hours," observed co-author Jud Harvey, the USGS team leader for the study.  

The study findings suggest that managing rivers to help avoid the sealing of streambeds with fine sediments, which decreases hyporheic flow, would help exploit the valuable natural capability of rivers to improve their own water quality.  Other river management and restoration practices that protect permeable river bedforms could also boost efficiency, such as reducing fine sediment runoff to rivers. 

However, typical river channel restoration strategies that realign channels to increase meandering would not be as effective, because a comparatively small amount of water and river nitrate are processed through river banks compared with river beds.  Although not yet tested in the model, allowing natural flooding over river banks onto floodplains may also be an effective means of processing large amounts of river water to remove nitrogen before it reaches sensitive coastal waters. 

Conducted by USGS and partners from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and the University of Texas at Austin, the research investigation was recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience

The river corridor includes surface and subsurface sediments beneath and outside the wetted channel. Greater interaction between river water and sediment enhances important chemical reactions, such as denitrification, that improve downstream water quality. (high resolution image) Stream and river water make many excursions through hyporheic flow paths. The metrics in the diagram key denote the number of excursions that water makes through hyporheic flow paths per kilometer of river distance. Vertical exchange though streambed hyporheic flow paths is much more efficient compared with exchange through lateral (stream bank) hyporheic flow paths. Also, hyporheic exchange is less efficient in the Upper Mississippi River sub-basin compared with the Missouri or Ohio sub-basins. The primary reasons for different hyporheic flow efficiencies are differences in river basin slope and sediment textures that permit greater hyporheic flow in some areas compared to others. (high resolution image)

Bridging a Link to History at Liberty State Park

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:30

Eatontown, N.J. -- When it comes to destruction, disasters like Superstorm Sandy don’t discriminate:  historic structures and environmentally sensitive areas that lie in the path of a storm are in just as much peril as less significant sites.

But when a historic structure or ecologically fragile area is damaged in a disaster, particular care must be taken to ensure that any repair or remediation that must take place is done in accordance with historic and environmental regulations.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Restoration Handbook for Sagebrush Steppe Ecosystems, Part 1 - Understanding and Applying Restoration

USGS Newsroom Technical - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:30
Summary: Heightened interest in advancing sage-grouse conservation has increased the importance of sagebrush-steppe restoration to recover or create wildlife habitat conditions that meet the species’ needs.

Contact Information:

Susan Kemp ( Phone: 541-750-1047 ); Paul Laustsen ( Phone: 650-329-4046 );



Mountain big sagebrush - or Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana - is a sub-species of big sagebrush that is found in primarily at higher elevation and colder, drier sites between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascades and Sierra Nevada. (High resolution image)

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Heightened interest in advancing sage-grouse conservation has increased the importance of sagebrush-steppe restoration to recover or create wildlife habitat conditions that meet the species’ needs.  Today, the U.S. Geological Survey published part one of a three-part handbook addressing restoration of sagebrush ecosystems from the landscape to the site level.                                                                                         

"Land managers face many challenges in restoring sagebrush-steppe landscapes to meet multiple management objectives," said David Pyke, USGS ecologist and lead author of the new USGS Circular. "Many wildlife species require multiple types of habitat spread over many scales – landscape to local site level. Managers are challenged to know where, when and how to implement restoration projects so they are effective across all these scales."

The new handbook describes a sagebrush-steppe habitat restoration framework that incorporates landscape ecology principles and information on resistance of sagebrush-steppe to invasive plants and resilience to disturbance. This section of the handbook introduces habitat managers and restoration practitioners to basic concepts about sagebrush ecosystems, landscape ecology and restoration ecology, with emphasis on greater sage-grouse habitats.

Six specific concepts covered are:

  • similarities and differences among sagebrush plant communities,
  • plant community resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasive plants based on soil temperature and moisture regimes,
  • soils and the ecology critical for plant species used for restoration,
  • changes that can be made to current management practices or re-vegetation efforts in support of general restoration actions,
  • landscape restoration with an emphasis on restoration to benefit sage-grouse and
  • monitoring effectiveness of restoration actions in support of adaptive management.

"Restoration of an ecosystem is a daunting task that appears insurmountable at first," said Pyke. "But as with any large undertaking, the key is breaking down the process into the essential components to successfully meet objectives. Within the sagebrush steppe ecosystem, restoration is likely to be most successful with a better understanding of how to prioritize landscapes for effective restoration and to apply principles of ecosystem resilience and resistance in restoration decisions."

Pyke noted that the blending of ecosystem realities – such as soil, temperature and moisture – with species-specific needs provides an ecologically based framework for strategically focusing restoration measures to support species of conservation concern over the short and long term.

Part one of the handbook sets the stage for two decision support tools. Part two of the handbook will provide restoration guidance at a landscape level, and part three, restoration guidance at the site level.

The handbook was funded by the U.S. Joint Fire Science Program and National Interagency Fire Center, Bureau of Land Management, Great Northern Landscape Conservation, USGS, and Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies with authors from the USGS, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.

Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America.  Implementation of effective management actions for the benefit of sage-grouse continues to be a focus of Department of the Interior agencies following the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the species is not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Disaster Recovery Centers Open in Georgetown County to Help South Carolina Flood Survivors

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 08:17

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Two disaster recovery centers are open in Georgetown County to help South Carolina flood survivors. The centers - one in Andrews and the other in Georgetown - are open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

The new centers are located at Potato Bed Ferry Community Center, 531 Big Dam Swamp Drive in Andrews and Beck Recreation Center at 2030 West Church St. in Georgetown.

They replace the center that closed on Friday at the Walmart parking lot at 1295 Frazier St. in Georgetown.

Language English
Categories: Federal News