Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge road project cut from federal budget

May 16, 2013

Large, gray tree limbs lie on the side of Deephole Point Road on the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Prince William County. Occasionally, the road dips and the thin dust and gravel pathway gives way to grass.

After a storm, those large tree limbs and other debris cut off parts of the key road for bird enthusiasts and other nature lovers who walk it, officials said. The road was recently slated for a $1.8 million upgrade after the Potomac River washed over it during Hurricane Sandy — leading to an extensive clean-up effort. The federal project, paid for with funds from the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, would have improved drainage to culverts that pass underneath Deephole Point. It also would have raised the road in areas to help prevent flooding.

But the project funding has been eliminated due to across-the-board federal budget reductions known as sequestration, officials said.

A $100,000 project at Prince William Forest Park to remove storm damaged trees and debris was spared, however.

A Department of Interior list of projects that was cited last week by Rep. Gerald D. Connolly (D-Va.) mistakenly included the Deephole Point work, said Terri Edwards, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“There were other projects that took priority,” Edwards said of the Occoquan cut.

Amanda Daisey, the acting refuge manager, said that the road causes persistent issues for the staff of six that manages Occoquan and two other area refuges. “Who wouldn’t be disappointed?” Daisey said of the cut. “But I understand it had to be done.” The road’s condition is “no threat to health, safety or species,” she said.

Connolly said through spokesman George Burke that the budget cut is an example of how agencies are dealing with sequestration.

“This is one more example of how sequestration is directly impacting our region,” Connolly said in a statement. “There remains a great deal of uncertainty ... sometimes [agencies] having to make last-minute cuts, as with the case of the Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge.”

Funding for projects at Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex in New York and Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina were also reduced.

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