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Shoring up Tangier
Tangier Island, protected

Date published: 11/23/2012

TANGIER ISLAND sits in the Chesapeake Bay, its back barely above sea level, studded by the homes and businesses of the sturdy folks who live there--folks who can now sleep a little easier, thanks to an agreement signed by Gov. McDonnell and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Tangier, regularly assailed by wind, rain, hurricanes, and floods, is losing ground. Erosion threatens islanders' homes, their way of life, and the cultural and historical significance of the 3-mile-long island. The 400 or so residents, most of whom make their living off the water, speak a form of 17th-century English common in the era of Capt. John Smith. Their culture, deeply rooted in the 19th-century Methodist evangelical movement, is far removed from mainstream America's. Its seafood industry is worth $3.4 million at dockside. A visit to Tangier is more than a step back in time--it's a journey to a different world.

But it's a world that increasingly needs protection from nature's fury. Mr. McDonnell and the Corps have agreed to fund a seawall and a jetty for that purpose. The cost, $4.2 million, will be shared by the state and the federal government. Completion date for the project is 2017. After that, when storms roar up the bay, they'll not find it so easy to tear up little Tangier.