GALLOWAY – Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge’s Wildlife Drive has reopened following roughly $3 million in repairs from damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Refuge officials say the repaired roadway will be more resilient to future storms, improve habitat for wildlife and enhance the visitor experience, according to a press release Tuesday, Feb. 14.

Hurricane Sandy pounded the refuge in October 2012. The Wildlife Drive in particular sustained significant damage, including heavy erosion, and severe damage to structures that allow regulation of water levels in the various pools.

Emergency repairs were made, but the larger issues required time, planning and money to implement.

A comprehensive inspection following Sandy highlighted key issues that needed to be addressed for successful long-term management of the drive.

For example, two areas vulnerable to erosion on the north and south sides known as Turtle Cove and Dogleg respectively needed reinforcement. Erosion potential was high and a failure in these places would compromise the integrity of multiple pools, the release states.

This work was one of the first tasks to be undertaken and was completed in summer 2016.

In addition, the interior dike in the West Pool, known as Long Dike, had been breached for some time, limiting the ability to create diverse foraging habitat for birds. Repairs to rebuild this dike began in September 2016 and were completed in December.

The water control structure on the East Dike was not big enough to manage the volume of water moving through. Eventually, this would lead to a failure and possible breaching of the drive at that location. So, during the past several weeks construction crews removed the old structure and built a new one in its place.

The final task was to resurface the Wildlife Drive to a uniform and more wear-resistant surface with recycled crushed concrete.

The projects were funded through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, which provided nearly $65 million in federal emergency funding for repairs at national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries along the Atlantic Coast damaged during the 2012 hurricane. The work has meant regular and often inopportune closures of Wildlife Drive.

To celebrate the Wildlife Drive’s grand reopening, entrance fees have been waived until April 1.