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U.S. offers $162 million for Sandy-struck Atlantic Coast

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Five days before the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy's strike on the U.S. Northeast, the Interior Department announced $162 million in funding for research and restoration projects to help protect the Atlantic Coast from future storms.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the aid on Thursday at New Jersey's Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, whose 47,000 acres of wetlands absorbed much of Sandy's energy and storm surge, and protected some communities in the storm's path.

A list of the 45 projects covered by the funding, in states from Maine to North Carolina, can be seen online at http://link.reuters.com/zuj24v.

The massive storm caused more than $60 billion in damage after making landfall on October 29, 2012. At the refuge, Sandy destroyed roadways and dumped boats, fuel oil tanks, chemical drums and other debris across 22 miles, the Interior Department said.

At the same time, the buffer provided by the refuge's marshes, beaches and forests protected the refuge visitor center, headquarters and surrounding communities from severe flood damage.

The newly announced aid includes $113 million for 25 projects to restore coastal marshes, wetlands and shoreline, and other efforts to protect nearby areas from future storms. A total of $15 million will go to restore and enhance salt marshes, which is aimed at protecting communities along 60 miles of New Jersey coast.

The Interior Department in May released $480 million in emergency funding for more than 200 Sandy-related response and recovery efforts.

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Ros Krasny and Steve Orlofsky)

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