DNREC Brandywine Watershed Report Details Wetland Health and Management Recommendations

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has released a report and educational report card on the health of wetlands within Delaware’s portion of the Brandywine watershed, with wetlands earning a C+ grade with recommendations for improvement. Published by the DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program (WMAP), the report covers the Brandywine watershed, a combination of eight sub-watersheds. The Delaware part of the watershed resides in New Castle County, where it encompasses 72,969 acres (114 square miles) of land.

This northernmost watershed in Delaware is part of the Piedmont region and extends farther north into Pennsylvania. During the summer of 2019, environmental scientists from the DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship collected data on the plants, hydrology and wetland buffer disturbances from 68 random sites within the Brandywine watershed. Using wetland stressor checklists and biological metrics, they determined the wetlands in the watershed to be in moderate condition, falling in the lower end of Delaware watersheds previously rated by DNREC. The WMAP scientists found the most common stressors to the Brandywine were fill, structures interrupting waterflow, and invasive species, development, roads and mowing in the surrounding landscape. More details about DNREC wetland health assessments can be found at de.gov/watershedhealth.

The report found approximately 3% of the land area of the Brandywine watershed is currently covered by wetlands. WMAP performed freshwater assessments in 14 flat wetlands, 24 riverine wetlands, 11 depression wetlands, and 19 seep wetlands using the Delaware Rapid Assessment Procedure (DERAP) Version 6.0, a data collection method created by DNREC environmental scientists, which is now available for use by professionals and the public. No tidal wetlands were assessed because there were very few tidal wetlands in the watershed, and those that were present occurred only in a couple of small areas. The watershed also contained some Category One wetlands, which are rare, unique, freshwater wetland types in Delaware.

DNREC’s data was used to create a technical report and a more user-friendly “watershed report card.” The technical report summarizes not only the health of the Brandywine watershed’s wetlands, but also examined the change in wetland acreage in recent decades; what value the wetlands provide; and how recent changes in land use will impact wetlands in the future. The report card condenses general information on the watershed, summarizes environmental indicators of wetland health, and showcases what the general public can do to help the future of the Brandywine watershed’s wetlands.

Brandywine Watershed Map
Brandywine Watershed Map

Mapping analysis estimated that by 2017, 26% of historic wetland acreage in the watershed had been lost, mostly due to human impacts such as development. On-the-ground assessments were used rate the health and function of remaining wetlands. Impacts to wetland health reduce a wetland’s ability to perform fully, diminishing its valuable role in controlling flooding and erosion; improving water quality; storing excess rainwater; and providing ecosystem services for both people and wildlife. In this watershed, wetlands overall received a C+ grade. Forested flats and groundwater seep wetland types received a class grade of B-, while riverine and depressions both received C grades, based on impacts mostly to the buffer habitat surrounding wetlands.

Based on the results of this study, DNREC made recommendations targeting scientists, public decision makers and landowners toward improving and enhancing the future health of Delaware’s wetlands. These recommendations included maintaining adequate wetland buffers, restoration activities, increasing education and outreach, using best management practices, suggesting that landowners protect wetlands on their property, and improving the protection of the watershed’s non-tidal wetlands for the future.

The DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program, funded by the U.S. EPA’s Region 3 Wetland Program Development grants, prepares wetland health reports for Delaware watersheds. Those reports, including the report for the Brandywine watershed, are found at de.gov/watershedhealth.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship develops and implements innovative watershed assessment, monitoring and implementation activities. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Joanna Wilson, joanna.wilson@delaware.gov; Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov


DNREC to Hold Rain Barrel Workshop April 9 in Blades

To Be Eligible For a Free Rain Barrel, Participants Must Live in Any of 12 Specified Delaware Watersheds

In conjunction with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s month-long celebration of Earth Day, DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship will host a rain barrel-building workshop on Saturday, April 9, at the Nanticoke River Marina, 26 Market Street, Blades, DE 19973.

Eligibility to participate in the workshop and receive a free rain barrel at the event is dependent on living in any of the following Delaware watersheds:

  • Appoquinimink Watershed
  • Broadkill Watershed
  • Chester Watershed
  • Choptank Watershed
  • Chesapeake Bay Watershed/Basin (Anywhere within this basin)
  • Christina Watershed
  • Inland Bays Watershed
  • Little Assawoman Bay Watershed
  • Nanticoke Watershed
  • Pocomoke Watershed
  • St. Jones River Watershed
  • Wicomico Watershed

For potential participants to identify the watershed they live in, and confirm their eligibility to receive a free rain barrel from DNREC, visit DelawareWatersheds.org and follow the instructions for “Find Your Watershed.” Eligible Delawareans can then proceed to register for the workshop. The first 20 eligible participants to register for and attend the workshop will receive a free 55-gallon rain barrel system to be built during the workshop.

During the workshop, DNREC will provide free kits that convert plastic drums donated by Painted Stave Distilling of Smyrna into rain barrels. Workshop participants will be given an overview of rain barrels including their benefits, proper use, assembly, and maintenance. Among the benefits are rain barrels’ ability to store rainwater from rooftops that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams, thus helping improve the health of local waterways; and saving homeowners money on water use.

Staff from DNREC’s Nonpoint Source Program will lead the workshop. Participants may arrive at any time between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. for the workshop. The first 20 eligible participants to register for and attend the workshop will receive a free 55-gallon rain barrel system to be built during the workshop. Participants may bring family or friends to the workshop, but there is a limit of one rain barrel per eligible household.

Workshop participants can choose to construct their rain barrel with guidance or to be assisted by DNREC staff who will assemble the rain barrel for them. All supplies are provided, and the first 20 eligible Delawareans to register for and participate in the workshop will take home their free rain barrel.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship develops and implements innovative watershed assessment, monitoring and implementation activities. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov; Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov;

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DNREC Chester-Choptank Watershed Report Details Wetland Health and Management Recommendations

Chester-Choptank Wetland/DNREC photo

 

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has finalized a report card on the health of wetlands within the Delaware portion of the Chester-Choptank watershed, with the wetlands earning an encouraging B grade but with recommendations for improvement. Published by the DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program (WMAP), the report card covers the Chester-Choptank watershed, a combination of several watersheds, including Sassafras River, Elk River, Chester River, and Upper Choptank River. The Delaware part of the watershed resides in New Castle and Kent County, where it encompasses 113,944 acres (178 square miles) of land.

Of Delaware’s many watersheds, only the Chester-Choptank feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. During the summer of 2018, environmental scientists from the DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship collected data on the plants, hydrology and wetland buffer disturbances from 76 sites within the Delaware portion of the Chester-Choptank watershed. Using these condition assessment checklists and biological metrics, they assessed the wetlands in the watershed to be in fair condition, falling in the middle of Delaware watersheds previously rated by DNREC. The WMAP scientists found the most common stressors to the Chester-Choptank to be selective tree cutting and invasive plants; ditching for added drainage and microtopographic alterations; and channelized waterways and development.

The report found that approximately 35% of the land area of the Chester-Choptank watershed is currently covered by wetlands. WMAP performed freshwater assessments in 30 flat wetlands, 27 riverine wetlands, and 19 depression wetlands using the Delaware Rapid Assessment Procedure (DERAP) Version 6.0, a data collection method created by DNREC environmental scientists (and available for use by professionals and the public alike). No tidal wetlands were assessed because the watershed comprises a headwater region of the Chesapeake Bay, which means it is too far inland for the presence of tidal wetlands.

DNREC’s data was used to create a technical report and a more user-friendly “watershed report card” that summarized not only the health of the Chester-Choptank watershed’s wetlands, but also examined the change in wetland acreage in recent decades; what value the wetlands provide; and how recent changes in land use will impact wetlands in the future.

In assessing it, WMAP estimated that by 2007, 39% of historic wetland acreage in the watershed had been lost, mostly due to land conversion such as development. Impacts to wetland health reduce a wetland’s ability to perform fully, diminishing its valuable role in controlling flooding and erosion; improving water quality; storing excess rainwater; and providing ecosystem services for both people and wildlife.

Based on the results of this study, DNREC made recommendations targeting scientists, public decision makers and landowners toward improving and enhancing the future health of Delaware’s wetlands. These recommendations included maintaining adequate wetland buffers, restoration activities, increasing education and outreach, using best management practices, suggesting that landowners protect wetlands on their property, and improving the protection of the watershed’s non-tidal wetlands for the future.

The wetland reports by the DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program are funded by the U.S. EPA’s Region 3 Wetland Program Development. They are supported by the DNREC Nonpoint Source program, which shares data, best management practice (BMP) issues, and insight into the challenges within the Chesapeake Bay region. For more information about the Chester-Choptank watershed, please visit https://dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/watershed-stewardship/wetlands/assessments/chester-choptank/.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship develops and implements innovative watershed assessment, monitoring and implementation activities. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Joanna Wilson, joanna.wilson@delaware.gov; Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov

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Sen. Carper, Gov. Carney, Conservation Groups Hail Christina River Project and Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund

The Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington /DNREC photo

U.S. Senator Tom Carper and Delaware Governor John Carney joined conservation partners at the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington today to celebrate the Christiana and Brandywine River restoration and resiliency project funded by the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund. They celebrated another important step in the ongoing work to improve Wilmington’s riverfront area with clean, healthy rivers and attractive places for people and wildlife.

“I am pleased to be here today with so many good partners to support the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund’s investments in the protection and preservation of this ecological treasure,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Projects like this are critical for our efforts to tackle climate change and help ensure that all Delawareans can enjoy these precious resources for generations to come.”

For the future of federal infrastructure investments, the U.S. Senate recently approved the bipartisan infrastructure package. The bill includes $26 million of supplemental funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over five years. The funding supports on-the-ground restoration projects and new and existing jobs across the four-state watershed through the DRBRP. Projects will enhance fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality to support wildlife and drinking water for people, enhance water management for flood damage mitigation, and improve recreational opportunities for public access. Amidst the growing threats of sea level rise, a creeping salt line, frequent flooding, habitat loss, and polluted stormwater runoff, this investment is desperately needed.

“Millions of people in our region depend on the Delaware River Basin for clean drinking water, and the river remains vitally important for outdoor recreation and economic development for communities in Delaware and beyond,” said Governor John Carney. “All Delawareans deserve clean water. That’s why we’ve made it a priority to upgrade our infrastructure to make sure all Delaware families have access to clean drinking water. We will continue to work with local and federal partners and states in our region that rely on the Delaware River Watershed to properly manage this valuable resource.”

“DNREC has been working for years through the Christina-Brandywine River Remediation, Restoration, Resilience project – or CBR4 – toward a time when the Christina River and Brandywine Creek are once again drinkable, swimmable and fishable,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “We believe it is an achievable goal and are building on decades of work to create a holistic, inspiring vision and plan to direct remediation, restoration and resilience actions for the next 10 to 20 years.”

“The Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund has been invaluable to Delaware, and the watershed as a whole by investing in projects that improve drinking water quality, provide public access to outdoor recreation, and restore and conserve natural habitats, ” said Jen Adkins, Director of Clean Water Supply at American Rivers and a member of the Christina Conservancy Board of Directors. “To date, the Fund has supported 21 projects benefiting the First State, totaling $4.3 million with natural and economic benefits. We’re excited for our project on the lower Christina and Brandywine Rivers here in Wilmington to be among them.”

American Rivers collaborated with the Christina Conservancy to receive a Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund award to work closely with DNREC and other local partners on a Christina and Brandywine Rivers Remediation, Restoration and Resilience plan. This plan will create a blueprint with specific restoration projects for completing the transformation of the lower Christina and Brandywine Rivers in Wilmington into healthy river ecosystems. Additional partners on the project include Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Sarver Ecological, BrightFields, Inc, and Anchor QEA, who are providing scientific and technical expertise, as well as the Delaware Nature Society who is working with local groups like the South Wilmington Planning Network and Collaborate Northeast to seek input from local residents.

Green jobs and workforce development are a focus of Delaware Nature Society whose Trail Ambassadors offered Senator Carper and Governor Carney a tour of the Boardwalk Marsh. Programs such as the Trail Ambassadors not only connect youth closer to the environment but serve as a steppingstone to the proposed Civilian Climate Corps.

“President Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps will put thousands of young people from all backgrounds to work making our communities more resilient, protecting our clean water, addressing environmental injustices, and restoring wildlife habitat — through essential projects like those supported through the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “A 21st century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps will accomplish these critical conservation goals, while equitably empowering the next generation of conservation leaders to strengthen communities across America by restoring treasured natural resources.”

Joanne McGeoch, Delaware Nature Society Interim Executive Director said: “We are grateful to the many partners involved in raising awareness and protection of the Delaware River Watershed. This vital resource provides clean water for millions of people in the region, supports green jobs and our local economy. Delaware Nature Society believes that investments in our youth are equally vital to ensuring our future. To that end, we’ve launched the Trail Ambassador program, engaging local youth from Wilmington in training the next generation of conservation leaders. Along with our partners at National Wildlife Federation, we support the Biden administration’s proposal for the Civilian Conservation Corps and look forward to working together to ensure that conservation jobs are part of the recovery efforts needed to protect our environment, tackle climate change, and boost our economy.”

The Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund was launched in 2018 to conserve and restore natural areas, corridors and waterways on public and private lands that support native fish, wildlife and plants, and to contribute to the vitality of the communities in the Delaware River Watershed. The fund is facilitated by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and funding is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program.

In total, 90 projects have been funded in the last three years that will improve 6,783 acres of forest habitat, treat polluted runoff using agricultural conservation practices on more than 4,596 acres, restore 141 acres of wetland habitat, and improve 3.5 miles of instream habitat in critical headwaters in the Delaware River Basin. View the full 2020 grant slate online at http://bit.ly/dwcf2020.

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DNREC now accepting grant proposals for Delaware Chesapeake Bay watershed implementation projects

DOVER (Sept. 17, 2019) – DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship is now accepting project proposals from state agencies, county and municipal governments, conservation districts, community organizations, homeowner organizations and not-for-profit organizations representing local government for water quality improvement projects within Delaware’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Proposals for the Chesapeake Bay Implementation Funding Grant must be received by DNREC no later than 3:30 p.m. Oct. 30, 2019.

The Implementation Funding Grant within Delaware’s Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is intended for use by Delaware entities within the Chesapeake Bay watershed for best management practice implementation projects that will improve water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment loads. The competitive grant process is administered by Delaware’s Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant Program, which provides technical and financial guidance during the grant application and project period.

Grant requests of up to $200,000 (from $350,000 in total funding for fiscal year 2020) will be considered, with a one-to-one non-federal match requirement. Up to 10 percent of the grant funds may be used for administrative costs.

The grant guidelines and application instructions can be found online at Chesapeake Bay Implementation Funding Grant webpage. Proposals must be submitted by email to James.Sullivan@delaware.gov and must be no larger than 10 megabytes (MB) in size.

For more information, please contact Jim Sullivan, Division of Watershed Stewardship, at 302-739-9922.

Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 49, No. 236