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/.

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


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.


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

DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship to co-host EcoPaddle Saturday, June 22 in Laurel

BLADES – DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship, in conjunction with the Reclaim Our River (ROR) Nanticoke team, invites the public to participate in the EcoPaddle on Broad Creek. The EcoPaddle will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, June 22 at Roger C. Fisher Park, West 6th Street, Laurel, DE 19956. Rain date is Sunday, June 23.

Broad Creek is one of the Nanticoke River’s larger tributaries and boasts a rich natural and cultural history. During the guided morning paddle along a portion of the tidal creek, EcoPaddle participants will discover the flora, fauna, and history of the area and its inhabitants. Afterwards, paddlers can enjoy lunch and learn more about the ROR partnership, and what is being done by the partnership, including the Division of Watershed Stewardship, to improve water quality in the Nanticoke Watershed.

Participants must be at least 8 years of age and all participants under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Participants are encouraged to bring their own kayak or canoe. A limited number of kayaks and canoes are available for use on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Registration fees of $10 help cover the costs of lunch and equipment, including rental kayaks and canoes. Participants can request a refund and cancel their registration up to 72 hours before the paddle. Otherwise, fees are non-refundable. To register, click here.

For more information on the EcoPaddle, please email Beth Wasden at BethWasden@NanticokeRiver.org or call 443-944-1175.

This event is sponsored by the ROR Partnership, including DNREC, Delaware Nature Society, and Nanticoke Watershed Alliance.

The ROR-Nanticoke Series, a program designed to bring more water quality-oriented events, workshops, and recreational opportunities to the Nanticoke River watershed. The ROR program offers information on reducing nutrient and sediment pollution and improving water quality, promotes public access to waterways and provides recreational opportunities as a way to connect residents to their waterways and inspire them to make improvements. For more information on the ROR program, please visit de.gov/nps.

For more information on the Reclaim Our River Partnership, please call Philip Miller at 302-739-9922 or email Philip.Miller@delaware.gov.

Media Contact: Philip Miller, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship Conservation Programs Section, 302-739-9922, or Philip.Miller@delaware.gov

DNREC seeks public comment and input sought for Delaware’s Phase III Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan

DOVER – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is seeking public comment and input for the Delaware Draft Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), the long-range plan for reducing pollutants that enter the state’s waterways and drain into the Chesapeake Bay. Delaware is among six Chesapeake Bay Watershed jurisdictions – along with Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and the District of Columbia – that have committed to a federal-state initiative to develop and implement an overall plan that will help restore the water quality of the Bay and its tidal waters by 2025.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is leading the effort to reduce pollution and has developed a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that sets limits for major sources of nutrients and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal branches. A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive and still meet water quality standards that protect humans and aquatic life. As part of the TMDL, each jurisdiction is required to develop a WIP that details specific steps to be taken to reduce nutrient and sediment and actions to maintain water quality standards in the future.

Currently, Delaware’s rivers and streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay are burdened with pollution that depletes the health of these waterways and the Bay, and affects their productivity. Restoring water quality to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will have far-reaching benefits for Delaware’s economic and environmental health.

Delaware remains committed to making improvements necessary for restoring our Chesapeake Bay tributaries. We continue to search for innovative ways to manage our stormwater and to improve the quality of our waterways,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Protecting Delaware’s aquatic resources boosts our economy, provides recreational opportunities and improves overall quality of life for our citizens.”

There have been three phases of Delaware’s Chesapeake Bay WIP. Phase I and Phase II WIPs were developed and submitted to EPA in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Both the Phase I and Phase II WIPs describe actions and controls to be implemented by 2017 and 2025 to achieve applicable water quality standards. The Phase II WIP builds on the initial Phase I WIP by providing more specific local actions. Delaware met EPA requirements for both those WIP phases. The Phase III WIP has been developed based on a midpoint assessment of progress and scientific analyses. The Phase III WIP provides information on actions Delaware intends to implement between 2019 and 2025 to meet the Bay restoration goals. All three plans consider aspects of watershed management including ecological restoration, sustainability, conservation practices, stewardship, and training and outreach.

To develop Delaware‘s Draft Phase III WIP for the watershed’s future, a Phase II review and revision was led by an interagency workgroup made up of representatives from numerous stakeholder groups, including Delaware’s Department of Agriculture (DDA), Department of Transportation (DelDOT), the state’s Soil and Water Conservation districts, the University of Delaware and the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance. The draft plan identifies partners, program locations, actions, and the resources needed to reach milestones and meet implementation goals for 2025. The wide-ranging collaboration and cooperation that went into the plan continues with DNREC seeking additional public participation and input on the Draft Phase III WIP.

Public comments will be accepted from April 12 through DNREC close of business (4:30 p.m.), Friday, June 7, by time-stamped email to DNREC_DelawareCBWIP@delaware.gov, or by US Postal Service mail postmarked no later than June 7 to: Attn. Chesapeake WIP, DNREC Nonpoint Source Program, 100 Water Street, Suite 6B, Dover, DE 19904.

More information about the Phase III WIP can be found on the DNREC website. Download a draft of Delaware’s Draft Chesapeake Bay Phase III WIP. Provide comments and input, using an online form.