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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Delaware Celebrates Lewes Canal Living Shoreline Project

A crew of 13 installed the living shoreline on the Lewes Canal in just one day in June. DNREC photo.

 

A living shoreline project developed by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary to help Lewes, Delaware with shoreline stabilization was completed in partnership with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee.

The Lewes Canal project was a joint effort to add a 180-foot feature adjacent to an already existing living shoreline constructed in 2014 behind the Lewes Little League ball field. A method of shoreline stabilization and protection for wetlands, living shorelines absorb storm energy and protect property while reducing the potential for shoreline erosion issues. They also filter pollutants to improve water quality, a notable benefit as Delaware recognizes National Water Quality Month in August.

“Living shorelines are an innovative and environmentally friendly alternative that uses natural materials such as oyster shells,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “This project is a good example of the benefits living shorelines provide: pollutant filtering to improve water quality; habitat for animals, fish and birds; and protection from erosion and of infrastructure; as well as aesthetics for property owners.”

The new portion was constructed using natural materials: a small amount of coconut fiber coir logs and 1,300 recycled oyster shell bags. A crew of 12 configured the oyster shell bags in long, wavy pyramid formations along the intertidal zone to reduce wave energy and allow wetland habitat restoration. The design includes breaks in the structure to allow tidal exchange, fish and fauna passage, and runoff outflow. This project will be monitored through a collaborative effort for several years to document increase of wetland size and populations of ribbed mussels and oysters.

“From fisheries and water quality to flood protection, the ecological health and resilience of the Delaware Estuary depends on our historically abundant coastal marshes, but sadly we are losing about an acre per day,” said Kathy Klein, executive director at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, which launched the Delaware Estuary Living Shoreline Initiative in 2008. “Thanks to its science-based design and monitoring, this project showcases how innovative, nature-based tactics can help stem these wetland losses.”

The project is a launching point for developing more partnerships and solutions to coastal restoration, as well as promoting green infrastructure efforts of the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee, a working group dedicated to facilitating the understanding, peer review and implementation of living shoreline tactics within the state. DNREC’s participation is represented by the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program.

Supporters of the project include the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Delaware Bay Estuary Project, who provided funding through a small grant, and continued support from the Environmental Protection Agency. Property access and shoreline coordination provided by Lewes Historical Society and the Overfalls Foundation.

For more information, visit Delaware Living Shorelines at delawarelivingshorelines.org.

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


Jan. 22 deadline approaching to register for 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference

DOVER – Registration for the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference closes Wednesday, Jan. 22, so those who have not yet registered are encouraged to do so now, while spots are still available. Organized by DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship with support from the Division of Climate, Coastal & Energy, the conference will be held Wednesday, Jan. 29 and Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington. Online registration and information about the event can be found at http://de.gov/dewetlandsconference.

DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program and the Delaware Coastal Training Program have planned a two-day event that showcases the importance of wetlands in Delaware and across the Mid-Atlantic Region. Each day of the conference includes invited speakers, poster sessions, networking time, lunches, and a total of 54 oral and 50 poster presentations. The presentations cover wetland topics related to coastal resilience, soils, beneficial use, monitoring and assessment, remediation, restoration, wildlife, policy/legal aspects, green technology, mitigation, and hydrodynamics.

More than 350 wetland experts and enthusiasts from the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond are expected to gather at the biennial conference to share the latest innovations in wetland research, outreach and conservation programs. The conference brings together scientists, planners, community leaders, educators, and natural resource managers, as well as representatives from county, state and federal government. They will discuss current research on tidal and non-tidal wetlands, the value of the region’s wetlands, and the impact their management has on the community.

Featured speakers include special guest DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin to open the conference, Alison Rogerson from DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program, who will address mapping Delaware’s 2017 wetlands and the changes that occurred over a decade, and Derek Brockbank, Executive Director of the American Shoreline and Beach Preservation Association, who will address coastal sediment dynamics.

For more information on the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference, including the agenda, please visit Delaware Wetlands Conference, or contact Brittany Haywood at Brittany.Haywood@delaware.gov, or 302-739-9939.

Media contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.

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DNREC announces the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference

DOVER – The 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference will be held Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 29-30, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship announced today. For information, participants and presenters can visit de.gov/dewetlandsconference.

Dates and deadlines to remember for the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference are:
• Registration for conference participants opens Wednesday, Nov. 13.
• The deadline to submit abstracts for oral presentations is Wednesday, Oct. 30.
• Poster presentations will be accepted through Monday, Dec. 20.
• The deadline for entries in a new photo and art contest is Friday, Nov. 1. Artists of all ages are encouraged to submit their best work highlighting a wetland plant, animal, or scene. The winning work will be featured on the cover of the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference program.

DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment and Coastal Training programs have put together a full two-day event that focuses on the importance of wetlands across the Mid-Atlantic region. More than 350 wetland experts and enthusiasts from the area are expected to gather at the biennial conference to share the latest innovations in wetland research, outreach, and conservation programs.

The conference brings together scientists, planners, county and federal representatives, community leaders, educators, natural resource managers, and students to discuss current research on tidal and non-tidal wetlands, the value of the region’s wetlands, and the impact their management has on the community.

Wetlands play a vital role in our everyday lives, protecting our communities from flooding and erosion and boosting our economy through the tourism, outdoor recreation, and seafood industries. This conference fosters an atmosphere that supports the exploration and dissemination of wetlands science. Although wetlands are the primary focus of this learning and networking event, related topics also will include streams, habitat, and wildlife.

For more information on the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference, including sponsorships, please visit the website, or contact Brittany Haywood at Brittany.Haywood@delaware.gov, or call 302-739-9939.

Media contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

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DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife announces updated 2019/2020 state wildlife area maps

DOVER – Hunters and other wildlife area users are reminded that state wildlife area maps with updated regulations and access information for each wildlife area are available for the 2019/2020 hunting season, DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife announced today. The maps depict area boundaries, parking areas, deer stand and waterfowl blind locations, trails, wildlife-viewing facilities, and other helpful information.

Several new wildlife area properties are open for public access, particularly on the Eagles Nest, Cedar Swamp, and Tappahanna wildlife areas.

The maps and area-specific regulations are available online at Delaware Wildlife Area Maps. Paper copies of the maps are available at DNREC’s Dover licensing desk in the Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901. Licensing desk customers may take up to five printed maps of individual wildlife areas free of charge. A complete set of statewide maps costs $5 to purchase at the licensing desk, or $6 by mail.

Registered motor vehicles used to access designated wildlife areas owned or managed by the Division of Fish & Wildlife are required to display a Conservation Access Pass (CAP). Hunters can opt to receive one free annual CAP with the purchase of any Delaware hunting license. To obtain a CAP, hunters will need the registration card for the vehicle to which the pass will be assigned. Additional information is available at Conservation Access Pass.

Information on 2019/2020 hunting and trapping seasons, bag limits, and other helpful information is available at 2019-2020 Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide. Hard copy guides are available from DNREC’s licensing desk and from license agents throughout the state.

For more information, please call the DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912.

Follow DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife on Facebook, www.facebook.com/DelawareFishWildlife.

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

Vol. 49, No. 227