DNREC introduces Delaware Living Shorelines Monitoring Framework to help gauge success of shoreline restoration projects

DOVER – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Watershed Stewardship in partnership with public and private environmental organizations have introduced the Delaware Living Shorelines Monitoring Framework, a tool to help landowners, professionals, and scientists develop plans for gauging the success of living shoreline projects installed throughout the state.

Living shorelines are a natural and effective way to stabilize a shoreline, reduce erosion, and provide beneficial habitat in coastal environments. Living shorelines provide a natural alternative to hard shoreline stabilization methods such as bulkheads and riprap, with the “softer” alternatives offering numerous benefits over hard stabilization options, including providing wildlife habitat and runoff remediation.

The monitoring framework was created by the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee, comprising professionals from DNREC, National Estuary Programs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and private engineering and consulting companies. The committee provides practitioners and researchers the opportunity to discuss current living shoreline projects in Delaware, along with upcoming projects, and enables them to stay informed on new policies or techniques.

“Living shorelines are the foundation of a unique, natural environmental strategy to counter erosion. As the strategy for installing these evolves, the monitoring methodology created by the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee will help ensure the creation of more effective and resilient shorelines in the future,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin.

The Living Shoreline Monitoring Framework outlines how to identify and prioritize living shoreline project goals – such as shoreline stabilization, habitat creation, and water quality improvement – and other objectives. The step-by-step framework helps a user assess whether a living shoreline is developing correctly for each goal, and how to manage a site better if the living shoreline’s performance is lagging. For example, if vegetation is not growing as it should, the framework spells steps that can be taken to improve growing conditions.

The monitoring framework can be found on the Delaware Living Shorelines website, under “Additional Resources – Research.” The document allows for varying levels of expertise, technology, expense, and effort to create a custom monitoring plan based on the goals of each project or site. The resulting monitoring plan will tell a user what information to collect about a project, and how and when to collect it throughout the year.

To learn more about living shorelines, or information on how to join the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee, or to learn if your property is suitable for a living shoreline, please visit https://www.delawarelivingshorelines.org/ or contact Alison Rogerson, DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program, at Alison.Rogerson@delaware.gov or Danielle Kreeger at dkreeger@delawareestuary.org.

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

Vol. 49, No. 8

DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation receives land parcel donation adding wetlands to Fork Branch Nature Preserve in Dover

DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation, in partnership with the Kent County Conservancy, announced today that it has secured two wetland parcels formerly owned by the McClements family of Dover, to become part of the Fork Branch Nature Preserve. The two parcels, one almost three acres in size, the other just over 2½ acres, are located adjacent to the Anne McClements Woods tract of the 247-acre Fork Branch Nature Preserve. Both properties were donated by the children of Dr. James and Anne McClements, Mary Jane, Nancy, Jimmy, Walter and Bill McClements, in their parents’ memory.

The land donation was initiated by the Kent County Conservancy, a local non-profit preservation organization, working with DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation, which accepted the donation in memoriam to the McClements, and expanding the Fork Branch Nature Preserve.

DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin joined Governor John Carney and other officials last year, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fork Branch Trail, located in the Anne McClements Woods tract of the Fork Branch Nature Preserve, which is open with free access to visitors.

The two donated parcels for the Fork Branch Nature Preserve are located on Kenton Road. One parcel, entailing a stream bed, is 2.93 acres, while the other is also a wetland area of 2.69 acres. The McClements’ family gift of the two parcels will help protect and buffer the preserve’s wetland habitats, and the wildlife species the habitats support.

“These additions to the preserve do not just expand its boundaries, but will also help Delaware achieve the state’s broader goal of improved water quality and healthy wildlife habitat,” said Secretary Garvin. “We thank the McClements family for supporting these efforts, and the Kent County Conservancy, for being instrumental in facilitating the donation of the two parcels to the State of Delaware.”

“The Fork Branch watershed has been our highest preservation target,” said Gerald Street, president of the Kent County Conservancy. “We were delighted to facilitate this public-private partnership. The McClements family continues to set a magnificent example of how this can work. We also appreciate the support and advocacy of Tom Burns, who worked with the conservancy on behalf of the McClements family.”

The Fork Branch Nature Preserve is one of Dover’s last remaining natural areas, and is known to contain a unique stand of old growth American beech, a wooded stream corridor, and several rare and threatened plant species. The preserve is located near the corner of Kenton and West Dennys roads, along the Maidstone Branch in the St. Jones River watershed.

Contact: Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 49, No.11

DNREC introduces new Delaware Wetland Plant Field Guide to help landowners, scientists identify plants

DOVER – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program announced today the release of Delaware’s first wetland-specific plant identification book – The Delaware Wetland Plant Field Guide. This guide will help landowners, practitioners, and scientists identify wetland plants in the landscape with full-color photos, hand drawings, and easy-to-read descriptions.

Plants are one of three key factors for identifying and delineating wetlands. In order for an area to be considered a wetland, it must have: water at or near the surface for some part of the year, hydrophytic plants, which are plants specially adapted to living in wet conditions, and hydric soils, which are soils that are permanently or seasonally soaked in water.

The guide organizes 134 of the most common wetland plants found in Delaware into two main categories of freshwater and saltwater plants. It also includes a general introduction to plant identification and key characteristics, bloom/fruit timing, flower and fruit descriptions, and where you are likely to find each plant.

The Delaware Wetland Plant Field Guide is viewable online, with a high-resolution file or print copy available upon request by visiting de.gov/dewetlandplantguide.

The Delaware Wetland Plant Field Guide was compiled by the Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program within DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship, with contributions from several local wetland and plant experts. The program works in Delaware to conserve wetlands for their water quality, wildlife habitat, and flood control benefits. To learn more about the program, please visit de.gov/wmap.

To learn more about wetlands, identifying them or the guide, visit de.gov/wetlandtoolbox or contact Brittany Haywood at Brittany.haywood@delaware.gov or 302-739-9939.

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

Vol. 48, No. 317

Governor Carney, DNREC, DelDOT and partners break ground for saltmarsh boardwalk project at Slaughter Beach

SLAUGHTER BEACH – This morning, Delaware Governor John Carney joined DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin, DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan, state legislators, conservation partners, and the community of Slaughter Beach to celebrate the groundbreaking for the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve Boardwalk project. The boardwalk and overlook will enable visitors, including schoolchildren, to walk out onto the saltmarsh to view and experience this amazing Bayshore ecosystem and its natural resources up close.

Photo: Governor John Carney, DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin, DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan, Slaughter Beach Mayor Harry Ward, Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator Mary Ridgeway, Delaware Nature Society Acting Executive Director Anne Harper and DNS members, state legislators, Marvel family members, and residents break ground for the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve Boardwalk.

“The scenic overlook that we are building here will provide a new opportunity to enjoy this saltmarsh landscape and a diverse array of wildlife year round,” said Governor Carney. “This project will help Delawareans, and visitors to our state, discover our state’s rich history and natural heritage, as well as the Bayshore’s natural beauty.”

“This project is a major enhancement to a premier destination in our Bayshore region, giving visitors unique access to a new outdoor recreation opportunity,” said Secretary Garvin. “Visitors also will have the opportunity to learn about our dynamic coastal marsh systems, the plants and animals they support, and the coastal communities like Slaughter Beach that depend on them.”

“DelDOT is pleased to partner with DNREC and the Town of Slaughter Beach in the construction of a scenic overlook along the Delaware Nature Society’s Marvel tract,” said Secretary Cohan. “This overlook will be another great addition to the Delaware Bayshore Byway that showcases our beautiful state.”

Owned and managed by the Delaware Nature Society, the 109-acre Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve was donated to DNS in 1988 by the Marvel family of Milford – Randy and Linda Marvel, and Harvey and Kate Marvel, who attended today’s event. The preserve is home to many species, including fiddler crabs, blue crabs, grass shrimp, mollusks, and insects, as well as being a premier birding destination, with marsh wrens, seaside sparrows, clapper rails, great egrets, willets, and osprey. The Y-shaped, accessible boardwalk design, totaling approximately 345 feet, will provide access to a marsh pool at one end and a view of a nearby constructed osprey nest platform from an elevated observation platform at the other end. The boardwalk will enhance the environmental education programs DNS hosts for more than 1,000 students and families annually at the preserve.

The Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve scenic overlook project was made possible by a partnership between DNREC, DelDOT, DNS, and the Town of Slaughter Beach, with funding for design, engineering, and construction coming from multiple sources. Initial design and engineering funding was provided through a grant from DNREC’s Outdoor Recreation Parks and Trails grant program, with additional funding from DNREC’s Delaware Bayshore Initiative. Project construction funding is from the U.S Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration via DelDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program, which requires matching funds from a sponsor. With a long-term land lease between DNS and the town in place, Slaughter Beach is serving as the match sponsor, with a second grant from DNREC’s Outdoor Recreation Parks and Trails grant program. State Senator Gary Simpson and State Representative Harvey Kenton provided additional state funding from the Community Transportation Fund. The Delaware Nature Society also assisted and supported Slaughter Beach’s fundraising efforts by acquiring additional funds from the Delmarva Ornithological Society, Milford Lions Club, and Dogfish Head Brewery.

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

DNREC produces wetlands report card and management recommendations on the Smyrna River Watershed

DOVER – A new “wetlands report card” for the Smyrna River Watershed is now available from DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program – the ninth in a series of watershed-specific wetland health reports produced by the Department. The Smyrna River Watershed extends into both Kent and New Castle counties, where agriculture (46 percent) and wetlands (27 percent) primarily dominate the landscape. The wetlands report card indicates that wetlands in the Smyrna watershed were in better-than-average condition when rated against other previously assessed Delaware watersheds, earning an overall B-minus grade.

Nearly half (47 percent) of the wetlands found in the Smyrna River Watershed were the saltwater tidal variety. Other dominant wetland types include freshwater forested flats, riverine, and depressions. Saltwater tidal and freshwater flat wetlands were in the best health of the four types evaluated. Both received a B- grade, mostly as a result of invasive plant species and development closely surrounding the wetlands. Tidal wetlands in this area were in better health compared to most in Delaware due to a lack of man-made ditches.

Teams of wetland scientists from DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary gained permission to visit a total of 122 randomly-selected sites within the Smyrna River Watershed. Using condition assessment checklists and biological metrics, they found that wetlands in the watershed were in fair condition, and that the most common stressors were invasive plants; the digging, filling, and/or ditching of wetlands; and agriculture or development in the buffer area closely surrounding the wetland.

DNREC’s data were used to create a technical report and a more user-friendly report card that summarized not only the health of the Smyrna River Watershed’s wetlands, but also examined the change in wetland acreage in recent decades, what value wetlands provide, and how recent changes in land use will impact wetlands. Already, 32 percent of this watershed’s original wetlands have been lost, primarily due to conversion to development and agriculture. Meanwhile, in their ongoing preservation work, DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment program continues to emphasize how wetlands are beneficial resources for both people and wildlife, and that impacts to their health reduce a wetland’s ability to perform and diminish fully, minimizing its valuable role in controlling flooding and erosion, improving water quality, and providing beautiful habitats for us all.

Based on results included in the report, DNREC made recommendations to scientists, decision makers, and landowners to improve the future health of the Smyrna River Watershed’s wetlands. These included: encouraging planting buffers around streams and wetlands; promoting restoration of degraded wetlands; improving protection of non-tidal freshwater wetlands; using best management practices in agricultural operations, and exploring innovative shoreline protection techniques such as living shorelines.

The wetland reports and the work of the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program are made possible by EPA Region 3 Wetland Program Development funding. To view more details on the Smyrna River Watershed or for more information on assessment methods, please visit de.gov/watershedhealth.

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

Vol. 48, No. 206