Chesapeake Bay district partners to accelerate conservation adoption

By Bill Tharpe and Jackie Koehn

The Thomas Run project created three shallow water wetland developments and restored and forested approximately 12 acres of wetland, providing habitat for waterfowl and allowing landowners to lease their property for hunting rights.

The Harford Soil Conservation District in Maryland is working with a private sector partner to meet EPA’s 2017 pollution reduction targets in the Chesapeake Bay.

The district’s unique partnership with Ecotone Inc., an ecosystem restoration consulting firm, is helping to increase the adoption of conservation practices within the watershed by making technical grant assistance more readily available.

HSCD district manager Bill Tharpe told NACD that through a cooperative agreement with the firm, his district has been able to assist more landowners than they would have been able to before.

“Ecotone’s assistance with grant funding preparation and best management practice design and construction has accelerated restoration efforts on tributaries that lead to the Chesapeake Bay,” Tharpe said.

Lee McDaniel, the immediate past president of NACD and chairman of the HSCD board, praised the public-private partnership as an example of  “an important venture for soil conservation districts.”

Prior to construction, the Mill Brook site was exhibiting vertical banks and meander migration. HSCD and Ecotone designed and implemented a restoration plan to reduce sediment and nutrient loading and improve channel stability.

“The Harford SCD and Ecotone have collaborated on 40 plus restoration projects over the last decade to improve water quality within the Chesapeake Bay,” McDaniel said.

With the assistance of Ecotone, HSCD has designed and/or implemented approximately 21,000 linear feet of stream restoration practices and 11 acres of wetland creations, including shallow water developments and riparian forest buffers, since 2015. These projects were made possible in part by Maryland’s natural resources department and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

The district has found that stream stabilization, wetland restoration, and shallow water wetland development projects not only reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay, but also enhance agricultural productivity by decreasing erosion, minimizing fertilizer costs, and enriching soils.

The Mill Brook project restored 3,700 linear feet of stream and created 1.2 acres of forested wetland. Toe wood structures were installed to decrease stream flow velocities and reduce bank erosion. Log vanes and woody riffles were incorporated into the restored stream to provide grade control and habitat as well.

“Because wetland resources are diminished or degraded in so many areas of our state, it is doubly important to demonstrate sound ecological restoration in a working farm environment,” said Kevin Smith, deputy director of Restoration, Finance, and Policy for the Chesapeake and Coastal Services unit at Maryland’s DNR.

Bill Tharpe is the district manager for the Harford Soil Conservation District in Maryland. Jackie Koehn is an ecologist for Ecotone Inc.  To learn more about the partnership described in this post, email bill.tharpe@maryland.gov.

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