By Bill Tharpe and Jackie Koehn
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.”
“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.
“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.