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How #DistrictsConserveCoasts

By Candice Abinanti

Of the nearly 3,000 conservation districts across the United States, over 300 are located on the coasts and Great Lakes. These coastal districts face unique conservation challenges: coastal habitat and species loss, harmful algal blooms, shoreline erosion and sea-level rise to name a few. Throughout National Ocean Month in June 2020, NACD encouraged conservation districts to share coastal conservation issues, activities and partnerships on social media using the hashtag #DistrictsConserveCoasts. Districts across the country – both coastal and inland – help conserve our coasts in a variety of ways and have built strong partnerships while doing so.

Pierce Conservation District helps coastal landowners keep their shorelines natural

In Washington’s Puget Sound, more than 25 percent of the shoreline is hardened with concrete bulkheads, rock seawalls or wooden pilings. The Pierce Conservation District’s Shore Friendly program helps marine shoreline landowners in the county keep their shorelines natural. The district, through assistance and education, including a video series, encourages landowners to keep their trees, plant native species, improve drainage on their land, and remove bulkheads. These and other actions help reduce coastal erosion, restore habitat for coastal species like migratory Chinook salmon, and improve the health of the Puget Sound. Shore Friendly is funded through the EPA’s National Estuary Program by the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources.

California districts restore marsh and lagoon habitats

In California, the San Mateo Resource Conservation District shared the recently completed Butano Channel Reconnection project. As the district explains, “Historic land use in the watershed, including logging, creek channelization, road construction, agriculture and development, dramatically increased the volume of sediment entering Pescadero marsh.” The project re-established 8,000 feet of Butano Creek’s historic channel and removed sediment from the marsh (pictured right). This was then re-used to restore degraded areas of the marsh. Project benefits include reduced fish kills from anoxic conditions, restored fish passage, and reduced risk of flooding for the community. Funding for the project was provided by California State Parks, San Mateo County and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In Malibu, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains is working to restore and reshape Topanga Lagoon to improve habitat for endangered Southern California steelhead trout, enhance resilience to sea-level rise, and improve visitor services. In the planning phase, partners include California State Parks, California Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors. The project is funded with a grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy.

Connecticut districts help reduce and eliminate runoff into Long Island Sound

In Connecticut, the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District works with local partners on the Baker Cove Watershed Committee to reduce or eliminate nonpoint sources of pollution and help restore shellfish in Baker Cove. The district is also conducting water quality investigations to inform the development of a watershed management plan for Wequetequock Cove. The Eastern Connecticut Conservation District has also installed dumpster pads, rain gardens, storm drain filters and pet waste stations in the Mount Hope watershed, and they’ve posted signage and provided community education to help reduce runoff into Mount Hope River and Long Island Sound.

Nearby, the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District and community volunteers are conducting water sampling in the Coginchaug River watershed as part of the Connecticut River Watch Program. The results of the sampling will help efforts to improve water quality in the river and downstream to the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. 

Ocean County Soil Conservation District promotes Jersey-Friendly Yards

In New Jersey, the Ocean County Soil Conservation District encourages residents to maintain Jersey-Friendly Yards. By replacing lawn with native plant gardens, Jersey-Friendly Yards create wildlife habitat and reduce the need for water, fertilizer and pesticides, helping to keep sediment and pollutants out of the Barnegat Bay. The district explains that “Jersey-Friendly gardeners reduce or eliminate the use of fertilizers that run off our lawns in stormwater and wash into the bay and ocean, causing toxic algal blooms known as eutrophication. Jersey-Friendly Yards are healthy for people, wildlife and the environment.” Jersey-Friendly Yards was developed by the Barnegat Bay Partnership, one of 28 local estuary programs in the EPA’s National Estuary Program, with a grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

St. Mary’s Soil Conservation District partners for vegetative and structural shoreline projects

In nearby Maryland, St. Mary’s Soil Conservation District has partnered with the U.S. Navy, state and local government, the English colonial archaeological site Historic St. Mary’s City, and others on several vegetative and structural shoreline projects. The district has supported the projects with analysis, survey, design, inspection, planting and administrative support. A project at Church Point in St. Mary’s City is helping to preserve land of the first European settlement in Maryland (pictured right).

Richland Soil and Water Conservation District educates students about watersheds and pollution

Districts know that conserving coastal natural resources is not just for districts with coastlines. In South Carolina, Richland County is over 100 miles from the coast. That doesn’t stop the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District from teaching students in the county, with the help of an EnviroScape® hands-on model, about watersheds and nonpoint source pollution, to demonstrate “how local pollution can turn into ocean pollution as it travels downstream across South Carolina and into the Atlantic Ocean” (pictured left).

Thanks to all who participated in NACD’s #DistrictsConserveCoasts social media campaign. Participating conservation districts were entered into a raffle to win a pair of Yeti mugs donated by Cabela’s. These mugs and other items are available for purchase at the NACD Marketplace. Congratulations to the winning district: San Mateo Resource Conservation District in California! 

Although the campaign and opportunity to win the raffle have ended, NACD encourages districts to continue to share coastal conservation programs, activities and events on social media using the hashtag #DistrictsConserveCoasts and with your NACD Regional Representative. 

Districts interested in purchasing EnviroScape® hands-on models, including the Watershed/Nonpoint Source and Coastal Watershed Models can receive discounts with the following promotional codes.

  • 10 percent off one or more EnviroScape® models with the code NACD10
  • 15 percent off 5 or more EnviroScape® models with the code NACD15
  • 20 percent off 10 or more EnviroScape® models with the code NACD20

Enter codes when ordering online or contact erin[at]enviroscapes.com to place an order.

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