Restore and Preserve

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Goal: Restore and Protect Habitat, Water Quality and Public Access to the Coast

The federation restores and protects critically important coastal habitats and water quality. With your help, our projects literally cover the waterfront.

Working with volunteers and contractors, we build, enhance and preserve oyster reefs, living shorelines, wetlands, shorebird nesting rookeries and native coastal forests.

We also retrofit farm drainage systems, neighborhoods, and urban development to reduce the amount of polluted stormwater reaching our coastal waters.

Our project sites frequently include public access for boating, fishing, hiking and swimming. We want everyone to be able to enjoy and make a living from healthy coastal waters.

The federation works with everyone: fishers, farmers, developers, contractors, barge and heavy equipment operators—you name it. Restoration means jobs, and we provide them to make the coast a better place to live, work and play.

Ongoing Projects  

Atlantic White Cedar Restoration within Albemarle-Pamlico Region

Abandoned Crab Pots Make Reefs

NEERs Stormwater Reduction Project in Wrightsville Beach

Before & After: A Living Shoreline at Springer's Point     

How we work:

We restore and protect coastal habitats, water quality and public access by:
  • Successfully completing projects that maintain or replicate natural processes, including watershed hydrology
  • Working at scales that accomplish real improvements to environmental health
  • Staying focused within high priority watersheds so that the cumulative benefits of numerous projects yield significant environmental gains
  • Connecting the resources of federal, state and local funders to provide broad support that could never be achieved by one entity alone
  • Engaging people to galvanize long-term stewardship of coastal resources
  • Building momentum as people see tangible progress being made to protect and restore coastal resources


Accomplishments Join/Renew or Donate

This list is just a few of the most current things your support has made possible:
  • Almost 100 acres of new oyster reefs.
  • Landscape-scale wetland restoration-- working with farmers in Hyde County and North River Farms, we have restored more than 50,000 acres of wetlands to restore water quality and fisheries in Pamlico and Core sounds.
  • Strong partnerships with businesses, local governments and schools have resulted in more than three dozen stormwater reduction projects including bioretention areas, rain gardens and cisterns.
  • Public access for fishing, hiking, boating and swimming has been provided to thousands of acres of coastal lands and waters.

Oyster Restoration

The federation creates new oyster reefs each year to provide valuable habitat for oysters and many other marine species and to improve coastal water quality. The industrious oysters can each filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.

The oyster restoration program is guided by an ever-adapting blueprint developed by a concerned group of regulators, researchers, aquaculture experts and restoration groups that is convened by the federation. 


Wetlands Restoration: good for habitat, water quality and climate adaptation

The federation is committed to improving water quality along our coast. One way to achieve this goal is through the restoration of wetlands, from saltwater marsh to freshwater cypress swamps.

We are currently restoring 6,000-acre North River Farms in Carteret County, which is the largest wetlands restoration project in the state.

The federation is also working with several farmers on a landscape-scale wetland and hydrologic restoration project in the 42,500-acre Mattamuskeet Drainage Association. The latter project, when complete, will recreate the natural hydrology and habitat and permit the historically important oyster beds in Pamlico Sound to be reopened for shellfishing. 

Stormwater retrofits: Fixing what’s broken

Drainage systems in our communities were often put in before the damaging effects of polluted stormwater were known. These systems were designed to collect and remove runoff as quickly as possible. That means that we now need to go back, and make the landscape functional again so that it will absorb and soak up rainfall. This is known as installing stormwater retrofits. While it’s always better—less expensive, less time-consuming—to plan for stormwater before building, we must also deal with existing development and its runoff if we hope to improve impaired coastal water quality.

The federation has creative solutions and strong partnerships to address this need. We have devised a guide for how to restore watersheds and plan for cost-effective retrofit measures. We work with landowners, neighborhoods, schools and towns to install low impact development (LID) measures such as rain gardens and cisterns, and to disconnect impervious surfaces to prevent runoff.

Public access for all

Our work on public access comes from a simple belief: everyone should have access to the coast firsthand. We need this access both for economic development and for recreation. Our projects provide access for swimming, boating, diving, crabbing, fishing, hiking, hunting and even lounging on the shore—it’s what makes the coast so special, and we don’t want it walled off.

Since 1982 we’ve worked tirelessly to make sure that special places on the coast remain open and accessible to all. We have provided public access within thousands of acres of our projects that stretch from South Carolina to the Outer Banks. Here’s a map of the land that the federation has preserved and restored; most of it provides for greater public access to the coast.

Promoting Living Shorelines

Over the past three years, the federation installed new living shorelines made out of oyster shells in Dare and Onslow counties to demonstrate how natural materials can foster new oyster growth to protect eroding shorelines. This has enabled the federation to secure additional federal and state funds to continue to demonstrate living shoreline strategies, and to promote their wider use in the future. Initially developed as an alternative to bulkheads, living shorelines are erosion control measures that also provide stormwater buffers and wetland and riparian habitat.

Advancing Science

The federation is advancing the scientific understanding of the role of wetlands restoration in carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change.  It has fostered the establishment of a major study by U.S. Geological Survey and scientists at N.C. State University to study the amount of carbon sequestration that can be attributed to restored fresh and saltwater wetlands at North River Farms.  The results of this multi-year study, now in its second year, will provide much needed scientific data to establish the contribution that restored wetlands make to slowing global warming. The federation completed a two-year project with EPA, N.C. Division of Water Quality, Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach to devise an innovative watershed restoration plan for Bradley and Hewletts Creeks. This plan establishes stormwater volume reduction targets for each watershed, and provides GIS tools for measuring progress toward achieving watershed goals. The methods used in this project are now being transferred to other impaired coastal watersheds as an expedited way to establish pollution reduction targets for the coast’s impaired waters.