Volunteers used dibblers to dig holes in the ground, where they would then place the marsh grass plug.

On Oct. 12, the North Carolina Coastal Federation completed a salt marsh restoration project at the headwaters of Williston Creek at the North River Wetlands Preserve.

Nine volunteers and four staff members participated in the volunteer salt marsh restoration event, where they planted 2,006 plugs of Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass), Spartina patens (saltmeadow hay) and Juncus roemerianus (black needlerush).

This salt marsh restoration project began in February 2017. The goal of the project is to restore 8.8 acres of salt marsh as well as 3,500 linear feet of tidal creek. The salt marsh restoration will help make the Williston Creek healthier by filtering out pollutants from a nearby farm, thus improving water quality of downstream estuaries and improving the quality of shellfishing waters.

“Returning the land back to salt marsh not only benefits water quality, but also provides habitat for many important estuarine species, such as the blue crab,” said Bree Tillett, coastal specialist for the federation.

During the planting, staff and volunteers observed blue herons using the marsh. JoAnne Powell, board member for the federation who leads the birding tour program, went bird watching at the preserve a few days earlier and had noticed a lot of birds using the marsh.

“We were bird watching there on the previous Sunday and saw a great many great birds, including little blue and great blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets, white and glossy ibises, least and pectoral sandpipers, greater and lesser yellowlegs, blue winged teal, mallards, and turkeys — all in or around the new marsh,” Powell said.

The salt marsh restoration project is funded by a $91,430 Bring Back the Natives grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with private funds that were raised by the federation.

The project was designed by Kris Bass Engineering and was constructed by Robert Willis of Carteret Land Development, LLC.

The salt marsh restoration is just one part of the ongoing restoration work at North River Wetlands Preserve in Otway. Formerly known as North River Farms, the preserve is located in eastern Carteret County. Since 1999, the federation has been working to restore areas of the property back to wetlands.

For more information about the Williston Creek salt marsh restoration or the ongoing work at North River Wetlands Preserve, please visit nccoast.org/northriver or contact Bree Tillett at 252-393-8185.