Wetlands are replacing ditched and drained lands in several large-scale restoration projects being completed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in coastal plain counties. Since 2017, the Coastal Federation has been working with the federal agency to assist in the survey, design, and construction oversight at several of their coastal wetland restoration projects. Some of these projects involve the installation of earthen structures like ditch blocks and dikes that block the drainage paths that were created when the land was transitioned to farming. These practices help reduce the amount and rate of water leaving ditched lands and increase the land’s capacity to collect and absorb rainwater. In addition, fields are being transformed into mudflats, open water, and forested wetlands. Overall, the Coastal Federation’s partnership with NRCS will result in the restoration of 8,000 acres of wetlands across the coastal plain.
These restoration projects help mimic the natural hydrology of the landscape, which is a big plus for coastal water quality. When rain can be collected and stored on site instead of flowing from ditches to coastal waters, the delivery of bacteria and other pollutants to creeks, rivers, and sounds is greatly reduced. As a co-benefit, these acres of open water habitat are great for waterfowl and the mudflats are prime habitat for shorebirds. Restoration areas also include acres of bottomland hardwood forest which provides habitat for a large variety of wildlife.
The Federation provided survey, design, and construction oversight services for projects in Halifax, Bladen, Carteret, and Hyde Counties. These projects provide a variety of habitats. In Halifax County, contractors restored riparian wetlands along the Roanoke River. In Bladen County, Carolina Bays, and outlet streams were restored. In Carteret and Hyde Counties, the projects recreated bottomland hardwood forests, mudflats, emergent wetlands, and open-water habitats.