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 rain water. 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.
2020- Halifax County
Riverside Excavation completed restoration of 700 acres of riparian wetlands along the Roanoke River in early 2020. The main goal of this project was to create a dynamic system that would maximize the amount of water being held on the property while also handling large flooding events from dam releases immediately upstream. Part of the design included restoring a stream that had been incised due to heavy flows during river flooding events. The landowner enrolled the property in the Wetland Reserve Program over a decade ago. The federation increased the work capacity of NRCS to move this project to completion in a much shorter time span than NRCS had the workforce for.