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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership - 2013-01-04

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Now that the ball has dropped, a 2013 preview from APNEP

By Jim Hawhee, APNEP Policy and Engagement Manager
January 4, 2013

Buried tidal creek oysters. Photo courtesy of Niels Lindquist, UNC IMS

Buried tidal creek oysters.  Photo courtesy of Niels Lindquist, UNC IMS

Happy New Year from APNEP! As is typical during the cool-weather months, APNEP staffers have spent much of their time laying the foundation for new projects in the coming year. Here’s a look at a few of our projects firmly in the pipeline for 2013:

Hoggard Millpond restoration

The Hoggard Millpond Restoration Project is a collaborative partnership working to improve degraded river herring habitats. Hoggard Millpond, built in 1736, is located on the lower end of Hoggard Mill Creek and the headwaters of navigation on the Cashie River. Storm events in recent years have decimated the dam and water control gates, rendering the current millpond unmanageable as a river herring habitat and spawning area. The planned restoration effort will restore anadromous fish passage while also protecting a historically significant landmark in Bertie County. Mid-East RC&D is coordinating this restoration effort.

Testing new oyster restoration techniques

Oyster reef ecosystems protect sensitive shores, provide critical habitat to many fish and invertebrate species, remove excess nutrients and filter the water column. However, these ecosystems are often degraded in tidal creeks, which receive much of the region’s rainfall and runoff. Researchers from the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences will lead this project to test burial as an oyster restoration strategy in the region’s tidal creeks. This project builds on the knowledge of local fishermen, who have found large oysters free from parasitic boring sponges thriving while buried in tidal creek sediments. 

Reducing agricultural runoff in Hyde County

Led by the N.C. Coastal Federation, this project will enable storage and filtration of approximately 100 million gallons of runoff from 3,700 acres of cropland. Ultimately, 1,350 acres of wetlands will be restored. Project funds will be used to install one water control structure, ten swales, and core 8,750 feet of dikes. This project will substantially reduce the billions of gallons of farm drainage that is currently pumped each year directly into tributaries of Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.

Restoring clam populations to improve seagrass health

This project expands on a small restoration project that confirmed a beneficial interaction between hard clams and eelgrass. That study indicated clams are able to improve the condition and accelerate the recovery of degraded seagrass meadows by fertilizing sediments and improving water clarity through biofiltration. The project will restore approximately 2.5 acres of clam populations within seagrass meadows at sites in Back and Pamlico Sounds to spur further eelgrass recovery. This restoration project is being led by researchers at UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences.

West Bluff oyster reefs

With APNEP support, The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will develop approximately 1.25 acres of the West Bluff Oyster Sanctuary in Pamlico Sound by deploying reef structures. The sanctuary was permitted and construction initiated in 2005 with funds from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and The Nature Conservancy. Sampling of the sanctuary indicates good oyster recruitment, survival and growth. Placement of these reef structures will further the completion of this permitted reef, create areas that will protect native oyster broodstock, enhance oyster production in adjacent waters, and create new oyster habitat.

Nutrient policy

The N.C. Division of Water Quality is embarking on a multi-year process to develop numeric nutrient criteria for waters of the state. APNEP staff and committee members will provide scientific and policy support for this process, with an initial focus on identifying and filling information gaps for aquatic environments within our management region.

Implementation Committee

Executive Order #133 made some changes to APNEP, including its committee structure. In the past, our citizen and management committees were primarily advisory in nature. In contrast, the new implementation committee will be tasked with implementing actions from the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan while still fulfilling their critical advisory role. At this time, we envision the implementation committee being further subdivided into various working groups, aligning citizens, managers, and financial resources for the improvement of our estuarine system. Recruitment for this committee will begin in early 2013.

Sustaining ongoing initiatives

In addition to these projects, APNEP will continue to sustain several ongoing initiatives, including our annual teacher institute and Shad in the Classroom initiatives. APNEP staff will also continue its participation in several organizations and working groups, detailed in the “Initiatives” section of our website.

Several other new initiatives are still taking shape for 2013. If you would like to provide support for one of these projects, are interested in serving on our Implementation Committee, or have future project ideas we can help bring to fruition, please contact any member of our staff.

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