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By Jim Hawhee, APNEP Policy and Engagement Manager
Virginia's state flag
You might be forgiven for thinking APNEP is solely a North Carolina program.
After all, you’re reading this on a North Carolina government website, our headquarters are in Raleigh, and the waters of the Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds are almost entirely in the Tar Heel State.
Yet over half of the water entering Albemarle Sound comes from Virginia. With no direct outlet to the sea, this water also flows through Pamlico Sound before making its way to the Atlantic Ocean. For these reasons, the Old Dominion is an important partner in efforts to improve North Carolina’s estuaries.
Click the image for a larger map of the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed
In Virginia, a great deal of environmental policy is dominated by issues related to the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. Most Virginians are unaware that the waters of Southside Virginia flow instead to the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary, the nation’s second largest estuarine complex.
APNEP has formalized its partnership with Virginia in several ways. North Carolina and Virginia are parties to a Memorandum of Agreement memorializing a joint commitment to protect the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary. APNEP also employs a field representative in Suffolk, Virginia. Finally, representatives from Virginia have a strong voice and offer considered expertise on our Policy Board and advisory committees.
In addition to a strong Virginia contingent within APNEP, agencies and partners from both states contribute to applied conservation efforts to protect Virginia’s southern rivers. By contributing financial, logistical, and advisory support, APNEP aims to ensure that political boundaries are no object when it comes to restoring and protecting the estuarine ecosystem.
APNEP is a participant in Virginia’s Albemarle-Chowan Watershed Roundtable, a group of Virginia agencies, local governments and other stakeholders working to improve water quality in the Virginia portions of the Chowan and Pasquotank river basins. More than ten years ago, APNEP worked with roundtable participants to initiate a motor oil recycling program that continues today. Recent initiatives include participation in Franklin’s Watershed and Rivers Day, rain barrel workshops, and development of teaching materials for fourth graders learning about water quality.
Eric Brittle of Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at Watershed and Rivers Day
In 2011, APNEP provided financial support for an outdoor classroom at Edward W. Wyatt Middle School in Emporia, VA. Projects like these have been an APNEP staple during the past decade. In addition to improving water quality by collecting and filtering runoff, the project provides a space for students to stretch their legs and learn about the environment in which they live.
Nature's Classroom at E.W. Wyatt Middle School
Finally, one of the most high-profile efforts APNEP has funded recently is at the Dismal Swamp. Like our partnership, the swamp straddles the North Carolina-Virginia border. The effort is a collaboration between the Nature Conservancy, N.C. State Parks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many other partners. Its goal is to restore the peatlands within the swamp, reducing firefighting costs, trapping carbon dioxide, and improving water quality for the downstream sounds. Water control structures and monitoring wells have been installed throughout the swamp, with more management efforts to come. Later this year, we will return to the Dismal Swamp to plant ten thousand Atlantic White Cedar trees.
Burned areas like this one in the Great Dismal Swamp will be replanted with Atlantic White Cedar trees
This article’s headline, “A lot of good things start in Virginia,” is a partial quote attributed to Rep. Robert Hurt of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. When it comes to Virginia’s southern rivers and their relationship to the sounds, we couldn’t agree more.