DNREC Receives Wetlands Program Development Grant - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

DNREC Receives Wetlands Program Development Grant

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DOVER, Del.– DNREC's Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program within the department's Division of Watershed Stewardship has been awarded a three-year Wetland Program Development Grant for more than $443,000 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The grant project, titled “Building Resiliency for Delaware's Wetlands,” will focus on DNREC's developing ways to prepare the state for changing coastal conditions, and help the state's environmental scientists get a better understanding of how wetlands respond to sea level rise.

“Wetlands are one of our nation's most unique ecosystems and they play a significant role in protecting our nation's water supply,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin in presenting the grant awardtoday at the St. Jones Reserve and the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve near Dover. “By committing to protect and restore these valuable resources, DNREC is in the forefront of keeping our lakes, rivers and streams clean.”

“As an integral feature of the Delaware landscape covering almost a quarter of our state, wetlands are one of our most important ecological assets,” said Governor Jack Markell. “They provide flood protection and improve water quality while also supporting a sustainable habitat and a thriving recreational economy. We must make it a priority to sustain and maintain their good health, especially as relates to improving our water quality, and I appreciate the opportunity provided by the EPA to bolster Delaware's wetland resources.”

“Wetlands are both the show horse and the workhorse for water quality – aside from their natural beauty, healthy wetlands are always working to clean our ground and surface waters, absorb wave energy and prevent coastal erosion, and to store storm water and prevent flooding,” said US Senator Tom Carper. “By factoring in resiliency to sea level rise and the effects of climate change on wetland protection, the EPA development grant also lends itself to helping Delaware maintain our leading edge nationally in preparation for extreme weather events.”

“The stewardship of Delaware's precious natural resources, especially our wetlands, is all of our responsibility,” said US Senator Chris Coons. “In Delaware, we're faced with preparing for changing coastal conditions such as sea level rise, and the effect of these changes on our wetlands. I'm pleased to have played a role in supporting the funding for the ‘Building Resiliency for Delaware's Wetlands' grant so that we may continue to protect these vital resources for the enjoyment of future generations to come.”

“As a low-lying, coastal state, Delaware is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme storms and climate change,” said Congressman Carney. “Nobody knows the state's wetlands and the conditions along our coastline better than the experts working on this issue here in Delaware. This EPA funding will help DNREC put in place a strategy that preserves the state's wetlands and protects our homes, businesses, and communities from environmental threats and extreme weather events.”

“EPA's Wetland Program Development Grants will enhance our ability to assess the conditions of our wetlands and identify specific stressors on these vital systems," said DNREC Secretary David S. Small. "This information is critical to ongoing restoration and protection efforts and will further bolster our library of wetlands data that is valuable to our state and our partners in the mid-Atlantic region. The recent work of the state's Wetlands Advisory Committee identified the importance of various incentives to protect wetlands, and this grant will assist in our communications and interactions with landowners who play a key role in managing these resources."

Wetlands comprise nearly 25 percent of the land cover in the state and are sensitive to both man-made and natural changes. Healthy wetlands are able to remove and store excess nutrients and contaminants from water, buffer shorelines against storm energy and erosion, and provide habitat for rare and valuable plants and animals. With the predicted changes to sea levels and the increase in large storm events wetland research and monitoring become even more important for health, welfare and quality of life in Delaware.

The wetland grant application was developed to address the needs and priorities of several DNREC programs, working collaboratively to improve how the state manages its wetland resources for the sake of ecological integrity, and with consideration for Delaware's property and business owners. Using grant funding, DNREC's Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program will take on and complete the following tasks to better prepare Delaware for coastal resiliency and SLR adaptation:

· Identify properties for protection to accommodate landward migration of tidal wetlands.

· Assess the ambient condition of tidal and nontidal wetlands in the C&D Canal and Red Lion Creek Watersheds.

· Develop a wetland condition assessment method specifically for freshwater tidal wetlands.

· Develop a wetland condition report for the Smyrna River watershed.

· Collect long-term, site-specific biological and physical tidal wetland monitoring data.

· Create outreach materials to better inform the public on wetlands and to enhance wetland stewardship.

· Update statewide tidal wetland maps.

· Develop supporting data and information to address and improve wetland protection as relates to climate change.

Several of these projects are to be undertaken in a DNREC collaboration that includes Delaware Coastal Programs and the Division of Water's Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section. Two of the projects that led to the grant award were identified during meetings of the state's Wetland Advisory Committee: to survey landowners on wetland values and management incentive opportunities and to update state tidal wetland maps. The grant will also enable the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program to assess the ambient condition of wetlands in a watershed for the first time, continuing the program's progress across the state.

The Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program has received prior funding from EPA's Region 3, and this latest grant will build on past work by extending the sampling of detailed long-term wetland monitoring and by updating wetland assessment methods with research on tidal freshwater wetland conditions. Updating state tidal wetland maps will allow DNREC to manage tidal wetlands more accurately and efficiently, saving the state and landowners time and money.

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