|Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife|
The Northern Delaware Wetlands Rehabilitation Program was established by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to bring together civic and business leaders, scientists, resource managers, and property owners to develop strategies to restore nearly 10,000 acres of wetlands-31 distinct sites along the Christina and Delaware rivers in New Castle County.
These marshes once contained some of the state's richest waterfowl populations and served as important nursery grounds and breeding habitat for a wide variety of fish and other wildlife.
They also helped filter pollutants and sediments out of river water and provided a buffer zone during storms, protecting properties from flooding.
The marshes that are the focus of this recovery initiative have undergone a varied history of change over the years: some were drained by early Dutch and Swedish settlers, who wanted to turn marshland into farmland. other areas were drained in hopes of decreasing mosquito populations. And still other wetlands were drained to support a growing population and its attendant industrial, residential, and highway expansion.
Despite nearly three centuries of environmental abuse, however, Delaware's northern marshes can be brought back to life.
Part of the marsh was drained and used as landfill for industrial waste. However, the waste has been removed, and the landfill site has been capped.
Gambacorta Marsh is already on the rebound. Phragmites control efforts have cleared part of the marsh, the addition of wildlife habitat enhancement structures has attracted more waterfowl, the water control structure has been temporarily modified to allow daily tidal exchange, and a water management plan has been implemented.
Preliminary plans call for permanently modifying the existing water control structure to allow for daily tidal exchange, clearing clogged waterways to increase open water habitat, continuing Phragmites control, and enhancing the recreational and educational opportunities presented by the walkway.
A recent temporary water management plan allowing tidal exchange, combined with a Phragmites control program and installation of wildlife enhancement structures, has restored much of the marsh's biodiversity. A design for a new water control structure also has been selected. it will allow managers to continue to improve tidal exchange between marsh and river, and release floodwaters rapidly during major storms.
Preliminary plans call for adding more wildlife enhancement structures and open water habitat for mosquito- eating fish, continuing Phragmites control, and building a trail, boardwalk, observation tower, and canoe launch.
Migrating and wintering waterfowl make extensive use of the 912-acre tidal impoundment within this wetland as do migrating neotropical shorebirds. Surrounding the impoundment are forested areas that are critical habitat for many wildlife, including one of the largest heronries on the Atlantic Coast.
This wetland complex's habitat and water quality have been gradually declining because of restricted tidal flow. The marsh is evolving into a shallow, sediment-laden, open-water marsh dominated by Pbragmites. Part of this decline is due to the lack of a consistent water management plan.
Preliminary plans call for installation of an additional water control structure to permit limited tidal exchange and better water level control, implementation of an official water management plan, and Phragmites control. These rehabilitation efforts, along with the cooperation of the many landowners, have the potential to make Augustine Creek Marsh one of the premiere wetlands of the Atlantic Coast.
See the sidebar below for the remaining "top ten wetlands" targeted for immediate attention by the rehabilitation program.
A grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, to Delaware's Coastal Management Program will fund research and administrative costs. Other funding will come from a variety of sources including the DNREC Divisions of Fish and Wildlife and Soil and Water Conservation, enviromental fines, Superfund settlements, grants, private landowners, and private citizens through such stewardship activities as DNREC's Adopt-a-Wetland Program.
Local municipalities and industries also play a vital role in marsh restoration. For example, the Trustees of New Castle Common have committed $ 1 00,000 for a new water control structure for Broad Dyke Marsh. Ciba-Geigy has donated $310,000, and Brand Mid-Atlantic, Inc., has donated $100,000. Every contribution can help rehabilitate New Castle County's tidal freshwater marshes.
A tidal freshwater marsh is one of the most productive environments on Earth. Working together, we can help bring back to life what many thought was lost foreverDelaware's northern marshes.
The Northern Delaware Wetlands Rehabilitation Program is a collaborative partnership coordinated by the Delaware Depatiment of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Divisions of Fish and Wildlife and Soil and Water Conservation. For more information, please contact.
Division of Fish and Wildlife
89 Kings Highway
Dover, DE 19901
Division of Soil and Water
Conservation (302) 739-4411
89 Kings Highway
Dover, DE 19901
New Castle Conservation
District (302) 834-3560
6 People's Plaza
Newark, DE 19702
© 2001 Delaware Department of
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