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Project Spotlight: Pocomoke Restoration Partnership

As of April 2017, the Pocomoke River Restoration project has reconnected approximately 2,032 acres of floodplain forested wetlands with Pocomoke River. Additionally, in late 2016 the Nature Conservancy acquired a 693-acre farm in the headwaters of Nassawango Creek.

Future plans include using this site to demonstrate agricultural best management practices, including wetland restoration and ditch enhancement techniques, as well as pollinator habitat establishment. Both the floodplain reconnection and headwater wetland restoration projects are greatly improving the water quality and habitat within the watershed.

The Pocomoke River Restoration project is a partnership between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Nature Conservancy.

The priority area is located along 9 miles of the channelized Pocomoke River mainstem between Route 50 and Porters Crossing Road. This area encompasses about 4,000 acres of floodplain forest and associated buffer, and 17 miles of spoil levee created during channelization in the 1930s and 40s. The main objective is to restore the hydrology of the floodplain by creating breaches in the spoil levees to allow increased movement of water between the channel and the floodplain, improving water quality, increasing storage capacity in the floodplain, and enhancing resiliency to climate variability.

When the Pocomoke River was disconnected from its floodplain by the spoil levees, its flood storage capacity was greatly reduced, further exacerbating flooding downstream of the channelized mainstem. Climate predictions include more intense storms in the near future, with more sporadic events and greater precipitation amounts per storm.  By breaching the spoil berms, the river can once again fill its forested floodplain wetlands, reducing the overall flood stage and increasing nutrient and sediment removal.

The Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund provided $1,500,097 toward the project, which was leveraged by the Nature Conservancy with $2,382,000 in other funds.  The most recent projections of restored acreage greatly exceed the original estimates, due in large part to the Nature Conservancy’s hiring of a local field biologist who has both the time to focus on outreach with local landowners and the ability to work with landowners to find the best restoration program to match the landowner’s interests.