From the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts:
In an effort to comply with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, the Harford Soil Conservation District (HSCD) has worked within its community to help meet the 2017 EPA mandated pollution reduction requirements.
Recognizing the need to go beyond traditional boundaries to address soil and water conservation, the HSCD and Ecotone, Inc. (Ecotone) have developed a unique public-private partnership to become a driving force in helping achieve Maryland’s pollutant reduction goals.
This partnership with Ecotone, enacted through a Memorandum of Agreement, has allowed the HSCD to effortlessly explore new funding sources and cost-effectively execute agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) throughout Harford County. “Ecotone’s assistance with grant funding preparation and environmental [BMPs] design & construction has accelerated the restoration efforts to local tributaries leading to the Chesapeake Bay.” says Bill Tharpe, District Manager.
Because many of these projects are located on private property, Ecotone’s technical grant assistance has allowed access to innovative funding without requiring landowner expense. This cooperative agreement alleviates additional burden from HSCD, while continuing steady project implementation to improve water quality for the Chesapeake Bay.
“The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is fortunate that we are able to participate in a partnership with the local Soil Conservation District, a knowledgeable ecological consulting firm [Ecotone], and a landowner to achieve the mutual goal of restoring valuable natural resources and enhancing wildlife habitat,” says Kevin Smith, Deputy Director of Restoration, Finance, and Policy for the Chesapeake and Coastal Services unit at DNR. Since 2015, the HSCD has been awarded $6 million in funding from DNR and the Chesapeake Bay Trust to design and/or construct the restoration of approximately 21,000 linear feet of stream and 11 acres of wetland, to create shallow water wetland developments and to plant riparian forest buffers.
“Public-private partnerships are becoming an important venture for Soil Conservation Districts,” says Lee McDaniel, Past President of the National Association of Conservation Districts and Chairman of Harford Soil Conservation District Board. “The Harford SCD and Ecotone, Inc. have collaborated on 40+ restoration projects over the last decade to improve water quality within the local tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.”
Innovatively pushing beyond BMPs, the Soil Conservation District has decided to include stream stabilization, wetland restoration, and shallow water wetland development throughout its restoration efforts. This comprehensive tactic not only reduces nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay, but also enhances agricultural productivity by decreasing erosion, minimizing fertilizer costs, and enriching soils.
“Because wetland resources are diminished or degraded in so many areas of our State, it is doubly important to demonstrate sound ecological restoration in a working farm environment.” continues Smith.
The Harford Soil Conservation District has experienced emblazoned success for the agricultural community of Harford County, specifically implementing alternative BMPs to improve nutrient and sediment load reductions. With new funding opportunities on the horizon, the HSCD is asking all Harford County landowners seeking information or assistance with any and all agricultural management needs to contact the HSCD to discuss options and schedule a cost-free consultation on your property.
For more information, please contact: Leslie Zink, Harford Soil Conservation District, (410) 838 -6181, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Jessica Cherewich, Ecotone, Inc., (410) 420-2600, email@example.com.