To improve the local watershed, Delaware Wild Lands this spring planted 1,200 native trees on 2 acres of its Armstrong Farm, northeast of Middletown.
The planting was intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but the pandemic scotched that. They canceled the event. They called off the volunteers. “But we couldn’t cancel the tree order,” said Kate Hackett, the nonprofit’s executive director.
So for “three intense days,” a small crew completed the $21,000 project, partly funded by $4,900 federal grant, a Delmarva Power Sustainable Communities Grant and other funding.
“90% of our waterways are impaired for their designated use,” Hackett, said, noting that federal designations include being drinkable, swimmable or fishable.
The Odessa nonprofit has a similar 17-acre project in mind for next year on its Taylors Branch site, also partly funded by a Clean Water Act Section 319 Nonpoint Source grant.
State residents, government agencies and nonprofits are encouraged to apply for these grants, through Feb. 8. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has a $425,000 pool, with additional funds expected next year. All projects must have at least 67% funding outside the federal government.
DNREC is looking for projects that reduce nonpoint source pollution, chiefly by reducing nutrients and sediment that drain or leach into those impaired waters.
Grant applications most frequently involve agriculture, forestry production, construction, shoreline stabilization, large septic systems and water flow engineering.
Delaware Wild Lands’ Armstrong project turned “a low-yield agricultural field” disrupting the state’s best old-growth forest into a future forest of pin oak, flowering dogwood, black oak, chestnut oak, black gum and red maple.
It will reduce agricultural runoff by taking land out of production, increase air and water filtration and carbon sequestration with more trees and provide more homes for wildlife.
Other recent 319 grant recipients include several downstate organizations that implemented best management practices.
The Sussex Conservation District, in cooperation with the Delmarva Poultry Industry, tackled poultry farms, including tree plantings for windbreaks, grass buffers, pollinator habitat areas, shallow water ponds for wildlife and nutrient filtering.
The Kent and Sussex conservation districts addressed manure storage and composting.
The Delaware Botanic Gardens focused on living shorelines and stormwater facility enhancements.
“While there has been vast improvement in Delaware’s water quality, challenges still persist, and meeting those challenges is crucial in our state’s fight to achieve clean water for everyone,” DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said in a statement. “The Clean Water Act grants offer leverage for government agencies and nonprofit organizations in making the most of that fight. These grants help fund investments in cover crops, nutrient management, land conservation, stormwater retrofits, and tree planting projects – all of which enhance and improve water quality statewide.”