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Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902  

New Broadkill River Watershed Report
details wetland health, management recommendations

DOVER (April 16, 2013) – DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program announced this week that they have completed the final report on the health of wetlands located in central Sussex County’s Broadkill River Watershed.

“Protected and functioning wetlands are vital to help ensure a healthy watershed, improve water quality, act as a buffer against coastal storms, and store excess rainwater,” said DNREC Environmental Scientist Alison Rogerson, program lead for Wetland Monitoring and Assessment. “This report includes management recommendations such as enforcing wetland buffer regulations, updating tidal wetland regulatory maps, and protecting vulnerable freshwater wetlands from conversion. The data and recommendations will help guide voluntary wetland restoration and protection efforts overseen by state resource managers and groups such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local watershed citizen advisory committees.”  

The Broadkill River headwaters originate near the Town of Milton and flow 25 miles eastward towards Broadkill Beach into the Delaware Bay through Roosevelt Inlet. One of 16 watersheds that comprise the Delaware Bay and Estuary Basin, the Broadkill River Watershed covers 68,500 acres and is primarily comprised of agricultural land with urban development and wildlife refuge. Wetlands make up 20 percent of the watershed.

In the summer of 2010, a team of wetland scientists from DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship’s Watershed Assessment Section visited 94 randomly-assigned wetland sites within the Broadkill watershed and collected data on the plants, hydrology and wetland disturbances. Wetlands within the watershed were separated into tidal and non-tidal. The nontidal sites were further classified as flats, riverine, and depressions.

The team’s 67-page technical report summarizes not only the health of these wetlands but also examines how wetland acreage has changed in recent decades, and discusses how trends in land use have and will impact wetlands across the watershed. Changes documented in the report include:

·         Conversion of 75 acres of freshwater wetlands into development or agricultural production;

·         Coastal wetlands in Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Broadkill Beach lost to development and conversion to open water; and

·         Numerous stormwater ponds created as part of residential developments.

DNREC biologists used established condition assessment checklists and biological metrics to determine how well the wetlands were faring. Indicators such as the presence of invasive plants, artificial ditching, or sources of pollution adjacent to wetlands are examples of how wetland health is impacted.

In comparison to watersheds that have been assessed in the past, the Broadkill watershed had fewer severely stressed wetlands. The majority were classified as moderately stressed wetlands, which generally maintain some characteristics of natural wetlands but with evidence of past disturbances to hydrology, plant community or wetland buffers.

The Broadkill River Watershed report will be summarized into shorter handouts and presentations for targeted audiences. This report is the fifth in a series of directed watershed studies throughout the state. These reports and the work of the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program are made possible by EPA Wetland Program Development funding.

To view the full report and the report card, or more information on assessment methods, please visit Broadkill Watershed Report.

Vol. 43, No. 148

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