A 345 acre property near Merchants Mill Pond State Park has been selected for its wetland and riparian restoration opportunity in the Bennetts Creek watershed (Chowan Basin). Albemarle Restorations, LLC proposes restoration of 22 acres of non-riparian wetlands on this site that was previously ditched and drained for agricultural production. The primary objective is to restore the site to a wetland complex
representative of the surrounding Hardwood Flats and Non-Riverine Swamp Forest wetland communities.
The plan calls for minimal grading to lower the elevation, fill existing drainage ditches, install ditch plugs at outlets, and remove field crowns. The overall concept has been designed to restore a hydrologic regime similar to that found in the nearby reference wetlands. Existing hydric soils and large woody debris will be utilized on-site and native species will be planted to provide habitat and a food source for wildlife. The resulting project will improve water quality, hydrology, and terrestrial wildlife and anadromous fish habitat. Plans are nearing completion and construction of this project is slated to begin in July 2014.
Detailed maintenance, monitoring, and long-term management plans will be in place to ensure success of these projects, and the properties will be protected through recorded conservation easements. It is anticipated that the transition from degraded stream channels surrounded by agricultural fields to restored headwater streams and wetland complexes will help to improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and downstream fishery nursery areas, reduce downstream flooding, and increase recreational opportunities.