OCEAN — Given that 2020 was such a difficult year, the N.C. Coastal Federation said it is pleased to share “some really remarkable and encouraging accomplishments.”
The NCCF said in an announcement Dec. 23 it continued protecting and restoring the North Carolina coast in 2020 “thanks to the significant contributions of many partners and supporters.”
“We engaged partners, although sometimes virtually, to restore thousands of acres of wetlands, reduce millions of gallons of polluted runoff, install over a mile of living shorelines, build oyster reefs, remove hundreds of tons of marine debris from coastal estuaries, and work to promote management decisions and policies that maintain a healthy coastal economy and environment,” the federation said.
NCCF Executive Director Todd Miller said federation staff held many virtual meetings and worked directly with paid contractors to accomplish tasks.
“This year’s (2020’s) tangible, long-term accomplishments make a difference not only now but for decades to come,” he said.
More than a mile of living shorelines was built by the federation and its partners in Carteret County and in Oriental, as well as at dozens of private residential waterfront properties.
NCCF scientist Dr. Lexia Weaver said the federation was able to significantly increase the demand for living shorelines and the number of living shorelines built in the state in 2020 “thanks to funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the North Carolina Land and Water Fund and the state’s Community Conservation Assistance Program.”
“We also provided technical assistance to an additional 77 waterfront property owners, sparking their interest in living shorelines,” Dr. Weaver said.
The federation also said there are now more oysters growing along the North Carolina coast, as the NCCF and its partners continued to carry out numerous strategies outlined in the Oyster Blueprint. “Through hours of online virtual meetings, nearly a hundred stakeholders worked together to outline oyster management and restoration priorities for the next five years,” scientist Erin Fleckenstein said. “This year we learned from monitoring by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries that the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary we helped to build now hosts an estimated 136 million oysters.”
She said these oysters “now help to seed new natural oyster reefs in Pamlico Sound.”
The federation also continued to expand an oyster shell recycling program, support the shellfish mariculture industry and worked with N.C. Sea Grant and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources to launch the N.C. Oyster Trail.
“On coastal farms and forests, the federation restored more than 2,700 acres of wetlands that now hold back hundreds of millions of gallons of drainage, protecting creeks and estuaries,” the announcement continued.
Working toward a coast that is free of debris, the federation removed nearly 300 tons of debris in 2020.
The federation also helped convince the N.C. General Assembly to enact new legislation that sets the stage for the removal of hundreds of abandoned and derelict boats in 2021.
NCCF coastal education coordinator Sara Hallas, said with all the unexpected challenges that 2020 brought, “I’m so proud to see our volunteers, contractors and community partners persevere with making great strides on tackling some of the goals within the N.C. Marine Debris Action Plan that we adopted in early 2020.”
In 2020, the federation also “remained on the cutting edge of dozens of coastal management policy efforts,” according to its announcement.
NCCF board of director’s president Dr. Joe Ramus said the work “reaffirms my faith in our ability to work cohesively and productively for the good of coastal communities and environment, despite any challenges we may face.”