Freshly Planted
Newly planted salt marsh cordgrass grows where construction debris once littered the shoreline of Scuffletown Creek choking out the natural wetlands. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District and the City of Chesapeake, Va., restored about one acre of natural wetlands along Scuffletown Creek, a tributary of the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, Va., in an effort to bring the river system back to a healthy thriving waterway after centuries of industrial activity impaired it.

<b>CHESAPEAKE, Va.</b> -- Freshly planted salt marsh cordgrass and bushes grow along the shores of Scuffletown Creek here, where construction debris once choked out these native species of plants.

Thanks to a partnership between the Norfolk District and the City of Chesapeake, and funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, nearly one-acre parcel of land has returned to its natural, historical state.

"Ultimately, what we are trying to accomplish is taking a piece at a time and restoring this river shoreline system to some level of what it was in the historical past," said Craig Seltzer, the Norfolk District's technical team leader for the project.

Since World War II, development along the Elizabeth River has taken a toll on wetlands, as natural sites became dumping grounds for construction debris, were paved over or replaced by retaining walls.

"Before there were a lot of environmental regulations and laws in place regulating activities in wetlands a lot of dumping activity occurred in most of the river basins throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed," said Seltzer.

Now, a concerted effort is underway to restore small pockets of wetlands such as the siteat Scuffletown Creek to help bring back a healthy, thriving river basin.

"Every pocket that can be brought back to this urban environment is really critical," said Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, executive director of the Elizabeth River Project, a non-profit organization focused on restoring the environmental quality of the Elizabeth River. "If you look around at the shoreline you pretty much see a hardened shore, so an acre is a big area to restore for wetlands,"

As the restored wetlands mature, they'll provide a natural habitat in an otherwise urban environment.

"They provide nursery areas for a lot of our shellfish and finfish, Seltzer said. "These nurseries provide refuge and food - an environment where the animals can develop defense mechanisms and become reproducing adults," said Seltzer

Though the long term impacts of the restored wetlands won't be noticed for a couple of years, citizens frequenting the area will notice an immediate change.

"Instead of rebar and a bunch of concrete exposed on the shoreline and perhaps the unsightliness of invasive scrub vegetation growing there before, citizens will see a naturalized shoreline instead of something that looks industrial or commercial," said David Mergen, an environmental scientist with the City of Chesapeake's Public Works Department.

Aesthetics aside, the Scuffletown Creek project marks the completion of the first of several environmental restoration initiatives in the Elizabeth River Basin by the Norfolk District in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach.

With this project complete focus shifts to the other environmental restoration initiatives that comprehensively will help to bring back one of the Chesapeake Bay's most polluted waterways.

"Anywhere you can find the landowners, the funders, the scientists and the engineers getting together to bring back healthy wetlands is a significant achievement and that's so much better for the health of the river," said Jackson.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16