NC Coastal Federation Newport River Estuary Protection and Restoration Strategic Plan



    The NC Coastal Federation (NCCF) is working with key partners to develop a watershed action plan for the Newport River. In FY 2022-23, KIETS support enabled the NCCF and NC State team to collect and analyze important water quality data and trends. NC State researchers Dr. Natalie Nelson and Dr. Angela Harris, and PhD student Julia Harrison developed a water quality sampling and analysis strategy that has been implemented over the course of the year. The monitoring data will serve as the foundation for plan development along with critical watershed characterization information about the sub watersheds of Black Creek, Core Creek, Harlow e Creek, Middle Newport River, Newport Marshes – Lower Newport River and the Upper Newport River. The NC State researchers have been collecting and analyzing water quality data and long-term watershed trends to identify areas of the river that are experiencing elevated levels of microbial contamination. In addition, they have been evaluating the influence of rainfall on river pollution and have been working to determine the relationships between contamination and other water quality parameters to better understand the Newport River system in its entirety. The project partners have utilized the data and additional watershed information to determine hot spots for retrofit projects that will be included in the final plan. The partners are working now with consultant GPI and all the local governments and private stakeholders to finalize the development of the plan narrative and to develop a list of prioritized actions to improve water quality.

    The work on the plan has already resulted in two restoration projects that are being implemented that will reduce the rate and volume of runoff entering the river. NCCF is working with the N.C. Coastal Land Trust and the NC Land and Water Fund to restore nearly 1,400 of riparian habitat and hydrology on land that is currently ditched and drained. NCCF partnered with the NC Coastal Land Trust to secure $2.4 million funding for the acquisition of the 1,400-acre Weyerhaeuser tract in the northern part of the watershed. The Federation was awarded a grant from the NC Land and Water Fund Flood Risk Reduction program to restore the 1400-acre tract to wetlands next year. Once hydrology is restored, the project would reduce about 1.5 billion gallons of polluted runoff each year from flowing into the river. The first draft of the watershed restoration plan was reviewed by the stakeholder team in April 2023 and then submitted to local and state governments for approval. Once finalized, NCCF will begin the public meeting process, presenting the final plan and implementation strategies to the public. A press release on the final plan and publication in print and online is scheduled for the end of 2023.

    Leveraged support for this project has come from the N.C. General Assembly, the NC Land and Water Fund, the Navy (to prevent Urban Encroachment near Cherry Point) and the NC Division of Infrastructure. The Federation, as a result of partnerships established to develop this plan, provided a letter of support to the Town of Morehead as it applied for funding from the N.C. Division of Infrastructure to retrofit its stormwater drainage system along Calico Creek. The proposal was funded with $5 million, and the Town is now designing nature-based retrofits to install. In addition, the Federation is providing financial support to the Town of Beaufort through a legislative appropriation to develop a green street that will infiltrate runoff before it enters the river. NCCF has invited continued KIETS collaboration through 2026 to complete the plan as well as an education and outreach campaign, begin to implement major watershed improvement projects such as the ones already underway, and institute a three-year water quality monitoring program with NC State partnership to provide a long-term analysis of water trends and quantify changes as water quality improvements are put into place. The NCCF also intends to continue to collaborate with the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership as well as the KIETS Climate Leaders Program.