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2008 News Releases

Longwood receives grant for environmentally friendly project

July 24, 2008


Longwood University has received a $75,000 grant for a shoreline erosion control project that will serve as a demonstration model for environmentally friendly practices.

The grant from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will enable the completion of a “living shoreline” project at Hull Springs Farm (HSF), an education and research site owned and managed by Longwood on the Northern Neck. The project, initiated through a $40,500 NOAA grant in 2005, will control erosion while also preserving or restoring shoreline habitat that supports shorebirds, juvenile fish, tidal marsh, submerged aquatic vegetation, and other plant and wildlife species.

The work will include the installation of a sill about 26 feet from the eroding bank to reduce wave action – sills are low-elevation, shore-parallel stone structures installed channelward – and the creation of a tidal fringe marsh by placing 750 cubic yards of sand and stone between the sill and toe of the bank, then planting 4,800 plugs of marsh grasses. The work began in early July and will conclude in early August with the marsh grass planting.

“Living shoreline techniques offer a biologically sensitive alternative to bulkheads and other ‘shore hardening’ structures, which are expensive, temporary and damaging to shoreline habitat,” said Katie Register, HSF’s program director and executive director of Clean Virginia Waterways (CVW).

Hull Springs Farm, bequeathed to Longwood in 1999 by Mary Farley Ames Lee, a 1938 Longwood alumna, consists of 643 acres in the Mt. Holly section of Westmoreland County. The farm has about 8,400 feet of shoreline along Glebe and Aimes creeks, some of which is subject to extensive erosion from Nor’easters and tropical storms. The work is taking place at a highly erodable shoreline on a point of land between the two tidal creeks, which are tributaries of the nearby Potomac River.

“In the past, fewer ‘soft’ shoreline stabilization alternatives were available, and landowners often weren’t aware of the need for improved shoreline management practices,” Register said. “Thus, many landowners relied upon traditional techniques such as bulkheads and riprap revetments. In recent years, a growing number of landowners are investigating living shoreline protection alternatives and retrofitting previously hardened shorelines by creating fringe marshes in front of existing structures.”

The recent grant, part of NOAA’s Living Shoreline Grant Program, also involves the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment. The earlier grant was used to assess how living shoreline techniques could be used to control erosion. The living shoreline project is being supervised by Register and Bobbie Burton, HSF’s executive director.

The design for the project was developed by Bayshore Design of Kinsale, and the work is being done by Earth Resources of Lancaster with support from Robert H. Gawen IV and Sons of Hague. The work is proceeding according to the plans approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Westmoreland County Wetlands Board. Volunteers will be recruited to assist with the planting of the marsh grasses on Aug. 8-9. Anyone wishing to volunteer for the marsh grass planting should call (804) 472-2621 and leave contact information.

“Longwood’s work at Hull Springs Farm represents an ongoing effort to establish an education, research and demonstration center for best management practices for sustainability in the areas of forestry, agriculture, wetlands, habitat and shoreline protection,” Burton said. “The Farm is rich with habitats unique to the tidal reaches of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including wetland, riparian (streamside), agricultural and forest habitats in addition to a freshwater pond.”

The project has involved the expertise of other partners, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District, the Northern Neck Planning District Commission, shoreline expert David Burke of Burke Environmental Associates, CVW, and community volunteers.

In a related effort, two Longwood biology professors, Dr. Tom Akre and Dr. Mark Fink, and undergraduate research assistants, most notably Douglas Horchler, spent 27 days at Hull Springs Farm during the summer of 2007 collecting data as part of a longterm research project examining the effectiveness of the planned sill/fringe marsh management technique in maintaining and/or restoring the aquatic biotic community.