Delaware -(Ammoland.com)- The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village was the setting for today’s Stewardship Week proclamation presentation of the annual Governor’s Agricultural and Urban Conservation Awards.
Governor Jack Markell, along with DNREC Secretary David Small, led a ceremony with Delaware Association of Conservation Districts President Robert Emerson recognizing this year’s honorees and signed a proclamation officially designating April 26 through May 3 as Soil and Water Stewardship Week in Delaware under the theme, “Local Heroes: Your Hardworking Pollinators.”
“Our honorees have demonstrated their continuing commitment to environmental improvement, and on behalf of the people of Delaware, I would like to thank each of them for their dedication and for their time, effort, and investment to implement model conservation practices,” said Governor Markell. “I also want to thank all of the Conservation District supervisors and employees for the many and various contributions they make to improve the quality of life in Delaware.”
“Much of the work we do at DNREC is accomplished through partnerships with individuals, organizations, municipalities and other state agencies, and these awards highlight the fruit that these relationships can bear,” said Secretary Small. “This year’s honorees are wonderful and diverse examples of how we can learn from the success of others and can all be better environmental stewards by taking thoughtful and important actions to protect and enhance our soil, water and air quality.”
This year’s Conservation Award winners are:
NEW CASTLE COUNTY – Agricultural Award
- George Whitehead, Whitehead Cattle Company, Townsend
In 1999, George Whitehead purchased a small farm south of Townsend and started raising beef cows. By using conservation practices that can be implemented by any farmer looking to improve, conserve and protect soil and water resources on their land, Mr. Whitehead has brought many benefits to his land and livestock.
Pasture quality was improved through nutrient management, rotational grazing practices and drilling and seeding with New Castle Conservation District equipment. Water quality is protected through the following: proper nutrient management, fencing that creates a buffer between the cows and the creek, rain gutters on farm buildings to divert clean water away from manure areas and concrete heavy use area protection pads to prevent erosion during the collection of manure. He also installed livestock waterers and tile drains to improve pasture drainage.
To implement these conservation practices, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided $10,610.56 in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding and the New Castle Conservation District provided $17,236.36 in Cost Share Program funding. Mr. Whitehead also received technical assistance from the Delaware Cooperative Extension Service. He is a vocal proponent of working with Cooperative Extension, NRCS, and the District, hosting pasture walks on his farm to educate others about ways to improve their operation.
NEW CASTLE COUNTY – Urban Award
- New Castle County, Thomas P. Gordon, County Executive
New Castle County’s Carousel Park on Limestone Road in Wilmington is heavily used by residents for outdoor recreation including hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, bird watching and dog walking. Uphill from the park’s centerpiece, an 8.7-acre pond, is a designated “bark park” with access to the pond’s southwestern edge for dog play. Environmental issues at the park addressed in a plan created by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service with the New Castle Conservation District included severe gully/soil erosion and sediment, and pet waste transfer to the pond, causing elevated levels of nutrients and bacteria.
The project included: construction of diversions and basins to drain runoff from the grassy sloped bark park area; installation of controlled culverts to move runoff into the pond via outlet pipes; stabilization of diversions, basins, gullies and all disturbed areas by hand-filling with topsoil, grass seeding to absorb excess nutrients and erosion control matting to preserve mature trees; placement of a mulch-filled fabric berm “log” along the bark park slope to intercept runoff and direct it to newly-installed basins; installation of a filter sock tube around the pond’s perimeter to provide additional protection; and reconstruction of the existing path with three concrete ramps to limit access by dogs and to allow emergency vehicle access.
New Castle County funded the $156,600 project, which was administered by the New Castle Conservation District and constructed by BrightFields, Inc., a Wilmington-based environmental services company. Benefits include reducing water quality impacts downstream of the park by stopping soil erosion into the pond and reducing the amount of sediment, bacteria, and nutrients going directly into the pond, which drains into a tributary of White Clay Creek, a National Wild and Scenic River/Watershed and key source of public drinking water for northern Delaware.
KENT COUNTY – Agricultural Award
- Jeremy Larimore, Em-Brook Farms, Harrington
Jeremy Larimore exemplifies a true steward of the land, managing four poultry houses and tilling around 450 acres to grow corn, soybeans, barley and wheat in the Green Branch Tax Ditch Watershed.
Mr. Larimore purchased his poultry operation in 2006 and began working with the Kent Conservation District (KCD) and NRCS to implement best management practices. These include: construction of a manure storage structure to contain manure after cleanout periods and prior to its spreading onto cropland; and an animal mortality facility to aid in the composting process; energy upgrades to his poultry houses to improve living conditions and minimize losses due to poor lighting, inadequate insulation and inefficient heaters. He installed concrete heavy-use area protection pads in front of the poultry houses and a composter to help contain manure during cleanout and reduce potential runoff. He also improved drainage along the farm lane for clean water runoff and installed a grass waterway to eliminate sediment before it enters the Green Branch Tax Ditch.
In addition, Mr. Larimore participates in the KCD Cover Crop program, cultivating multiple plant species such as wheat, barley and tillage radishes. When planted in the fall after harvest, these crops enhance soil and water quality and decrease nutrient leaching and runoff by tying up nutrients left in the soil from the previous crop, and when plowed under in the spring, releasing nutrients for use by the next crop. Cover crops also provide ground cover for the winter, which decreases the potential of soil loss by wind and water erosion.
KENT COUNTY – Urban Award
- Benjamin Kuntz (posthumously), accepted by Christine Kuntz, Smyrna
As the spokesman of the Kent County ad hoc committee, Homeowners Associations Resolving Problems (HARP), Benjamin Kuntz was instrumental in gaining public support for the newly-created Kent County Stormwater Maintenance District and provided valuable community feedback.
The Stormwater Maintenance District allows Kent County and the Kent Conservation District to maintain stormwater facilities in participating communities to ensure these facilities function properly, prevent flooding and maintain water quality. Many homeowner associations in Kent County are not prepared to address the long-term maintenance and associated costs of stormwater facility upkeep. Failure to perform routine preventive maintenance can lead to higher future repair/rebuild costs and loss of effective water quality treatment. Communities that participate in the program benefit from professional management of their stormwater facilities, and by having a dedicated funding source to address near-term and long-term maintenance and reconstruction needs. The cost of the program is $28 a year per household.
Kent County and the Kent Conservation District worked with community stakeholders such as HARP and Mr. Kuntz to conduct public outreach prior to forming the Stormwater Maintenance District. Delaware’s Stormwater Maintenance District stands not only as a model statewide, but also nationwide for local and county governments to relieve homeowners of the burden of maintenance of private stormwater facilities and to provide an alternative funding mechanism short of implementing a full stormwater utility.
SUSSEX COUNTY – Agricultural Award
- Woodbridge School District Animal Science Program
The Woodbridge School District’s Agriculture/Future Farmers of America (FFA) Animal Science Program and program head Karen Breeding, have excelled at practicing soil and water stewardship everyday by combining the education of students with conservation of land and water resources. The school district’s agriculture program has participated in Sussex Conservation District’s (SCD) programs for several years, and in 2014, Woodbridge completed numerous conservation practices in a three-year nutrient management plan on their farm next to the new high school just north of Bridgeville. Ms. Breeding and her FFA students manage the 15-acre pasture caring for five beef cows, one sow and litter, three sheep, and a small flock of chickens.
The Woodbridge School District farm has a host of best management practices to help improve water quality on and around the farm, including an animal waste structure and concrete heavy-use area protection pads for the manure shed and feeding area. Roof runoff management gutters were installed on the barn to divert clean water away from the feed lots to an existing storm drain and to a vegetated area outside the pasture near one of three rain gardens constructed on the farm. Gutters also were placed on the manure shed, diverting clean water to one of the other rain gardens. A pollinator meadow was planted to provide habitat, and a field windbreak was planted.
The Woodbridge Farm Project was a true partnership, with the SCD facilitating funding for the district’s best management practices. Woodbridge School District was the first recipient of SCD’s Cost-Share – Special Projects – Outreach and Education Component, which was created for the development of projects that promote conservation and other best management practices for primary use in educational or public outreach purposes. Other funding for the project came from SCD’s Conservation Cost-Share fund, DNREC’s Nonpoint Source Pollution Program grant funding, DNREC’s Watershed Assessment Program’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Grant, and the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Program, with NRCS providing technical assistance for most of the practices. SCD’s equipment program installed rain gardens and planted the pollinators utilizing the school district’s no-till drill.
SUSSEX COUNTY – Urban Award
- Town of Greenwood
The Cart Branch tax ditch, part of which runs through Greenwood Town Park and an industrial area, conveys runoff to the Nanticoke River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. The project became a priority when areas of erosion along the tax ditch jeopardized utility poles, a railroad bed and a culvert crossing under the railroad bed.
DNREC’s Drainage Section designed a drainage/water quality project that uses open space in the neighboring town park and industrial area for floodplain creation. Historically, the town has experienced flooding, and widening the tax ditch into a floodplain mitigated some of these impacts. The project also used native plantings along the floodplain for improved water quality.
The Sussex Conservation District (SCD) implemented the project in May and June 2014. The project is a good example of partnership between the Town of Greenwood, DNREC and SCD to address a drainage and erosion problem, as well as improving water quality benefits within the watershed.
Delaware Association of Conservation Districts’ Legislator of the Year
The Delaware Association of Conservation Districts also recognized State Senator Brian J. Bushweller as the 2015 Legislator of the Year, an annual award given to a legislator for outstanding service, loyalty and devotion to conservation efforts in Delaware. Sen. Bushweller has served in the Delaware Legislature representing Kent County since 2008. He serves or has served on the following Senate committees: Adult & Juvenile Corrections, Community/County Affairs, Finance, Highways & Transportation, Insurance & Telecommunications, Public Safety and the Bond Bill Committee.
Sen. Bushweller works closely with the Kent Conservation District (KCD) to ensure the concerns of his constituents are heard and addressed. He attends project meetings upon KCD request, and supports and educates constituents on KCD’s role in conservation, drainage assistance, cost-share funding and stormwater management throughout his legislative district and all of Kent County.
For years Sen. Bushweller has ensured that funds are allocated for a number of conservation and drainage projects throughout Kent County. During the past year, he has been very supportive regarding constituent drainage concerns that involve agencies such as the KCD, DNREC and DelDOT.
Sen. Bushweller was a vocal advocate on the Bond Bill Committee for the re-institution of Delaware Cost Share Funding Program in the FY-2015 State of Delaware budget. In addition, he supports the Large Animal Mortality Program, advocating for funding the program on the Bond Bill Committee in the FY-2016 State of Delaware budget.
Sen. Bushweller was a teacher and a teacher’s union representative for 23 years as well as Senator Tom Carper’s former state director. He has been a parent volunteer in parent-teacher groups, scouting, and band, chorus and football boosters. He is also a three-time honorary commander at Dover Air Force Base and serves on numerous community and government councils, boards, commissions and committees.