Tag Archives: cleanup

Nia Edwards ties Baltimore Latinos to resources at Masonville Cove

In the early 2000s, there was a need to clean up the Baltimore Harbor and dredge material (wood, mud, silt, sand, shell, and debris) from the seafloor. From that project and a robust coalition of partners, Masonville Cove was restored and Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was born. Located on a restored site along the Patapsco River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dubbed Masonville Cove one of the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships in September 2013. The partnership and education center have since served as a place for local residents and schoolchildren in Baltimore to connect with nature and participate in meaningful stewardship projects. The adjacent communities of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay are geographically isolated and face challenges such as income inequality, concentrated poverty, limited public transportation, high crime, and low high school graduation rates. Today we continue our celebration of Latino Conservation Week with a post written by Nia Edwards, featuring some of the work she’s done to help residents of South Baltimore discover nature in the Chesapeake Bay.

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My name is Nia Edwards…

and I am a graduating senior at Towson University double majoring in Spanish and international studies. I am the Latino community outreach liaison working with Hispanic Access Foundation, Living Classrooms and Masonville Cove to serve the local community in South Baltimore. I am responsible for providing the local Latino community with engaging events and materials and bilingual programming in English and Spanish, to foster a better relationship with Masonville Cove and build awareness about environmental conservation. By translating resources to Spanish and offering events in both languages, I help open up the lines of communication and increase accessibility to Masonville Cove resources for members of the local Latino community. For example in February, I led a community program on watersheds that focused on waste management and the impacts of urban debris on our watersheds. We also participated in Project Clean Stream, a Maryland-wide initiative to tackle trash in and around state waterways.

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A reminder that litter negatively impacts wildlife and our environment

Although serving the community is a very fulfilling job, it was initially very challenging for me to address environmental issues with local communities.The environment appeared to take a backseat to basic needs such as housing, food and jobs. Aside from these socioeconomic factors , language also plays a large role and is a barrier when engaging these communities.

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Our first clean-up with the community was a lot of fun and seemed to successfully address a lot of these barriers. It was eventful, well-attended, and incorporated a lot of giveaways, while providing food and a safe space for community members to get together. During our Brooklyn clean-up, we served over 100 members and the feedback from the event was fulfilling. We had a free recycling bin giveaway for Baltimore City residents, and provided an opportunity for kids and their families to decorate their bins. Our biggest giveaway, and the one that the community volunteers seemed to enjoy the most, was a free year-long membership to the aquarium. Valued at $125, the winner and their family gained free entry to the aquarium and access to exclusive aquarium events.

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Events like these are a reminder of the good work we are doing and continue to do at Masonville Cove. Our goal to bring awareness and create a safe space for community members, specifically in the Latino community is constantly met during these events. For Latino Conservation Week, Nia will be leading a community event at Masonville called “Nosotros Conservamos” which will include a shoreline cleanup, fishing, and a nature walk.

Next, this week, we’ll hear from Hispanic Access Foundation intern Michael Bonilla as he strives to connect Providence, RI residents to green spaces in their communities.

Credit: NASA

Strong After Sandy

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Hurricane Sandy’s landfall on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 was marked by record levels of storm surge in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, and tropical storm force winds impacted an area about 1,000 miles in diameter. A federal impact assessment in 2013 estimated that Sandy damages exceeded $50 billion, with 24 states impacted by the storm. In addition to the extensive loss of life, livelihood and property, the region’s natural areas were greatly impacted. National wildlife refuges suffered loss of habitat, refuge staff productivity and visitor opportunities. Rain washed out roads, trails and dikes, hindering habitat management and reducing visitor access. Storm surge left miles of debris and hazardous materials on beaches, in coastal marshes and forests, degrading habitat and endangering staff and visitors. High winds damaged buildings and caused power outages across refuge properties.

With the coming hurricane season set to begin on June 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues working hard with partners to enhance and strengthen coastal areas by restoring beaches, dunes and marshes, removing or replacing obsolete dams and damaged or undersized road culverts and building innovatively designed breakwaters and water control structures. These efforts are designed to benefit fish and wildlife resources, and at the same time protect people and communities from flooding and increased storm surge from future weather events.

Repair and Prepare

In May 2013 the Service received $65 million in initial Hurricane Sandy funding from the Department of the Interior, through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. Since then, the Service has been working extensively to make refuges safer and healthier for visitors and staff by cleaning up damage dealt to National Wildlife Refuges and upgrading facilities to withstand future storms.  Later that year the Service received an additional $102 million from the Act for 31 resilience projects which focus both on protecting coastal communities from flooding and future storms and addressing more long-term concerns, including sea level rise and preservation of habitat for vulnerable species.

Completed projects, those  in progress or projects that are projected to launch later this year include:

Before and after: A coastal marsh area at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge just after Hurricane Sandy, and then about 18 months later after cleanup effort. Credit: Ryan Hagerty (before); Virginia Rettig (after)/USFWS.

Before and after:
A coastal marsh area at New Jersey’s Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge just after Hurricane Sandy, and then about 18 months later after cleanup effort. Credit: Ryan Hagerty (before); Virginia Rettig (after)/USFWS.

Restoring Refuges: Since October 2013, the USFWS has removed nearly 500 tons of debris from beaches and coastal marshes at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, at the heart of Hurricane Sandy’s impact zone. Debris fields along the New York-New Jersey coasts have contained roofs, docks, boats, barrels, fuel tanks, drums and household chemicals, as well as a few items of interest. When completed, the debris cleanup will restore thousands of acres of coastal marsh habitat and provide visitors opportunities for safe and healthy outdoor experiences at these natural areas once again.

The Service and its partners moved 45,000 tons of sand over three weeks to restore Delaware Bay beaches just in time for horseshoe crabs and migrating shorebirds.Credit: Eric Schrading/USFWS.

The Service and its partners moved 45,000 tons of sand over three weeks to restore Delaware Bay beaches in New Jersey just in time for horseshoe crabs and migrating shorebirds.Credit: Eric Schrading/USFWS.

Bringing Back the Beach: March of 2014 was a busy time on the Delaware Bay, where the Service worked with partner organizations to restore five beaches that were severely eroded by Sandy. In under a month’s time, 45,000 tons of sand were spread over storm-scoured shores, finishing just in time for returning horseshoe crabs to spawn. For migratory shorebirds like the red knot, which depend on horseshoe crab eggs to make it to the arctic, this was a lifesaver, and early reports on crab and bird rebounds have been very encouraging thanks to these efforts. Restored beaches will also add a layer of protection for coastal communities in New Jersey and promote recreational beach use and ecotourism.

 

The Service is installing backup and solar power systems at 18 locations across the Northeast region.

The Service is installing backup and solar power systems at 18 locations across the Northeast region.

Power Up: Sandy knocked out power in 15 states where an estimated 6 million customers were still without electricity days after the storm hit. Some areas—including some national wildlife refuges—remained without electricity for weeks. In places where USFWS stations were already equipped with emergency, self-powered electrical systems, refuges served as invaluable resources to their surrounding communities during the blackout. To prepare for future storms and equip many more refuges to serve their own communities in a similar capacity, the Service has invested more than $10 million in backup and solar power systems at 18 locations that will assure auxiliary power during future emergencies. Where solar PV arrays are installed, facilities’ carbon output will be reduced and thousands of taxpayer dollars saved on annual refuge utility bills. Installation at most locations is expected to be in full swing by mid-summer.

 

Hail Cove, at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, is part of a $10 million living shoreline effort to restore coastal areas on the Chesapeake Bay. Credit: USFWS

Hail Cove, at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, is part of a $10 million living shoreline effort to restore coastal areas on the Chesapeake Bay. Credit: USFWS

It’s Alive: Funded projects in Maryland and Virginia are developing living shorelines in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, at places such as Martin National Wildlife Refuge’s Fog Point, and Hail Cove at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. These undertakings involve ongoing efforts to restore coastal habitat and native plant species, control erosion through dilution of wave energy and enhancement of submerged aquatic vegetation, and will provide flood mitigation in vulnerable communities. More than 25,000 feet of living shoreline will be constructed between the two projects, which collectively received more than $10 million of Hurricane Sandy resilience funding.

 

The Flock Process Dam, which poses a flood risk to both the Merritt Parkway and a major Amtrak rail line in Norwalk, Conn., is one of many slated for removal as part of a region-wide effort to protect adjacent communities and restore natural river and stream connectivity. Credit: Steve Gephard/CTDEEP

The Flock Process Dam, which poses a flood risk to both the Merritt Parkway and a major Amtrak rail line in Norwalk, CT, is one of many slated for removal as part of a region-wide effort to protect adjacent communities and restore natural river and stream connectivity. Credit: Steve Gephard/CTDEEP

Staying Connected: Across the Northeast there exist scores of aging, obsolete dams. Once vital parts of industrial communities across the region, these dams can be hazards to human safety and impediments to natural aquatic connectivity. Even before Sandy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has overseen dam removals, and is now funding several more planned for dams in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Dam removal projects can reduce flood risk from storm-swollen rivers and dam failure, restore access to spawning grounds for fish and eels and promote the return of natural sediment flow, which can help rebuild eroding coastline downstream.

 

A Blue Whale-sized Milestone

Cleanup workers at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Southern New Jersey have been busy of late, hauling garbage out of the marshes that line a 22-mile stretch of coastline near Atlantic City. The debris was dumped there when Hurricane Sandy made landfall at the refuge’s doorstep, sweeping up all manner of jetsam from the densely populated surrounding area and depositing it, as it were, on the front porch.

Debris scattered by Hurricane Sandy across the coastal marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Debris scattered by Hurricane Sandy across the coastal marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Crews have been working through brutally cold days this winter to complete the cleanup in Brick Township. When the cleanup ends,the Service will begin restoring the marshes, making them a stronger front line protecting coastal communities during future storms.

The Service oversees work being done to remove debris from fragile marsh areas.  (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

The Service oversees work being done to remove debris from fragile marsh areas. (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

As of early March, about 200 tons of debris—roughly the equivalent of a blue whale in sheer mass—have been removed, including boats, docks, remains of buildings, barrels, drums and fuel tanks, some of which contained contaminants.

“Lands protected as a part of Forsythe Refuge buffered inland areas from the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy…we will clean and restore this vibrant and resilient stretch of coast to sustain wildlife and protect the people of New Jersey in the future,” said Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig.

Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig gives Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a tour of the marsh at Forsythe. (Credit Keith Shannon/USFWS)

Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig gives Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a tour of the marsh at Forsythe. (Credit Keith Shannon/USFWS)

Click here to read about how and where the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is working to restore natural areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy. You can also view photos of cleanup projects here.

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats which are actively managed for migratory birds.