NOAA 2000-156
Contact: Kate Naughten


NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service today announced funding for three community-based habitat restoration projects valued at over $250,000 with The Nature Conservancy as the project partner.

The projects include the removal of the Cuddebackville Dam on New York's Neversink River, the removal of invasive exotic plants from Egret Island in the Florida Keys, and the control of the invasive water chestnut on the Connecticut River. The projects have begun and will continue into 2001.

"These projects mark the beginning of an enhanced relationship between NOAA and The Nature Conservancy which is one of the nation's premier conservation organizations," said Penny Dalton, director of NOAA Fisheries. "The Nature Conservancy's growing interest in protecting the marine environment will increase the number of opportunities we will have to work collaboratively on community-based restoration projects to benefit fishery habitats."

NOAA is providing $110,000 of federal support for the projects through its Community-Based Restoration Program. The program, which is part of NOAA Fisheries, has been working with community organizations to support effective habitat restoration projects in marine, estuarine and riparian areas since 1996. NOAA Restoration Center staff work closely with communities to aid in project development and implementation. Projects subsequently are monitored and maintained by communities, promoting stewardship and a heightened appreciation for the environment and its well-being.

"The Nature Conservancy is excited about our expanding relationship with NOAA on many fronts, and especially about this and other opportunities to apply the sound science, strong public and private partnerships, ecosystem approach, and site-based conservation we've used for so long on the land towards conserving freshwater, coastal, and marine habitats," said The Nature Conservancy's Coastal Waters Program director Mike Beck.

The Nature Conservancy is an international, non_profit organization dedicated to preserving the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. Since 1950, The Nature Conservancy maintained a strong focus on land_based habitats. In the past decade, the Conservancy has placed special emphasis on critically important and productive freshwater, coastal, and marine habitats and the land_based activities affecting them.

The projects include:

Cuddebackville Dam Removal in New York – As project leader, The Nature Conservancy is coordinating a variety of partners in the effort to remove the Cuddebackville Dam to open up 40 miles of the Neversink River. The Conservancy also will perform pre- and post-monitoring of the dam-removal process and will oversee the project's community outreach component. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will provide technical support and expertise, including coordination of the dam's deconstruction. The dam, built in the 1820s to divert water from the Neversink River into the Delaware and Hudson Canal, has eroded after decades of inactivity, creating a public safety hazard. The dam restricts passage of migratory fish including shad and striped bass and fragments the habitat of a variety of local species such as trout, sculpin and darters. The dam also marks the upstream limit of one of the world's best populations of the federally-endangered dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon) on the Neversink River.

Egret Island Restoration in Florida – Working in cooperation with the Florida Keys Environmental Restoration Trust Fund, The Nature Conservancy of the Florida Keys will provide the community conservation component of the Egret Island Restoration Project. The Conservancy's GreenSweep volunteers will remove invasive exotic plants, including Brazilian peppers and Australian pines, from the disturbed upland portion of the island and the bridge connecting the island to Key Largo. Conservancy staff also will engage the local community with an educational presentation that covers the threat created by invasive exotics and the benefits of native species.

Control of Water Chestnut in Connecticut – Working in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and others, The Nature Conservancy's Connecticut Chapter will provide funding, staff, volunteer support, and monitoring services towards controlling the spread of the invasive plant known as water chestnut in the Connecticut River. The Tidelands of the Connecticut River contain a high concentration of rare and declining plants. Water chestnut poses a serious threat to the Tidelands, which were designated as one of 40 Last Great Places in the Western Hemisphere by The Nature Conservancy in 1993. Water chestnut poses a major threat to 36 miles of tidal Connecticut River that supports one of the largest and most stable populations of American shad in the U.S., and may impact an area that contains one of the least disturbed large-river tidal marsh systems in the Northeast.

NOAA Fisheries is an agency of the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency conducts scientific research and provides services and products to support fisheries management, fisheries development, trade, and industry assistance, enforcement, and protected species and habitat conservation programs.