Reconnecting River to Floodplain Restores 600 Acres of Forested Wetland
Pokomoke River berm in process of being breached (top) and after (bottom) USFWS photos. Insets: Top, Swainson's warbler by George Jett, Bottom: Wood duck by Dave Menke.
Working with the Delmarva Resource Conservation and Development Council, the Chesapeake Bay Field Office reconnected a channelized section of the Pocomoke River to its historical floodplain thereby restoring 600 acres of forested wetland.
Back in the 1930’s, channelization was common to alter the flow of water and create drainage for agricultural lands. To create channelized streams and rivers, sediment is moved and deposited near the channel creating a berm that separates the waterway from its floodplain.
In order to reconnect the Pocomoke with its floodplain, the berm was breached in 12 places along a 2-mile stretch of the river. The breaching allows water to flow onto the floodplain enhancing habitat for neotropical migratory birds like the locally-rare Swainson’s warbler, as well as wood ducks and American black ducks.
Reconnecting the river to its floodplain forested wetlands will also increase the uptake of harmful nutrients and sediments, improving water quality in the Pocomoke River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
This was the last piece of a National Wetlands Conservation Act grant project that protected 1,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat on three properties and restored 600 acres of wetland on one of these properties.
The forests and wetlands of the Pocomoke River are a biodiversity hotspot and a significant region for neotropical migratory birds, waterfowl, and rare, threatened, and endangered plants and animals. The floodplain reconnection is part of a larger landscape scale partnership that has conserved almost 4,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Pocomoke River watershed.