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Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge - Rebecca Wynn/USFWS
Resilience shield

Increasing Water Management Capability

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Virginia

Project type: Resilience

Project status: Complete

Funding awarded: $3,130,000


Project completed in 2016.

LIsten to a story about the project on National Public Radio.

Project Summary

The project will increase the water storage of drained forested peatlands, making them more resilient to the predicted effects of climate change such as increased storms, wildfires, and drought. Project stages will include planning, implementation and monitoring. When the project is complete, the refuge will have installed or replaced 13 water control structures to increase water management capability.

Conservation Goals

  • Reduce flooding impacts on nearby communities
  • Increase water storage available for the inter-coastal waterway (Dismal Swamp Canal)
  • Reduce fire vulnerability of carbon-rich peat soils to drought events
  • Reduce wildfire smoke impacts on public health and tourism in surrounding urban areas
  • Enhance conditions to encourage peat accumulation and carbon sequestration
  • Improve wildlife habitat diversity and resiliency
  • Improve and protect water quality

Project Benefits

  • Protects communities from flooding and wildfire risk
  • Improves habitat
  • Reduces fire/smoke impacts to tourism industry
  • Improves/protects water quality

Project Partners

  • Christopher Newport University
  • City of Chesapeake, Virginia
  • City of Suffolk, Virginia
  • North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Partners for Fish and Wildlife
  • U.S. Geological Survey Land Carbon Program
  • U.S. Geological Survey Virginia Water Resources Center
  • Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Additional Details

Hurricane Sandy and previous hurricanes have shown that marginal urban development has had dramatic effects on the ability of this 100,000+ acre refuge to drain water during storm events. At times, this has caused flooding in surrounding communities and overflow of the Dismal Swamp Canal into regional drinking water supplies. Downed trees from hurricanes has resulted in wildfires that have threatened important wildlife habitat, human health and safety. The goal of the project is to improve the ability of the refuge to manage water levels for flood control, fire suppression and habitat management.

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Water Management Project Map

Communities of Great Dismal Swamp

Flying over Great Dismal Swamp NWR

Great Dismal Swamp NWR Restoration Photos

Last updated: February 5, 2019