When someone mentions the Department of Defense (DoD), one of the last things that might come to mind is Chesapeake Bay restoration. But the DoD is actually the second largest landholder in the watershed (657 square miles), after the USDA Forest Service (3,757 square miles). The DoD has been working to improve the Bay since 1984, when it was the first federal agency to become formally involved in Bay restoration.
The DoD recently published Defending Our National Treasures: A Department of Defense Chesapeake Bay Restoration Partnership 1998-2004, a report that describes the agency's restoration initiatives over the past 10 years.
Defending Our National Treasures also presents four case studies, one of which details DoD's restoration effort along the Elizabeth River in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Elizabeth River watershed includes nearly 200 square miles of the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Ninety percent of this area is developed and highly industrialized. Since 1944, half of the river's wetland habitat has been lost. The Elizabeth River is home to the world's largest naval base and one of the busiest ports in the world. With all this development, the health of the river has gone by the wayside. The Bay Program has designated the river as an “area of concern” due to high levels of contaminants in the water and bottom sediments.
The DoD has set up restoration efforts at two locations along the Elizabeth River: Paradise Creek and the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The Navy received the 2004 Coastal America Spirit Award for its Elizabeth River restoration projects.
Paradise Creek is the site of the New Gosport landfill, which contains over 55,000 tons of contaminated soil. The Navy formed a partnership with government and nonprofit organizations to formulate a cleanup plan. The restoration plan saved the state millions of dollars while restoring 1.9 acres of tidal wetlands and 1.1 acres of upland habitat.
Similarly at the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, DoD restored a site with 44,000 tons of contaminated soil by establishing an agreement and restoration partnership with local organizations. They restored 1.3 acres of tidal wetlands and 1.6 acres of riparian forest buffers.
Because of the DoD's large land stake in the Bay watershed, the agency will continue to be a vital partner for future restoration efforts throughout the region. Only by establishing and maintaining partnerships can we hope to make the waters of the Chesapeake a little clearer for all.
View the full report at the Integration and Application Network website.