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APNEP's 5-Year Program Evaluation Highlights Past and Present Partnerships

epa visit
Friday, June 8, 2018

APNEP is proud to be one of twenty-eight “estuaries of national significance” across the United States that belong to the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program (NEP). As part of the National Estuary Program, APNEP’s progress towards achieving its long-term goals is assessed every five years by EPA representatives through a formal Program Evaluation. This May 15th through 17th, APNEP staff and EPA representatives traveled across the Albemarle-Pamlico region for the site visit portion of the Program Evaluation. EPA and APNEP staff visited APNEP-funded project sites, spoke with past and present partners, and discussed how we can continue to improve our effectiveness during the next five years and beyond.

APNEP’s 2018 Program Evaluation assessed the Partnership’s progress from July 2012 through June 2017. EPA representatives were Rachel Hart and Mark Nuhfer from EPA Region 4, Megan Mackey from EPA Region 3, and Vince Bacalan and Robin Parker from EPA Headquarters. Duane De Freese, the Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, also participated as part of the review team.

APNEP-funded or coordinated projects from the past five years that were highlighted during the EPA site visit included:

Identify:

  • APNEP facilitated  a Nutrient Criteria Development working group in 2015-2016, which aimed to study and recommend appropriate nutrient standards for North Carolina’s estuaries. While no criteria recommendations emerged from the group, the workgroup members coordinated with NC Division of Water Resources (DWR) to prioritize additional research recommendations for further criteria development, concluding Phase I of the process. NC DWR is the lead for Phase II efforts to pursue recommended research initiatives and develop criteria. Read the Proceedings of the Albemarle Sound Nutrient Criteria Development Workgroup: Phase I.

Protect:

  • APNEP has coordinated efforts to protect submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Albemarle-Pamlico region by mapping and monitoring the extent of this valuable natural resource. APNEP’s Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Team has collaborated to identify and protect the region’s extraordinary SAV resources for almost two decades, including a baseline map of SAV from 2006-2008 aerial imagery and a soon-to-be published map from 2012-2014. Read more about APNEP’s SAV Team.

Restore:

  • The need to collaborate across state lines and work regionally to address water quality issues was highlighted during a discussion with the Albemarle Commission, Town of Edenton, Albemarle Resource Conservation & Development Council and APNEP Leadership Council members. APNEP and partners have been working to support efforts to identify the causes of re-emerging algal blooms in the Chowan and Pasquotank River basins, which start in Virginia and flow into Albemarle Sound. In recognition of the value of their local waterways to the local economy, these partners are taking proactive measures to protect downstream water quality through projects such as restoration projects involving Best Management Practices on agricultural lands and APNEP supported stormwater wetlands. 
  • APNEP has supported the Mattamuskeet Ventures Farm Hydrologic Restoration project, which explored alternative water management techniques and landscape-scale hydrologic restoration in eastern North Carolina. APNEP and other partners provided funds for the installation of a pilot project on the Mattamuskeet Ventures Farm, specifically for water quality monitoring and additional dike work to fine-tune the farm’s ability to hold water in one of its habitat blocks. Read more about this project.

Engage:

  • Two longstanding APNEP-funded education programs, the Shad in the Classroom program, which is coordinated by the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Summer Teacher Institute, which is coordinated by the UNC Institute for the Environment, were highlighted during the site visit.

The Shad in the Classroom program, which engages students in water quality and habitat issues through raising and releasing American Shad, has reached approximately 13,764 students from 2013-2018. Pre- and post-surveys of students have demonstrated that the program has a positive impact on all racial and ethnic groups. Read more about the Shad in the Classroom program.

The Summer Teacher Institute, which provides a free opportunity for educators to gain experience using environmental and outdoor education tools and curricula, has reached over 240 teachers over its 16 years of funding. Results from the 2016 Institute showed that 100% of participants strongly agreed or agreed that they will update their watershed-related instruction as a result of attending the Institute, and planned to incorporate one or more of the lessons, activities, materials, or ideas into their instruction in the upcoming academic year. Read more about the Summer Teacher Institute or the 2016 Institute Final Report.

APNEP supported the NC Coastal Federation and Mano al Hermano’s Summer Literacy Program in 2015 and 2016. This funding supported Mano al Hermano, a community-based nonprofit whose mission is to empower Latino families through education, in providing a summer family literacy program focusing on coastal science. Learn more about the Mano al Hermano Summer Literacy Project.

Monitor:

  • APNEP provided funds to support NC Division of Marine Fisheries’ Recreational Water Quality Monitoring program from 2014-2018, which ensures that estuarine and coastal swimming sites are monitored for harmful bacteria. In addition to promoting public safety, support from APNEP ensures continuity of the program’s monitoring information. This information has been collected since 1997 and is a key indicator of estuarine health in the region. Read more about the DMF Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program. 

APNEP staff would like to thank the many partners who donated their time and effort to making this Program Evaluation site visit successful. As APNEP receives and responds to the results of the Program Evaluation this summer, we look forward to utilizing the feedback from EPA and partners to continue improving how we identify, protect, and restore the natural resources of our “Estuary of National Significance.”