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Virginia Coastal Program: 2009 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:

96.01

Grantee:

The Nature Conservancy

Project Title:

Seaside Special Area Management Plan: Project Team Administration and Habitat Distribution and Suitability Evaluation

Project Description as Proposed:

Background: The overall SAMP Strategy consists of three Phases, covering Fiscal Years 2008, 2009, 2010. The project will be led by Virginia CZM in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper, representatives of the shellfish aquaculture industry and other stakeholders. All 3 phases will be completed in the interval commencing October 1, 2009 and finishing March 31, 2012. The goals of this SAMP are (1) to map, analyze, and interpret the current status and trends in the uses, economic values, and beneficial ecosystem functions associated with state-owned and other habitats in the seaside bays of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, (2) to re-evaluate these uses in light of current and projected conditions, and (3) to recommend guidelines for the allocation of resources in a manner that optimizes the environmental and socio-economic benefits derived.
  
Using existing GIS data, combined with stakeholder/user information, management agency input and the additional field collected data, the effectiveness of use allocation patterns such as state oyster grounds will be examined in the context of current stakeholder uses and needs, eelgrass and oyster restoration potential, and current ecological conditions, including bird distribution/uses.  This process will also explore a consensus building process that results in recommendations which encompass planning, regulatory and other guidelines to:
-increase economic productivity
-enhance ecosystem health
-resolve potential conflicts.
The unique biological diversity, ecological health, and economic importance to local communities are all well documented for Virginia’s seaside bays. Virginia CZM’s long-term commitment to and investment in enhancing the wise use of coastal resources in the region has played a significant role in management of the seaside bays; this SAMP builds on those previous efforts, and particularly on the six year (FY2002-2007) Seaside Heritage Program.

While SAMP1 (FY 2008) activities will not be completed until September 30, 2010, interim reports were filed 4/15/10, and the three initial goals have been achieved: the Project Team has met formally three times to review and interpret TNC’s and VIMS’ habitat suitability analyses and maps for multiple resources, reviewed current spatial allocations on the seaside, interpreted the history, present conditions and future implications of the Baylor survey, evaluated the dynamic nature of the system, interviewed stakeholders, identified data gaps and achieved consensus regarding initial policy and regulatory approaches. Meeting summaries, stakeholder input, assessment data and maps are being completed on schedule as well.

The first phase of the SAMP (FY 2008), among other work, revealed that over 40%% of currently designated public shellfish grounds are not presently suitable for wild shellfish populations. It also determined that current oyster and eel grass restoration sites are a very small fraction of the habitats suitable for the re-establishment of these ecologically important and highly productive natural elements.

This Project: In SAMP 2 (FY 2009), VIMS and TNC, with the assistance of the Project Team and under the leadership of VA-CZM, will interpret and analyze additional field-collected data, and conduct finer-scaled evaluations of habitat suitability and existing spatial allocations and uses in three representative sites on the seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore:
•Central Hog Island Bay
•South and Magothy Bays
•Chincoteague Bay

Also working with VIMS and other Project Team members, and based on FY08 SAMP 1 work, TNC will look at the entire seaside to develop spatially explicit draft conservation objectives for future oyster and eel grass restoration, coordinate site evaluations for habitat potential, provide associated map and data products, and devise draft monitoring plans to measure effectiveness of both restoration and management of oyster and eelgrass projects in the context of multiple uses and stakeholders on the seaside.  This information will then help inform the Project team’s policy management and regulatory recommendations and guidelines. In addition, the Project Team will participate in trial coastal and marine spatial planning exercises that explore possible resource allocation scenarios and begin to examine non-confrontational, consensus-building approaches and recommendations for regulatory change. The VIMS SAMP 2 proposal (FY 2009 Task 96.02) will complement this effort.
 
During SAMP2, TNC will undertake the following tasks acting as CZM’s administrative point-of-contact on the Eastern Shore: scheduling, coordinating and expediting communications, meetings and progress reports by SAMP2 project participants and stakeholders In addition, TNC will provide input to the Project Team regarding avian distribution on the seaside, particularly the new migratory shorebird information developed by SAMP 1 this spring, and current and future oyster reef and eelgrass meadow restoration sites in the context of recommending possible changes in policies, regulations and guidelines. TNC will also, under the leadership of VA-CZM, organize and facilitate an “Oyster Restoration Summit” to convene experts from around the region to examine traditional and experimental restoration techniques, evaluate and prioritize seaside habitat suitability, including the potential for “deep water” oysters, and establish criteria and targets for long term restoration goals and conflict avoidance with stakeholders.

Steve Parker, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve will serve as project manager/administrator for Virginia CZM and the SAMP 2 Project Team (see below). He will coordinate communications, meetings and other activities within the Team, serve as point of contact for Virginia CZM, help identify and contact additional stakeholders and other resource users. He will provide regular progress reports and produce an overall summary of SAMP 2 efforts by the Project Team, as well as recommendations for SAMP 3 activities.

Barry Truitt, Chief of Conservation at The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve will provide information on habitat suitability for eelgrass and oyster restoration, as well as work with Alex Wilke, Bird Conservation Specialist at The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve to update, analyze and interpret appropriate existing public data regarding waterbird nesting, foraging and migratory distributions and threats caused by human impacts. They will provide the Project Team with recommendations as to which areas are most suitable for restoration and most sensitive to disturbances during different times of the year. Gwynn Crichton, Senior Conservation Projects Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Virginia, working with Chris Bruce TNC’s GIS Manager, will develop coordinate, assemble and report information and draft conservation goals and recommendations for oyster reef and eelgrass restoration projects. She will also organize and facilitate the Oyster Restoration Summit, and draft recommendations for a comprehensive monitoring plan. Map products, data layers and metadata will be developed to support the work of The Project Team.

In addition to Parker, Crichton, Bruce, Truitt and Wilke, the broader Project Team for SAMP2 will be led by Laura McKay, VA Coastal Zone Program Manager and will include SAMP1 Team members Nick Meade, Virginia CZM GIS Coordinator, Mark Luckenbach, Director of the VA Institute of Marine Sciences Eastern Shore Laboratory, Marcia Berman (VIMS), Tony Watkinson, Jim Wesson and Hank Badger (VA Marine Resources Commission), Pete Terry and Heather Lusk, (Terry Brothers Seafood), Tom Walker (JC Walker Brothers Seafood) and Dave Burden (Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper).  New members with interests in the southern and northern seaside bays may be added to the effort, as appropriate.  Laura McKay will head the project, providing leadership, guidance and continuity of purpose with previous initiatives on the seaside, especially SAMP 1 and the Seaside Heritage Program.

Federal Funding:

$34,923

Project Contact:

Steve Parker, (757) 999-0037; sparker@tnc.org

Project Status:

5/1/2010 - 6/30/2011: Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Final Report: Seaside SAMP Project Team Administration and Habitat Distribution and Suitability Analysis (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Seaside SAMP goals were to (1) map, analyze, and interpret the current status and trends in the uses, economic values, and beneficial ecosystem functions associated with state-owned and other habitats in the seaside coastal bays of Virginia’s Eastern Shore; (2) re-evaluate these uses in light of current and projected conditions; (3) recommend guidelines for the allocation of resources in a manner that optimizes the environmental and socio-economic benefits derived; and (4) assist, as appropriate, The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) and others appointed to the Study Panel, in the Joint Study requested by VA Senate Joint Resolution NO. 330. The grant was accomplished by a Project Team led by the VA-CZM Program and including staff from the VMRC, VIMS, TNC, Eastern Shorekeepers and private sector seafood and aquaculture representatives from Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Nature Conservancy’s Work Product #1, to compile and provide spatial allocations guidelines and recommendations, was completed by utilizing VIMS maps comparing the 1890’s Baylor Survey mapping of public oyster grounds with current conditions, activities, and suitability studies of today’s coastal bays. Significant amounts of current bottom allocated to public oyster harvest are no longer suitable for oysters, and historic surveys were not designed to facilitate hard clam aquaculture nor do they recognize the importance of recreational fishing, water bird foraging and roosting sites, or oyster and eelgrass restoration sites. The Project Team, which found many elements of the current system/process of spatial allocation managed by VMRC to be highly effective, recommended a list of 11 possible adjustments to the current system of spatial allocations that might make the implementation of use allocation more efficient and productive. This list is summarized in the Final Report. Work Product #2, to update spatial analysis and interpretation of nesting, foraging and migratory waterbird distributions on the seaside was accomplished by TNC utilizing existing data compared with aerial photos and field verification; few changes have been detected since the 2009 survey, but new LiDAR data being processed may provide new information on mudflats and shell piles. The GIS information is attached to the Final Report. Work Product #3, mapping and assessing state oyster sanctuaries on the seaside was accomplished by TNC in collaboration with VMRC on 10 sites. GIS information is also attached to the Final Report, along with tables of locations and acreage mapped. Work Product #4 consisted of a summary of the overall Project Team, including spatial allocations and suitability analysis of coastal bays to the north and south of Hog Island Bay. 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email: Laura.McKay@deq.virginia.gov

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to Virginia.Witmer@deq.virginia.gov

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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