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  • Marcetta Linton

Watershed Rescue

Have you ever wondered what a watershed is? It was an answer that I didn't know. Watersheds are the land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean. Watershed conservation is something that is not talked about a lot and is not known.

The Back Bay Restoration Foundation is a 33-year-old nonprofit watershed organization. A group of volunteers created it in hopes of protecting the deteriorating Back Bay Watershed. The group is the only voice in conserving the two watersheds in Virginia beach. Back Bay strives to raise awareness, addressing issues that negatively affect these watersheds, such as sea-level rise, land subsidence, and land-use changes.

The back bay restoration is actively protecting the watersheds of Virginia beach and the wildlife that exists around it. There's a destructive proposal underway that threatens the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and its surrounding area. The plan to extend the Nimmo Parkway across the Refuge could increase flooding in communities in the Ashville Bridge Creek watershed and harm important wetlands and wildlife habitat in the Refuge. We believe improving existing roads in the area is the better solution.

Their mission is to preserve, protect, and improve Back Bay and the Southern watersheds of Virginia Beach. In 2020, in all the world's craziness shutting down and the hurricanes, Virginia's watersheds experienced a problem. Flooding became a significant problem, and the watersheds were overflowing into communities. Nature did fix the problem, but it reminded the community of how powerful nature is.

The community of Ashford and The Watershed in 2019 came to an agreement leaving the watersheds of Virginia Beach alone. Ashford's community was desperate to build along the watersheds requiring the drainage of wetlands to build infrastructure. Backbay immediately filed an injunction stating that it violated the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act. The courts held off action until December and then granted the community permission to drain the lands. This was discouraging and concerning to Backbay. Watersheds are in danger every day of being destroyed by the building of infrastructure. While we need progress to survive, we need nature to stay also. With the lockdowns in 2020, the watersheds benefitted from other nature items. The watersheds built up again, and the wildlife that relies on these gems thrived once again. We as humans must learn that we need to protect nature; it is our responsibility. Here is a list to help protect watersheds around where you may live.

  1. Collect rainwater for watering your garden. Consider planting a rain garden or using a rain barrel- maybe a combination!

  2. Explore a local stream—Wade, canoe, or kayak. Find out where it starts and where it drains. Look at topographic maps to find out what influences water flow around you. It isn't easy to preserve and protect what we don't know.

  3. Plant a tree

  4. The riparian zone is that area right along the stream bank. Get to know what plants, animals, and insects hang out there.

  5. Wash car(s) on the grass to catch runoff.

  6. Help ORF plant rain gardens, take kids out to explore the river, and distribute low-flow showerheads.

  7. Did you know the soil is our #1 contaminant to rivers, lakes, and streams? If you live by a waterway, plant trees, and shrubs to hold soil in place.

  8. Dispose of chemicals properly. Never pour chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil, or paint into the drain or toilets. Check with your county's household hazardous waste program to properly dispose of or recycle chemicals and keep them out of rivers and oceans.

9.We're all part of a watershed, and every drop counts. Do your part to conserve

water, participate in community clean-ups, and support environmental legislation.

photos courtesy of Back Bay Restoration

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