NCDA&CS projects protect water quality in areas of development too

by | Apr 29, 2020

Keeping North Carolina’s water clean and soil intact sounds good, but it can get pretty complex in practice. It can be a bit overwhelming if you really think about all the sources of pollution and erosion and how to reduce those problems. Fortunately, the Soil and Water Conservation Division of NCDA&CS has lots of people who put ideas and programs into action every day. They do the work to protect and improve soil and water resources throughout the state.

While that work can be complicated, it is important. Water pollution can make its way into the bodies of water you and your family play in or where you get your drinking water. Erosion can reduce natural ways to filter pollution, and it can also uncover utility lines/pipes or even harm the habitat for fish or oysters.

While several programs in the Soil and Water Conservation Division are related to agriculture – which you would expect – at least one aims to tackle pollution and erosion from non-agriculture sources.

It’s called The Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP), and it helps landowners figure out and implement best management practices (BMPs) to reduce water pollution or soil erosion on their land. CCAP uses a variety of BMPs – from backyard rain gardens and stream restoration, to pet waste receptacles and shoreline protection.

The pictures above show a riparian buffer that was built along a river in Caldwell County. The buffer uses vegetation (grass, shrubs and trees) to reduce erosion and pollution that enters into the water. The vegetation holds dirt intact while also serving as a filter for stormwater runoff that may be contaminated with pollution.

Marsh sills or living shorelines are another practice that CCAP incorporates along shores in estuaries. They’re a combination of barriers and vegetation to reduce erosion and help maintain or restore natural habitat. In many instances, sills and living shorelines that have been created have resisted erosion during storms better than man-made structures such as bulkheads.

Some other BMPs can be seen in the pictures below. A full list of BMPs that CCAP uses can be found on the CCAP page of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website. Look for the link to Best Management Practices for an explanation of each type of project.

CCAP is available to lots of different types of landowners who have land with a water pollution or soil erosion problem. That includes homeowners, businesses, schools and parks. Even publicly owned lands may qualify for assistance.

CCAP is the state‚Äôs only program for installing or improving BMPs that address water quality issues caused by stormwater runoff from developed sites.  Because every community has developed sites, CCAP can be a valuable tool for landowners in every area of the state.

Currently, the N.C. General Assembly allots CCAP $200,000 per year to help implement BMPs in areas of need. It is a cost share program, which means the money doesn’t pay for all of a project, but landowners may receive financial assistance of up to 75 percent of the pre-established average cost of the project.

Because CCAP is available to lots of different types of landowners, the program can fill in gaps to create solutions. CCAP is often an option when cities or counties don’t have the jurisdiction to tackle problems in certain areas.

“A lot of municipalities have stormwater programs, but they have a hard time working with individual property owners,” explained CCAP Coordinator Tom Hill. “This program can work with them pretty quickly to come up with solutions.”

One example Hill shared involved a stream that was encroaching into a homeowner’s backyard. The erosion was getting close to homes and causing concerns, however since the erosion wasn’t on public property, the local municipality wouldn’t help. CCAP was able to take a big-picture look at the problem – seeing that the stream was not just isolated to private property.

“If that backyard pond or stream isn’t in a dedicated right-of-way, it can be hard [for cities or counties] to work with them,” Hill said. “The [local soil and water conservation district] can go in and tackle that project.”

Landowners who are interested in getting CCAP assistance should start by applying with the local soil and water conservation district for the area. More details are available on the CCAP webpage.