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Neuse River Information

1. Ecosystem Restoration Impacts in the Neuse River Basin

Stream Restoration Training: More than 2,500 natural resource professionals, contractors, and landowners have learned about effective stream restoration practices through hands-on training workshops at NC State University. Most of these workshops have been conducted at the NCSU Lake Wheeler Field Laboratory, where participants gain experience in assessing impaired streams, designing restored stream corridors, and constructing restoration projects. The workshops make use of nearby stream restoration projects on the field laboratory and on campus at NCSU, in addition to a simulated full-size restored stream at the field laboratory to teach practical techniques for reducing streambank erosion and improving in-stream nutrient processing and aquatic habitats. Source: Dr. Greg Jennings, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Dept., NCSU

Stream Restoration Demonstration: Rocky Branch, North Carolina State University, Raleigh: More than 5,000 University students and natural resource professionals have toured and studied the Rocky Branch restoration demonstration that was initiated in 2000. The project includes construction and monitoring of a 6,000-ft stream restoration to improve water quality, aquatic habitat, stream stability, and recreation in a highly-developed urban campus. The natural channel design project includes channel relocation and geometry modifications, floodplain creation, streambank bioengineering, native riparian buffer establishment, invasive plant control, and in-stream boulder and log structures. The project also includes culvert replacements, daylighting a culverted section of stream channel, paved greenway paths, boardwalks, educational signs, and stormwater wetlands and bioretention areas for treating urban runoff. This project is one of the best examples of urban watershed restoration in the world. Source: Dr. Greg Jennings, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Dept., NCSU

Riparian Buffer Restoration and Evaluation: Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Wayne County: Over 8000 feet of streamside vegetated buffers were restored and studied on an agricultural field laboratory to reduce nutrient loading to the Neuse River. Historic channelization and farming practices resulted in deep gullies with no natural tree and shrub buffers to filter nutrients from adjacent fields. Native trees and shrubs were planted at varying widths adjacent to the streams to evaluate their effectiveness in removing nutrients and improving water quality. This site continues to serve as a research and educational center for riparian buffer restoration throughout the Coastal Plain. Source: Dr. Deanna Osmond, Soil Science Dept., NCSU

Stream and Wetland Restoration Demonstration: Yates Mill Pond Tributary, Wake County: Over 4000 feet of a tributary to Steep Hill Creek at the Lake Wheeler Research Field Laboratory have been restored to reduce sediment and nutrient loading to Yates Millpond and the Neuse River. Channelization and vegetation removal caused the stream to erode into a deep gully. The two-phase restoration filled in the gully and created a small, shallow meandering channel with streambed habitat features. Floodwaters now spread onto a wide forested floodplain, dissipating energy and reducing the velocity and erosiveness of high flows. Native trees and shrubs were planted on the streambanks and floodplain. The plant roots combined with floodplain access prevent streambank and streambed erosion. The restored stream provides better habitat for fish, insects and amphibians. Created floodplain wetlands enhance amphibian breeding and wildlife habitat. Invasive exotic plants were removed and treated with herbicide, allowing for growth of more nutritional native vegetation. The contiguous vegetated corridor provides food, habitat and a safe travel path for migratory birds and other wildlife. Source: Dr. Greg Jennings, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Dept., NCSU

Stream and Wetland Restoration Demonstration: Core Creek Tributary, Craven County: Over 2000 feet stream in the Core Creek watershed have been restored to reduce sediment and nutrient loading to the Neuse River. Channelization and vegetation removal caused the stream to erode into a deep gully. The restoration created a small, shallow meandering channel with streambed habitat features. Floodwaters now spread onto a wide forested floodplain, dissipating energy and reducing the velocity and erosiveness of high flows. Native trees and shrubs were planted on the streambanks and floodplain. The plant roots combined with floodplain access prevent streambank and streambed erosion. The restored stream provides better habitat for fish, insects and amphibians. Created floodplain wetlands enhance amphibian breeding and wildlife habitat. Invasive exotic plants were removed and treated with herbicide, allowing for growth of more nutritional native vegetation. The contiguous vegetated corridor provides food, habitat and a safe travel path for migratory birds and other wildlife. Source: Charles Humphrey, Area Environmental Agent, Craven County, NCC

2. Youth and Families The Neuse Team has placed a high priority on education of youth and young adults to emphasize personal responsibility and the role of knowledge and science in helping protect North Carolina’s water resources. The Team has focused on school and community based water quality demonstration projects and environmental field days to motivate youth to take an active role in environmental protection.

4 –H Stream Watch Clubs

Granville County 4-H agent Sean Higgans and Neuse Team agent Bill Lord established stream watch 4-H clubs in Granville County in 2005. Eventually 68 youth learned about stream functions, aquatic invertebrates, water cycles, and how to prevent and even clean up water pollution. The clubs helped clean streams during the annual Big Sweep event, and helped a local high school design and build a rain garden in the school’s courtyard. Stream Watch clubs also helped identify locations at several county schools where new stormwater practices could be installed to reduce water pollution. 

Source: Bill Lord, Area Environmental Agent, Franklin County, N. C. Cooperative Extension

Wayne Community College Green Roof The Neuse Education team took the lead in constructing a green roof at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro in 2002. The green roof demonstrates stormwater control technology that also reduces urban warming and increases building energy efficiency. The green roof is approximately 750 square feet and covers one half of a classroom building. The other half of the rooftop remains unchanged for purposes of comparison. The green roof is serving as an outdoor classroom for Wayne Community College as well as a tour site for many Neuse water quality tours. Source: Dr. Bill Hunt, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Dept., N.C.S.U.

Creech Road Elementary School Wetland The Neuse Education Team responded to a request for a stormwater-control project /outdoor classroom at Creech Road Elementary School in Garner, N.C. Stormwater from roof tops and parking areas eroded a ditch section along the school grounds’ northern boundary, and sediment and nitrogen were polluting a local stream and ultimately, the Neuse River. Working with volunteers and several partners, NET member Mitch Woodward installed a series of small stepping-stone-type stormwater wetland cells along the ditch. The wetland cells contain a variety of native flowering wetland plant species and are constructed to hold nine-to-12 inches of water. According to James Overman, the school’s principal: “We’re excited about the opportunities this will provide for an outdoor educational setting for the students.” Source: Mitch Woodward, Area Environmental Agent, Wake County, N.C. Cooperative Extension
Smithfield High School Wetland

Stormwater from Smithfield Selma Senior High School drained through a litter-strewn, mosquito infested ditch when the Neuse Team was called in for assistance. Administrators balked at the initial idea of a wetland, but approved the project when they learned it would serve as an outdoor classroom. Neuse Team member Bill Lord, the Town of Smithfield, and student volunteers constructed the wetland and planted over 1500 plants. An environmentally friendly third-of-an-acre wetland emerged where once only a polluted ditch had run. 

The resultant wetland is an outdoor classroom for five environmental biology and two horticulture classes. Students monitor its water quality and learn wetland functions, and wetland plant identification and propagation. Says Smithfield-Selma environmental sciences instructor Ellen Ennis, “This stormwater wetland energized my environmental biology classes. It shows what can be done when people work together to improve both the quality of water in the Neuse River and the learning environment in this school.” Ennis was named the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Teacher of the Year in 2007 based on her work with the wetland. Source: Bill Lord, Area Environmental Agent, Franklin County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Environmental Field Days Neuse Team members teach students up and down the river basin essential information to keep water resources clean. Early in the Neuse project team members used a traveling ‘Neuse-mobile’ trailer as a portable classroom to give demonstrations and to conduct classes. Team members use maps, realistic ‘enviro-scapes’, and ground water models to show students how to protect water resources. One team member is using an electronic, and now computer-driven automatic answering devices to hold “Jeopardy” themed quizzes on water quality. Winning students get watershed maps, rain gauges, and yard sticks for their correct answers. Team members man booths at River Days in New Bern, Frog Days in Wake County, and speak to hundreds of students at Person County’s Environmental Field Days, to name a few. The object is to teach, but the goal is to have fun too. Source: Mitch Woodward, Area Environmental Agent, Wake County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Neuseway Nature Center

The Neuse Team built the first extensive green roof in eastern North Carolina on the second floor of the Neuseway Nature Museum in Kinston, NC. As students explore the natural history of the Neuse, they look out the window on the second floor and see the future of environmental protection in the form of a green roof, designed to reduce stormwater runoff, slow global warming, and save energy in the building below. Out in the yard next to the Neuse River, students explore one of the first rain gardens built in the Neuse basin, and if they look closely, they can see a permeable pavement path leading to the rain garden from the center’s sidewalks. 

Source: Dr. Bill Hunt, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Dept., NCSU
Photos: Mitch at Durham Museum of Life and Science, Wake Forest scouts in stream
3. Homeowners North Carolina continues to attract new residents and is one of the fastest growing states in the country. As more homes, schools, roadways, and parking areas are built, more urban stormwater runoff is produced, and more demand is being placed on water supplies. The Neuse Education Team is helping homeowners learn to be part of the solution to water supply and water quality problems in our growing state.

Master Gardener Education Extension partnered with Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space to teach ‘Environmentally Friendly Landscaping’ and ‘Backyard Stormwater BMPs’ workshops for homeowners, landscapers, elected officials, and Master Gardener volunteers in 2008. Extension worked with the park agency to establish a ‘Residential Stormwater Education Center’ within Crowder District Park in Apex. The park now has 2 cisterns, 2 raingardens, and a stormwater wetland installed to teach residents and others the water quality benefits of reducing urban runoff and harvesting rainwater. Master Gardeners have been trained and incorporate this site into their service to Wake County residents.

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers assisted over 14,100 residents in 2008 calling for individual assistance on residential environmental issues. Follow-up surveys of the residents indicated that nearly 100% of the residents installed a new environmental practice or changed their behavior regarding their landscape management. During the state fair and the Southern Ideal Home Show Master Gardeners use a ‘WaterWise’ garden , 2 adjacent raingardens, and a demonstration cistern to educate over 20,000 visitors annually. Source: Mitch Woodward, Area Environmental Agent, Wake County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Saving Water at Home As a part of a regional effort to reduce groundwater withdrawals and to increase groundwater recharge, Neuse Education Team members have helped central coastal plain homeowners learn about water conservation best management practices. Twenty rain gardens were installed in Carteret, Craven, Pamlico, Jones, and Hertford counties as demonstration practices. Over 170 rain barrels have been constructed and sold to homeowners at water conservation workshops creating over 100,000 gallons of homeowner storage capacity. In an effort to improve septic system understanding and management by homeowners and real estate agents 30 educational workshops have been held across the state. Source: Charles Humphrey, Area Environmental Agent, Craven County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Residential Rain Gardens Using EPA grant funds, the Neuse Education Team conducted a backyard rain garden demonstration program over the summer of 2005. Homeowners learned how they could reduce stormwater runoff and recharge groundwater reserves by installing rain gardens in their yards. Area agents Bill Lord, Mitch Woodward, and Charlie Humphrey supervised installation of over 30 rain gardens in piedmont and coastal plain North Carolina. One rain garden was excavated and planted in suburban Raleigh in 30 minutes by a visiting national tour group. The success of the program led the N.C. Division of Soil and Water Conservation to develop the Community Conservation Program for state-wide installation of homeowner stormwater best management practices. Source: Charles Humphrey, Bill Lord, Mitch Woodward, Area Environmental Agents, North Carolina Cooperative Extension

Septic System Tank ‘Socials’ Citizen advisory committees in Wake County requested more information on septic systems and wells be made available to the public to protect water quality. Neuse Education Team members partnered with Realtors organizations, the NCSU Soil Science Department and Wake County Environmental Services to develop and distribute over 25,000 Septic System Owners Guides and DVD’s. The guides are distributed to owners at time of home purchase. In the Neuse basin 39 on-site workshops and 3 on-site tours have been held where over 1150 participants learned how to manage home septic systems. Over 230 homeowners attended ‘septic tank socials’ in their neighborhoods where they learned about septic system management, maintenance, and repair. Source: Mitch Woodward, Charles Humphrey, Area Environmental Agents, N.C. Cooperative Extension

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4. Smart Growth and Low Impact Development The Neuse Education Team embodies the mission of N.C .Cooperative Extension in North Carolina. The team has 4 field agents dispersed in the counties, and 4 faculty members on NCSU’s campus. Extension works by applying research and technology in the field, or in this case, the Neuse River basin. The field agents know the farmers, homeowners, the business owners, and town managers who make decisions on the ground that affect the river. The agents connect the researchers from campus to the field and the result is action and change.

Teaching equals action The Neuse Team has taught at least 126 stormwater related workshops in the Neuse basin since the year 2000. Do engineers and designers apply what they learn? Yes. In surveys conducted since 2007 more than 100 engineers and other workshop participants have told us that they have used extension design guidance in the construction of 77 bioretention areas, 144 wetlands, 1 green roof, 4 permeable parking lots, 68 swales and 92 level spreaders. All told, more than 2700 acres have been treated by these stormwater practices. The survey is an approximate 10% sample of the stormwater work done in the basin. Source: Bill Lord, Area Environmental Agent, Dr. Bill Hunt, Biological and Ag. Engineering, NCSU

Turning Field Research Into NC DENR Design Standards Since the Neuse Team’s inception extension faculty have worked closely with NC DENR policy makers to make adjustments to the state of North Carolina’s stormwater practices design standards based on field research carried out by the Neuse Team. A few examples of how the NETeam’s applied research and extension program has changed the state’s BMP standards follow: (1) Permeable pavement (that which allows water to pass through it) was formerly regarded as impermeable, giving no incentive to the development community to use it. In 2006, after six years of study by Extension, the state changed their acceptance of permeable pavement, allowing it to be considered up to 60% permeable. The use of this practice has greatly increased. In the City of Wilmington, NC, alone, more than 25 permeable pavement designs have been submitted for approval since January 2008. (2) Bioretention is a vegetated filter that was originally credited with removing 25% of nitrogen (the target pollutant of the Neuse River) that entered the practice. Through seven applied research projects, bioretention areas will soon receive 40% to 60% nitrogen removal credit depending upon the location of its proposed use. With a higher nitrogen removal credit, the use of bioretention will continue to increase. The continued research has also led to key design changes, such as allowing the use of turf grass as a vegetative cover and a reduction in the minimum soil depth. Both changes have made the use of bioretention more attractive. (3) Level spreaders have been used to supposedly convert concentrated flow from urbanized areas to diffuse flow as the water passes through riparian buffers. Because of field research conducted by extension faculty, the use and type of level spreaders has been restricted (to concrete or other similarly sturdy materials) because the examination showed that many level spreaders in the field are failing. Source: Dr. Bill Hunt, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Dept., NCSU

A New Water Source for New Bern? The City of New Bern, NC is required to reduce water withdrawal from deep aquifers that are experiencing declining water levels and/or salt water intrusion. At one of the City’s buildings stormwater runoff from the rooftop was eroding a gravel drive and transporting sediment towards the Neuse River. North Carolina Cooperative Extension partnered with the City of New Bern and the East Carolina Council of Governments to acquire grant funds for the installation of a water harvesting system near the City building. The system includes a 3,400 gallon cistern and pump connected to the building storm gutters. Because the rain gutters no longer discharge on the gravel drive, erosion and sediment transport have been reduced. Also, over 25,000 gallons of rain water stored in the cistern has been used to irrigate park grounds, thereby reducing potable water (aquifer) use. Source: Charlie Humphrey, Area Environmental Agent, Craven County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Taking it to the parks Extension partnered with Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space to teach ‘Environmentally Friendly Landscaping’ and ‘Backyard Stormwater BMPs’ workshops for homeowners, landscapers, elected officials, and Master Gardener volunteers in 2008. Extension worked with the park service to establish a ‘Residential Stormwater Education Center’ within Crowder District Park in Apex. The park now has 2 cisterns, 2 raingardens, and a stormwater wetland installed to teach residents and others the water quality benefits of reducing urban runoff. Two workshops are planned annually. Master Gardeners have been trained in stormwater management and incorporate this site into their service to Wake County residents. Currently, two county parks have partnered with extension to establish ‘Residential Stormwater Education Centers’ within parks for interested homeowners, teachers, students, and professionals to see practices first-hand. These include: Lake Crabtree County Park: 2 Cisterns and WaterWise Demonstration Garden • Crowder District Park: Cisterns, 2 raingardens, 2 bioretention, stormwater wetland Source:Mitch Woodward, Area Environmental Agent, Wake County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Hurricane Fran and the City of Kinston After the devastating floods of Hurricane Fran receded in 1996 the City of Kinston approached the Neuse Education Team for help in preventing future urban flooding disasters. Working with city engineer Scott Stevens, Team members Bill Hunt and Mike Regans installed some of the first rain gardens, green roofs, cisterns, and permeable pavement in North Carolina in Kinston. Kinston emerged from the disaster as a leader in adoption of stormwater best management practices and a valuable partner in the Neuse Team’s effort to conduct stormwater research and demonstration projects in the coastal plain. Based on work done in Kinston the state was able to make important decisions about the use of permeable pavement. Did it work? Absolutely. Were different types of permeable pavement functionally different (from a runoff perspective)? Not really. The Green Roof project, coupled with a few others, led the state to be more cautious about granting green roofs nutrient reduction credit – though runoff reduction credit is rightly given. The development of the state Rainwater Harvester Model was in part supported by the Kinston work. This model is now the “state standard” for use in water harvesting designs. Source: Dr. Bill Hunt, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Dept., NCSU
attach photo of Kinston green roof or rain garden.
5. Agriculture

Background: The Neuse River Basin drains 1.2 million acres in central and eastern North Carolina. The river’s estuary experienced harmful algae blooms and fish kills in the 1990’s, resulting in state regulations that mandated a 30 percent reduction in annual nitrogen loading from all sources by 2003. The N.C. Division of Water Quality estimates agricultural land use in the river basin contributes more than half of the total nitrogen load to the estuary, meaning that farmers are responsible for implementing best management practices on their land to reduce nitrogen export by more than 1 million pounds annually. The Neuse Education Team has worked diligently with all agricultural sectors to maintain producers’ profitability while reducing nitrogen losses.

Neuse Crop Management The Neuse Education Team started the Neuse Crop Management Project in 1998 to help farmers learn practices to contribute to cleaner water. The project worked with many partners to write nutrient management plans for 105,000 acres, achieved a 23 percent reduction in fertilizer nitrogen amounts applied per acre of cropland, and saw a greater than 40 percent reduction in soil-applied pre-emergence herbicides. The project helped install grassed waterways, field borders, sod-based rotations and flashboard risers; ran large on-farm demonstrations in four areas of the Neuse basin; and conducted cost-benefit analysis on best management practices and nutrient management that found that farmers could save $20-to-$40 per acre while helping the environment. Source: Dr. Deanna Osmond, Soil Science Department, North Carolina State University

Core Creek Clean-up The Neuse Team led an effort to clean up Core Creek in Craven County in an agricultural watershed. The result was removal of a 15.4-mile stretch of Core Creek from the impaired (303(d)) list and re-classification of the creek’s status from Fair to Good-Fair. The team helped clean up the creek through stream restoration, buffer planting, conservation tillage, installation of water control structures and cropland conversion to trees. Source: Charles Humphrey, Area Environmental Agent, Craven County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Nutrient Management Training The Neuse Education Team developed nutrient management training materials in conjunction with stakeholders and distributed them to N.C. Cooperative Extension Service county agents, who then taught more than 2,000 farmers and turf managers by 2003 about nutrients in the environment, how best management practices reduce nutrient losses, nutrient management planning and eight crop commodity modules. Source: Bill Lord, Area Environmental Agent, Franklin County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Poultry Litter Management Trainings Between April 1995 and October 1997, more than 1,000 poultry producers learned about poultry litter nutrient management by attending workshops co-sponsored by the Neuse Education Team. The goal was to provide producers with information necessary to apply the nutrients in the litter at agronomic rates that match crop nutrient needs. Source: Mike Regans, Area Environmental Agent, Greene County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Nitrogen Loss Estimation Worksheet The state Environmental Management Commission set a 30 percent nitrogen reduction goal for the agricultural communities in the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse river basins. However, the commission provided no accounting method to measure the nitrogen reduction. Agricultural agencies had to develop a nitrogen accounting and tracking tool that met the specific Neuse Rule criteria. NC State University and Neuse Education Team specialists led in developing the Nitrogen Loss Estimation Worksheet (NLEW). The NLEW procedure is based on research and input of NC State University experts. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service also participated in developing the NLEW. This tool continues to be updated as new information is developed. Each year, NC DENR’s Division of Water Quality personnel update the Environmental Management Commission on the percent nitrogen reduction obtained in both the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River Basins. Without this tool, implementation of the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico Rules would not have been possible. Source: Dr. Deanna Osmond, Soil Science Department, North Carolina State University

Neuse Rules Education The Neuse Education Team held meetings throughout the Neuse River Basin in 1996 and 1997, explaining to farmers, agribusiness, landowners and the turf industry their responsibilities under the newly adopted Neuse Rules. The team reached more than 4,000 persons. The team also developed and distributed three fact sheets explaining the Neuse rules, reaching 4,200 people. Source: Mitch Woodward, Area Environmental Agent, Wake County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Animal Waste Management To ensure that properly designed and operated animal waste management systems are used to protect the Neuse River, the Neuse Education Team developed a record-keeping workshop and record book. In 1997, the team conducted workshops reaching 265 certified operators, and reached 831 operators in 1998. N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources inspectors noted that farmers who attended the workshops maintained better records. Better accounting sets the stage for solutions, allowing more precise nutrient management planning and enabling farmers to better handle and prevent emergencies. Source: Mike Regans, Area Environmental Agent, Greene County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

1998 Neuse Conference More than 200 people participated in the “Agricultural Solutions for the Neuse River Basin” conference in New Bern in 1998, hosted by the Neuse Education Team. Conference-goers attended an alternative animal waste technology workshop and took field tours focused on environmentally and economically sound best management practices appropriate to agriculture. Neuse Conferences were also held in 1996 and 1997. Source: Bill Lord, Area Environmental Agent, Franklin County, N.C. Cooperative Extension

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