Protectores de Cuencas, Protectors of Puerto Rico’s Watersheds
Protectores de Cuencas is a community based nonprofit organization focused on restoring and protecting watersheds and their associated habitats in NOAA priority locations throughout Puerto Rico, including Guanica, Northeast Marine Corridor & Culebra Island Habitat Focus Area, and Cabo Rojo.
Over the past seven years, NOAA’s partnership with Protectores de Cuencas has focused on developing watershed management plans, implementing priority watershed restoration projects, and building community capacity to reduce pollution to Puerto Rico’s coral reefs. During this time, the organization has grown from one person to a staff of more than 30, and has become a one-stop shop for all things watershed restoration. They have even made use of their equipment and resources to help respond and rebuild after Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
Protectores de Cuencas excels at building collaborations across local and federal organizations to advance watershed restoration efforts across the island. Together with NOAA and their other partners they continue to develop standards for watershed management, implement and monitor crucial watershed restoration projects, and revise their techniques to maximize their positive impact on Puerto Rico’s coastal habitat and resources.
Learn more about Protectores de Cuencas' work in Puerto Rico.
Restoring habitats damaged by oil spills and hazardous waste
When oil and toxic chemicals from ships, pipelines, and hazardous waste sites contaminate our nation’s coastal waters, NOAA jumps into action to respond. We work with state, tribal, and other federal agency partners to carefully understand what happened, who’s responsible and how we can restore the areas impacted.
Sometimes, they’re large incidents, like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, that capture the attention of the public and impact habitats immediately. But, other times, the impacts, such as declines in wildlife reproduction, take longer to become apparent. Either way, the damages to our coastal habitats are always costly to the environment, local communities and the economy.
Within NOAA, the Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program leads efforts to restore areas after these releases, through a partnership between three offices, NOAA Fisheries, the National Ocean Service, and the Office of General Counsel.
The team includes scientists, economists, and attorneys working with companies, nonprofits and the public to assess damages, eventually restore the habitats impacted. We also work within the legal system to recover the costs of the assessments and restoration, from those responsible for the damage.
The program was formally created in 1992 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Since then, we have recovered more than $10 billion from those responsible for environmental harm to implement habitat restoration across the country.
Explore Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program incidents and activities on our interactive map.
Restoration Banking in Oregon
NOAA works with seven other federal, state, and tribal trustees on a council to plan restoration and measure the ecological damage from industrial contamination in the Portland Harbor Superfund Site. To compensate for the injury to species and habitat, several habitat development companies—including Wildlands, Inc., RestorCap, and Falling Springs LLC—stepped in to do restoration through an innovative restoration banking approach.
“Restoration banking” allows companies liable for natural resource damage to purchase restoration credits from sellers, such as Wildlands, Inc. Those sellers then implement projects—like the Alder Creek Restoration Project (now in its third year of post-construction monitoring) and the upcoming Linnton Plywood and Rinearson Natural Area Projects—that provide restored habitat to injured species sooner, placing those species on a faster trajectory toward recovery. NOAA works with these company partners to restore substantial pieces of land with tremendous potential value for fish, birds, and other wildlife, and to protect them from future development.
Learn more about the species and habitat types that benefit from restoration banking in Portland Harbor at the Portland Harbor Natural Resource Trustee Council webpage.
Protecting deep-sea coral habitat
The Pew Charitable Trusts—in partnership with a group of NGOs including Earthjustice, Oceana, Conservation Law Foundation, Wild Oceans, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Nature Conservancy—uses research from NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program to identify ways to balance industry needs with critical seafloor habitat protections.
Pew works to advance ecosystem-based management that considers deep-sea coral and sponge communities as one of the core components of habitat protection. They consistently bring cutting-edge science and management to the public eye, helping people connect with ocean issues and bringing the importance of deep-sea coral habitat to light. Their tireless work has helped protect deep-sea coral in the Northeast, the Gulf of Mexico, the West Coast, and in other regions of the United States.
Learn more about deep-sea coral habitat around the country with these NOAA interactive story maps.
North Carolina Coastal Federation
The North Carolina Coastal Federation has been partnering with NOAA’s Restoration Center on living shoreline creation and oyster reef restoration for almost 20 years. Through the Community-based Restoration Program, which invests in valuable partnership and projects in communities around the country, NOAA and the Coastal Federation are collaborating on multiple projects in the region.
The first, living shorelines restoration, aims to reduce coastal erosion by stabilizing over 7,000 linear feet of shorelines on nearly 30 private and public sites across the state. The project provides jobs and hands-on training to unemployed contractors in living-shoreline creation. Volunteers have spent more than 5,000 hours creating oyster reefs and restoring tidal wetlands, making this project a huge success in North Carolina.
The second project, oyster restoration in the Pamlico Sound, has added 10 acres of oyster reef and 25 total acres of sanctuary habitat to the area, with goals of 40 acres of reef sanctuary and 240 acres of rotational oyster management areas. The Coastal Federation’s partnership with NOAA has engaged over 4,500 volunteers in almost 30 oyster habitat projects in North Carolina.
Learn more about the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s restoration work.
Supporting recreational fishing through habitat conservation
The recreational fishing community is a strong partner in habitat conservation as healthy marine ecosystems are foundational to high-quality recreational fisheries. Saltwater recreational fishing is an integral part of American coastal life. Partnership efforts are exactly what we need to help rebuild fish populations, improve fishing access and opportunities, and protect areas important to fish, fishermen, and local communities.
In addition to our ongoing efforts to protect fish habitat and to restore degraded habitat, the Office of Habitat Conservation collaborates with the NOAA Fisheries Recreational Fishing Initiative, a focused effort establishing a strong working relationship with the recreational fishing community to support recreational fishing interests throughout the nation. Read more information about the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy.
This year, we worked together to fund projects toward increasing important habitat that support recreational species and the recreational fishing community. One project is an oyster reef restoration effort in Back Sound, Beaufort, NC. The project will provide habitat for recreationally important species managed by the South Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, and is being conducted with the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, that also supports the goals of National Fish Habitat Action Plan.
Other NOAA efforts support recreational anglers as well. For example, NOAA supports recreational fishing for black sea bass, striped bass, and other species by providing funding for oyster reef restoration and construction in the Chesapeake Bay. This is part of a broader Chesapeake Bay Program goal to restore native oyster populations in ten tributaries throughout the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.
These efforts exemplify win-win opportunities where NOAA supports shared goals of the recreational fishing AND conservation communities.
Sultana Education Foundation
To help the next generation of watershed stewards understand ocean, coastal, river estuary, and Great Lakes ecosystems, NOAA funds educational programs around the country through its B-WET (Bay Watershed Education and Training) Program. The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office has administered the B-WET Chesapeake program since 2002, supporting student education and teacher professional development with the goal of providing every student in the Chesapeake watershed with a meaningful educational experience before graduating from high school.
One B-WET Chesapeake grantee, the Sultana Education Foundation, shares information about the Choptank River ecosystem with students and teachers through its “Choptank Choices” program. During the school year, fifth-grade students augment their classroom work with field investigations of the Choptank River from on board the Foundation’s 1768 schooner Sultana. Additionally, experts visit their classroom to discuss ways that land-use choices affect the Chesapeake, and students participate in activities helping restore habitat and improve water quality.
Teachers get to learn, too! Sultana runs weeklong summer institutes and one-day professional development seminars for teachers from the Caroline, Dorchester, and Talboat counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, in the NOAA Choptank Habitat Focus Area.
The Nature Conservancy of Hawai'i
The Nature Conservancy works with local communities and other partners to conserve Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources from mauka (mountain) to makai (sea). The Conservancy’s marine team monitors and conducts research on coral reefs, fish, and water quality across the state. Collaborating with local, state and federal partners, they’re developing action plans, policies and management strategies, and training a new generation of conservation leaders. NOAA and the Conservancy are long time partners in restoring health to Hawaiʻi’s coral reefs and fisheries by removing invasive species, restoring estuary habitats, assessing coral reef resilience, and providing tools and information to help managers make informed decisions.
These efforts, combined with traditional knowledge and management practices, strengthen ecological and community resilience in places like the He’eia ahupuaʻa (watershed) on Oahu, and the West coast of Hawaiʻi Island. Each member of the Conservancy team is dedicated to these special places and to the people who live, work, enjoy and care for them. Mahalo to The Nature Conservancy of Hawai’i for being Habitat Heroes!
Explore more of The Nature Conservancy and NOAA’s work in Hawaiʻi with this interactive storymap hosted by our partners at the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
Following the hurricanes of 2005, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority was formed to protect, conserve, enhance, and restore valuable coastal areas of the state. Due to hurricanes, increased sea level, construction of levees, and other factors, Louisiana’s land, which shields the coast, ecosystems, and communities from storms and flooding, is disappearing at an alarming rate.
Through the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Program, a federal program authorized in 1990 to fund Louisiana coastal wetlands restoration projects, and more recently in our Deepwater Horizon oil spill restoration efforts, CPRA has been an engaged partner in planning, implementing, and monitoring more than 40 projects with NOAA.
These complex projects include restoring barrier islands and marsh through dredging sediment and moving it to areas in need, and planning for a large-scale sediment diversion to to deliver sediment, freshwater, and nutrients to support coastal restoration efforts.
Fish Passage Restoration with the Town of Plymouth, Massachusetts
Since 1998, the Town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, has worked with NOAA and 26 other partners to provide passage for river herring around seven dams and barriers along Town Brook. The fish of Town Brook are what helped sustain the first colonists starting in 1620. The restoration initiative of Town Brook has been strongly supported and led by local volunteers and staff from Plymouth. Thanks to Plymouth’s efforts, river herring on this restored run will soon be able to more easily swim to an additional 269 acres of new spawning habitat in the Town Brook watershed.
Plymouth has set the goal of completing restoration of Town Brook by August 2018, in time for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing near its mouth on Cape Cod Bay. The removal of the Holmes Dam—the final significant barrier to fish migration along Town Brook—will help nearly 60,000 more herring travel along the river. Through the NOAA Preserve America Initiative, Plimoth Plantation and other partners have established an annual River Herring Festival and plan to educate the public about the importance of Plymouth’s fish passage to the community’s history.
Explore the Plymouth, MA restoration projects and partners with the Restoration Atlas.