All News & Blogs
Longwood University undertakes shoreline erosion project in Westmoreland County
Date published: 8/11/2008
About a dozen volunteers braved the hot Westmoreland County sun this weekend to help finish a shoreline erosion-control project on the Lower Machodoc Creek.
The volunteers--who included members of the Northern Neck Master Gardeners and some nearby residents of Glebe Harbor--planted 4,800 plugs of marsh grass along a stretch of shore on Longwood University's Hull Springs Farm.
The 643-acre farm in the Mount Holly section of Westmoreland was bequeathed to Longwood in 1999 by Mary Farley Ames Lee, a 1938 graduate of the Farmville school. Longwood uses the land for research and natural sciences training.
About 15 feet of the farm's shoreline along the Lower Machodoc--which feeds into the nearby Potomac River--was wiped out in 2006 storms, including Hurricane Ernesto. The storms threatened an oak tree near the water that's more than 400 years old.
Longwood got a $40,500 grant from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2005 to design the "living shoreline project," which is intended to create an environmentally sound habitat that supports shorebirds, young fish, aquatic vegetation and other plant and wildlife species. Longwood then got another $75,000 grant from NOAA to do the work this year.
Within the past month, dozens of truckloads of granite and sand came to Hull Springs Farm. The project includes a stretch of shoreline about 410 feet long and 25 feet wide, said HSF Executive Director Bobbie Burton. A granite sill was built 26 feet from the shoreline to reduce wave action. Sand and stone were placed between the sill and bank.
Volunteers were brought in this weekend to plant the 4,800 marsh grass plugs 18 inches apart from each other. Walter Priest, habitat restoration specialist for NOAA, explained that the marsh grass reduces the energy of the water and holds the sand in place, thereby reducing erosion.
The volunteers planted two kinds of marsh grass--Spartina alterniflora closest to the sill and Spartina patens nearer to shore. A fence will go around the plants until the spring to prevent geese from feeding on it while it's still young.
Longwood intends to demonstrate the completed living shoreline project to contractors, neighbors, wetland board members and others. It's an alternative to hardened shorelines that aren't as environmentally friendly. University professors will do research on the project's effectiveness.
Longwood science students travel to Hull Springs Farm for a few days at a time to study various natural resources topics. It includes forests, wetlands and farmland where soybeans and corn are planted.
The university intends it to be an "education, research and demonstration center for best management practices" in environmental sustainability. Burton said other Virginia colleges have expressed interest in using the property, at which visitors have included third grade classes in Westmoreland.
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405