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September 24, 2003
Volume 33, Number 263
Division of Water Resources

Contact: Kathy Bunting-Howarth, Watershed Assessmsent, phone: (302) 739-4590
or Bill Rohrer, Delaware Nutrient Management Commission, phone: (302) 698-4500

Nutrient Management Commission Designates Murderkill Watershed as "Critical Area"

The Murderkill Tributary Action Team announces the designation of the Murderkill Watershed as a "critical area" by the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission.

The "critical area" designation targets the Murderkill Watershed for voluntary and regulatory actions and makes it a priority for the Nutrient Management Commission. The designation will also help to make the watershed eligible for 319 (Clean Water Act) grant funds from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Murderkill River is impaired due to elevated nutrient levels and low dissolved oxygen, among other pollutants and stressors. Contributors to the high nutrient levels in the watershed include failing septic systems, agriculture and stormwater runoff.

Currently, cost-share funds are available in the watershed for nutrient management planning through the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission, for cover crops through the Kent Conservation District, and through Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency for various programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

The Murderkill Tributary Action Team, a group of concerned citizens and state and local government representatives, is tasked with recommending a Pollution Control Strategy to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for achieving nutrient load reductions. The team requested that the Commission consider the "critical area" designation.

Agriculture is an integral contributor to the economy and the culture of the area with more than 38,000 acres of highly productive farmland within the watershed. Many acres are available to apply Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce nutrient loadings into the watershed.

The "critical area" designation will bring further awareness of water quality issues and the state of the Murderkill Watershed as well as help to prioritize BMPs.

Bill Rohrer, the Commissionís program administrator, commends the joint efforts to improve the environment. "Agriculture is one of many sources of nutrient pollution and farmers are responsible by way of nutrient management. The Murderkill Watershed will be a priority for nutrient management planning and the relocation of excess poultry litter."

Jim Newton, Kent County Department of Public Works and Murderkill Tributary Action Team member feels the designation will "give the tributary team the opportunity to pursue grants to educate the public on how nutrients affect the Murderkill Watershed and what they can do to reduce impacts."

For further information on the critical area designation, contact Bill Rohrer, Delaware Nutrient Management Commission administrator, (302) 698-4500. For more information about the Murderkill Tributary Action Team, contact Kathy Bunting-Howarth, (302) 739-4590.
 

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