Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point --
This year, World Environment Day is focused on ecosystem restoration and the long-lasting effects it has on the community around it. The Environmental Affairs Department (EAD) on Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina, prides itself on its environmental achievements the past 20 years, reforming old practices that were harmful to the environment.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, ecological restoration is the process of reclaiming ecosystems and animal habitats by restoring waterways and the lands on which animals and plants depend. Restoration is a corrective step taken to mitigate the ecological degradation due to manmade causes, and to reinstate the natural processes such as natural fires, floods and predator–prey relationships that sustain and renew ecosystems over time.
“We have done reintroduction of species,” said Jessica Guilianelli, the natural resources manager at MCAS Cherry Point. “The fox squirrel, [and] wild turkeys are [some species] we helped [reintroduce to] improve the population. The longleaf pines are the tree species we are trying to restore on the installation.”
According to the American Rivers Organization, the Neuse River has been enduring devastating conditions for more than 40 years from manmade contaminants, pollution and animal waste. In the 1990s the General Assembly, the main policy makers of the United Nations, responded to the poor water quality of the Neuse River by establishing a 50-foot vegetative buffer along the river. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused a surge of pollution in the Neuse. Since then, contaminants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from urban housing, farms and industrial discharges continue to rob the river of oxygen, killing the fish and making the drinking water toxic.
“When you look at the mission of the Marine Corps and what we’re here to do,” said Guilianelli. “Restoring our resources and making sure they’re maintained for the future training is very important.”
In 2015, MCAS Cherry Point had concrete lined ditches that would fill with contaminated water. The ditches contained no filters and moved the polluted water into the Neuse River. The ditches would often flood, creating drowning hazards.
EAD responded by removing the concrete ditches, restoring the natural curves in the streamline. They put down coconut fiber matting to give the banks steadiness for the planted shrubbery, grasslands and trees to filter water from the storm drains before making it to the streamline. Now, there is a 50-foot buffer on each side of the stream that is not allowed to be mowed down due to its positive effects to the wildlife in the area.
“We are taking these sites that we have impacted and then bringing it back where it should have been,” said Guilianelli.
MCAS Cherry Point EAD has restored two major creeks: Sandy Branch-Tributary Two in 2008 and Grant’s Landing residential housing area waterway in 2015. The department is working to restore the living shoreline along the coast of MCAS Cherry Point and plans to begin construction by the fall of 2021 to reinstate the native oyster population. The plan is to place natural resources such as granite rocks, plants and soil to stabilize the shoreline.
Environmentalists suggest active ways citizens can help restore the ecosystem and make MCAS Cherry Point beautiful is to avoid the use of fertilizers and chemicals that will run into the storm drains and pollute it further. The Neuse River isn’t just home to MCAS Cherry Point, it stretches from MCAS Cherry Point to the Piedmont of North Carolina for a combined total of 275 miles, ending in the Pamlico Sound. Many citizens rely on the Neuse River to earn a living by fishing and hunting its wild life.
“It’s the livelihood of a lot of people,” said Guilianelli. “There are a lot of fishermen that utilize it daily, so it’s important that we do our part.”
MCAS Cherry Point works endlessly to build resilience for our installation. EAD continues to plant longleaf pine trees and restore our streamlines to help with the health of the Neuse River and the training and recreational areas on the installation.
For more Information on Ecosystem Restoration and how to keep MCAS Cherry Point clean and green visit: www.cherrypoint.marines.mil/Staff/Environmental-Affairs