SPARC Project

Sustainable Practices for Aquaculture Resources Conservation (SPARC)

OCSCD was awarded a technical assistance grant from the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD). This is the third year of the NACD technical assistance grant program, which was created with funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help increase staffing at the field level and provide conservation services to farmers, ranchers and local communities across the U.S.

Ocean County Soil Conservation District’s Sustainable Practices for Aquaculture Resources Conservation (SPARC) project will build District capacity through two pathways that will occur simultaneously. District staff, including Christine Raabe, District Director, and Kristin Adams, Erosion Control Specialist, along with a broad-based Advisory Committee Partnership will connect with local shellfish farmers, primarily within Barnegat and Great Bays, to gain a better understanding of their specific natural resource concerns. Ms. Adams will work towards NRCS Apprentice Conservation Planner certification, with a long-term goal of achieving NRCS Certified Conservation Planner status. The District will provide a boots-on-the-ground, local connection between NRCS and the shellfish producers, to further develop the conservation practices of the NJ NRCS Aquaculture Initiative, while increasing funding opportunities for producer participation and involvement.

“Since 2018, NACD and NRCS have worked together to increase staffing at the field level for conservation districts,” NACD President Tim Palmer said. “This increased technical capacity helps to improve conservation services to farmers, ranchers and local communities across the nation.”

To date in 2020, NACD and NRCS have awarded $15 million in technical assistance grants. Since the program’s inception, NACD has funded technical assistance in all 50 states and three U.S. territories.

“Even in this time of a national emergency, farmers and ranchers have conservation concerns that need to be addressed,” Palmer said. “NACD is proud to provide funding to America’s conservation districts and allow for more boots on the ground, providing our growers with support for their individual landscapes and resource concerns.”

Visit NACD’s website to learn more about the grant program.

 The National Association of Conservation Districts is the non-profit organization that represents the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts, their state associations and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. For more than 70 years, local conservation districts have worked with cooperating landowners and managers of private working lands to help them plan and apply effective conservation practices. For more information about NACD, visit: www.nacdnet.org.

Boots in the Water:

Ocean County Soil Conservation District now has “boots in the water” working with local shellfish farmers to gain a better understanding of their specific natural resource concerns. OCSCD Erosion Control Specialist, Kristin Adams, recently visited two different aquaculture operations to learn more about oyster farming from industry professionals.

Raceway and Upwellers at Parson's FarmDale Parsons of Parsons Mariculture in Tuckerton offered a tour of his nursery where he raises oyster spat and hard clam seed in raceways and upwellers. This system provides a continuous flow of oxygenated bay water rich with phytoplankton for the growing shellfish to eat. Oyster seed that has “set” onto recycled surf clam, whelk and oyster shell is used to establish and enhance oyster reefs in the bay, some for commercial harvest and some for restoration and research. Clam seed is broadcast into the water on Dale’s leases, where it will settle onto the sandy bottom and mature before harvesting.

Matt Gregg of Forty North Rack and Back System Matt Gregg of Forty North Oyster Farms in Barnegat Light showcased a different technique to grow oysters, using a rack and bag system. This system allows oysters to be cultivated directly in the bay using protective plastic mesh bags that are supported above the ground on steel racks. Situated within their natural ecosystem, the oysters have plenty of phytoplankton to feed on. Here, they also continue to provide an important ecosystem service – to clean the water! This method of growing oysters is not only possible in sandy bottoms, but also in areas that are otherwise too muddy for cultivation directly on the intertidal grounds.

 

NRCS Soil Scientist David Steinmann analyzes a subaqueous soil sample

Subaqueous Soil Sampling:

This past month, Kristin joined NRCS Scientist, David Steinmann in the field to learn how subaqueous soil properties can help determine the best locations for aquaculture in the Barnegat and Great Bays. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil and Plant Science Division is responsible for surveying, mapping and interpreting soils throughout the entire country. The Coastal Zone Soil Survey (CZSS) Team focuses its efforts on improving the soil survey along the coastal zone from New England to the Gulf Coast of Texas. This includes the dunes, marshes, beaches, and shallow sub-tidal soils in coastal lagoons, bays, and inlets. Based out of Hammonton, New Jersey, MLRA (Major Land Resource Area) Soil Scientist, David Steinmann is part of this team of soil scientists that works primarily in the coastal zone areas throughout New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

A subaqueous soil sample from Great Bay is split open for analysis on the boat Steinmann uses two main methods when taking samples of subaqueous soil (soil that is submerged) or better known as the “bottom of the bay”. The McCauley auger method is used in softer, finer textured soils that have more silt and organic matter, allowing for easier penetration with manpower. The auger is pushed into the soil for a 2-meter sample, and then split open for analysis on the boat. The other method is a vibracore, which uses a gas engine to help retrieve a sample, and is brought back to the lab for analysis at a later date.

While on site, collection of site data including bottom type, presence of SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation), latitude/longitude and water quality are completed. Collectively, this data is used to map and classify the soil series throughout the coastal zone, similar to terrestrial soil mapping. Each soil series and mapping unit contains its own set of information, and once interpreted is available for viewing on Web Soil Survey. New Coastal Zone interpretation available on Web Soil Survey include suitability for oyster and clam restoration, dredge material placement, blue carbon accounting, living shoreline suitability, and others. The USDA, USEPA, USACOE, NJDEP, Rutgers University, Stockton University and other agencies use this information for a variety of purposes from permitting aquaculture, planning research and restoration efforts, dredging projects and more. Learn more about the SPARC Project on the OCSCD website.

Ocean County Soil Conservation District
714 Lacey Road
Forked River, NJ 08731
(609) 971-7002