Coursey Pond

Posted on Posted in Animal Agriculture, Residential, Stream Restoration & Protection, Tillage, Urban, Wildlife Enhancement

Excessive nutrient loads, from agriculture animal operations and septic systems caused elevated bacteria levels in the Coursey Pond watershed.  These practices led Coursey Pond to be listed for Bacteria in Delaware’s Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list in 2002. Project partners provided technical and financial assistance to farmers to encourage the implementation of agricultural best management practices (BMPs) such as nutrient management planning, cover crop implementation, and the installation of structural BMPs.  Mandatory state regulations for nutrient management planning, septic system pump outs, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the conversion of onsite wastewater systems to central systems have aided in the decrease of nutrient loading requirements.  As a result of these activities, in 2004, the Coursey Pond watershed was delisted from the 303(d) list for bacteria.


Coursey Pond is a 258 acre watershed within the Murderkill River basin which flows into the Delaware Bay.  Similar to the larger 68,000 acre Murderkill watershed, Coursey Pond is (55%) agriculture, (17%) wetlands, (14%) urban and (11%) forest.  The Coursey Pond watershed is located in the southeastern portion of Kent County. The outfall of Coursey Pond flows to a tributary of the main stem Murderkill River which heads eastward approximately 20 miles from its location west of Felton to the River’s confluence with the Delaware Bay at Bowers Beach.

For reference, Coursey Pond Watershed is a small representation of the Murderkill River Watershed in which it resides. The Watershed is bounded on the south by the Mispillion watershed, on the east by the Delaware Bay, and on the north and west by the St. Jones River and Marshyhope Creek watersheds respectively. The main watercourse is the Murderkill River with its headwaters just west of Felton. Flowing generally eastward, the length from the headwaters to its mouth on Delaware Bay at Bowers Beach is 20.5 miles. The lower 10.5 miles portion of the Murderkill is tidal. Coursey Pond, Killens Pond, McColley’s Pond, McGinnis Pond and Andrews Lake all flow into the Murderkill River.

The rare species of naturally occurring bald cypress trees is found in only four watersheds in the state, one of which is the Coursey Pond. Also, significant remaining populations of Atlantic White Cedar are also found in the Coursey Pond.

Within the watershed, there are only nonpoint sources. The primary pollutants results from agriculture, lawns, and failing systems.

Coursey Pond exceeded Delaware’s water quality standard for bacteria with results exceeding 100 cfu (colony forming units) per 100 mL.  Likely contributors to the degraded water quality include agriculture operations, lawns, and septic systems.  Therefore, Coursey Pond was placed on the 303(d) list for high bacteria counts in 2002.

In 2001, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) adopted Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for nutrients and oxygen for the entire Murderkill River Watershed including all tributaries and ponds.

Project Highlights

The Kent County Conservation District (KCD) offers technical assistance to the farming community by providing nutrient management planning, cost-share funding for agricultural best management practices, and partnering with the NRCS in developing conservation plans and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) contracts.  Two KCD Planners are funded through the Delaware Non-Point Source (NPS) Program via CWA Section 319 funding.  With technical assistance provided by the Planners, farmers installed the following agricultural BMPs: 9 manure storage structures, 8 dead-bird composters, 6 heavy use protection areas, and installation of 732 acres of cover crops.


Through the implementation of agricultural BMPs, Nutrient Management regulations, and mandatory state-wide pump-outs of septic systems, monitoring data showed that the water was meeting water quality standards for bacteria.

The General Assessment Monitoring Network (GAMN) provides for routine water quality monitoring of surface waters throughout Delaware. Each station is monitored for conventional parameters such as nutrients, bacteria, dissolved oxygen, pH, alkalinity, hardness, and metals. The data from this monitoring is entered into the EPA’s STORET database, is reviewed and then analyzed in assessing the water quality condition of each water body system.

Within the ‘State of Delaware 2012 Combined Watershed Assessment Report (305(b)) and Determination for the Clean Water Act Section 3030(d) List of Waters Needing TMDLs’ page 63, shows the sampling results for Coursey Pond.  Sampling data results shows a geometric mean of 33.59 cfu per 100 mL.  For freshwater, Delaware’s water quality standard for bacteria allows for a geometric mean of 100. Monitoring will continue in Coursey Pond to ensure that the waters continue to meet water quality standards.

Partners and Funding

The following are funding estimates for BMP installation:

EQIP/State Cost Share/Section 319:

  • 9 manure storage structures @ $39,350 = $354,150
  • 8 dead bird composters @ $10,442 = $83,536
  • 6 heavy use area protection pads @ $5,400 = $32,400

Total = $470,086

Cover Crop:

  • 732 acres (5yrs.) @ $45/acre = $32,940

The Delaware Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was established in Delaware in 1999 with a designated goal of improving water quality; establish wetlands and enhancing wildlife habitat in the coastal plain geographic areas of the Delaware, Chesapeake, and Inland Bays watersheds.  To assist in CREP program development and implementation, the NPS Program established and filled a State of Delaware CREP Program Coordinator position.  The CREP coordinator is a full time staff person with the NPS program funded through the CWA, Section 319 grant.  Within the Coursey Pond, 14 acres of grass buffers and 31.2 acres of hardwood trees were installed.

The following are CREP funding estimates:

  • 14 acres grass buffers @ $300/acre= $4,200
  • 2 acres hardwood tree planting @ = $13,260

Total = $17,460

The work in Coursey Pond was a collaborative effort involving the KCD, the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Delaware Department of Agriculture, and the Delaware NPS Program.  Federal CWA Section 319 funds supported the costs of BMPs in the Coursey Pond watershed.  Additional funding was provided through the USDA EQIP and CREP programs, and the State of Delaware Conservation Cost Share program.  Due to the nature of the funding and enrollment procedures, much of the funding involvement is immeasurable.


Bob Palmer
Delaware DNREC
Nonpoint Source Program
89 Kings Highway
Dover, DE 19901