Trap pond is located in the Nanticoke Watershed which ultimately drains to the Chesapeake Bay. Surrounded by majestic stands of bald cypress in the center of one of the “First State’s” state parks, Trap Pond is a beautiful piece of Delaware wilderness possessing abundant wildlife and exceptional recreation opportunities. The northern-most natural stand of bald cypress in the United States exists in Trap Pond State Park; one tree found within the Park is estimated at over 200 years old, 127 feet tall and almost 25 feet around with a 62 foot branch spread. The area also represents one of the largest surviving wetlands in Delaware with over 2,000 acres of freshwater wetland. Water quality monitoring data showed elevated counts as high as 700 colonies/100 ml. and routinely exceeded Delaware water quality standards for bacteria, which allows for a geometric mean of 35 and requires there are at least 10 samples in the assessment period extending an average of 5 years. A further study found that Saunders Branch, the major tributary to Trap Pond, had elevated bacteria and phosphorus levels. Sanitary surveys revealed that the two probable causes were a direct discharge from failing underground septic systems and livestock with direct access to Saunders Branch and and/or drainage ditches feeding it.
The first phase of the restoration project involved notifying property owners of their leaking septic systems. These systems were quickly repaired or replaced and the affected areas of Saunders Branch responded immediately with decreased bacteria levels.
The next phase was to address livestock that had direct accessibility to Saunders Branch or drainage ditches that fed directly to the Branch. A Clean Water Act, Section 319 Grant provided salary funding for a Conservation Planner with the Sussex Conservation District to work specifically within the Trap Pond watershed. Although the removal of livestock accessibility within the watershed was a key component of the Planner’s focus, critical efforts were also made in providing technical assistance for the implementation of agricultural BMPs and nutrient management planning on farms throughout the Trap Pond watershed as well.
Consequently, the Conservation Planner worked with two large swine operations that were located immediately adjacent to Saunders Branch. The two operations were 1,000 acres with a production of 9,800 finish hogs annually and a 100 acre operation with 1,200 finish hogs a year. The Conservation Planner assisted in developing farm-wide conservation plans for both operations and eventually both farms ceased hog production.
In addition, several BMPs were installed on 29 poultry operations located within the Trap Pond Watershed, including 23 manure storage structures, 19 composters, and 2 dead bird incinerators.
CREP and CRP practices were also installed and include 2.4 acres of wildlife habitat planting, 18 acres of hardwood tree planting, and 5 acres of grass buffers. Sussex County Conservation District Planners continue to work with farmers throughout the watershed to provide ongoing technical assistance to ensure improved water quality.
Almost ten years worth of monitoring data from the State of Delaware shows that the efforts of the agriculture community were successful in reducing bacteria levels within the watershed.
Monitoring data indicated a declining trend in bacteria levels for the Trap Pond watershed eventually to a point well below State standards . Consequently, after a five year sampling history of declining bacteria counts, sampling for Trap Pond ceased and Delaware delisted the pond from the 303(d) list of impaired waters.