February 7, 2008

N.C. Coastal Federation expands staff and board on Northeast coast

Protecting the waters of the state’s northern coast just got a bit easier, with the addition of two full-time staff members at the N.C. Coastal Federation’s field office in Manteo.

Erin Fleckenstein and Sara Hallas began work Feb. 4. They join Jan DeBlieu, the Cape Hatteras Coastkeeper who started the Federation’s northern program in Manteo in 2003. Hallas, the coastal outreach specialist, will be responsible for educational programs. Fleckenstein, the restoration specialist, will undertake projects to restore coastal wetlands and oyster reefs.

The addition of two full-time positions to NCCF’s staff in the Northeast will enable the nonprofit to greatly expand its program in the region, DeBlieu said.

 “We’re thrilled,” she said. “We’ve looked forward to having more resources up here for a long time. I have volunteers throughout the territory, and they’ve given me tremendous support, but it’s very nice to have some more help.”

The Northeast region also has two more advocates on the NCCF board of directors. Matt Converse, president and CEO for the Bank of Currituck, and Midge Ogletree, an alderwoman in Columbia  and a retired schoolteacher, join the board at the Feb. 9 meeting. They will serve for three years. Ernie Foster of Hatteras and Ginger Webster of Martins Point are also on the 29- member board.

NCCF’s Northeast office covers a huge territory that stretches from the Virginia line to the southern tip of Ocracoke Island and up the Albemarle and northern Pamlico sounds. Founded in 1982, NCCF has its main office in Carteret County and a field office in Wilmington.

Hallas is a familiar face to people who have participated in programs at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island, where she has worked since May 2004 as a special activities instructor. In her new position she will specialize in environmental education for children and adults.

NCCF’s environmental education programs on the Central and Southeast coasts include student wetland nurseries and rain garden construction.

“Our goal is to take the curriculum they’ve established down south and tailor it to this region,” DeBlieu said. A rain garden was built at Manteo Middle School in 2006. NCCF obtained a grant for the project, which was completed with help from numerous partners.
The northern education program will also focus on adults, DeBlieu said. Plans are already being made for a workshop on low impact development, which will be in Currituck County on March 13.

Fleckenstein comes to the Manteo office from Wilmington, where she recently completed a master’s of science degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina. She has also worked for a land trust on the coast of New Hampshire.
Her addition to the staff will enable NCCF to ramp up its efforts to restore important components of the coast’s natural system, including wetlands and oyster reefs.

In 2007, a work group comprised of scientists, conservationists, land managers, and commercial fishermen completed a long-range plan for rebuilding oyster populations in Pamlico Sound. NCCF helped lead the effort. The plan calls for restoring wetlands in key areas and then building new oyster reefs offshore. Fleckenstein will help coordinate those efforts, concentrating her work initially on mainland Dare and Hyde counties.
She also will investigate ways to help communities and homeowners control stormwater runoff, the largest source of pollution in coastal waters. This spring she will coordinate a search for sites in Manteo where simple retrofit controls for stormwater can be installed. The work is being done through a cooperative agreement between the town and NCCF.

Fleckenstein will oversee construction of a stormwater wetlands garden and park, to be located at the corner of Grenville Street and U.S. 64 in Manteo, next to NCCF’s new office building. The existing China King shopping center on the site is to be torn down.

NCCF’s office is being renovated and will open this spring. Meanwhile, the public can reach staff members by calling 473-1607.  You can e-mail Jan DeBlieu at [email protected]

The NCCF Web site is www.nccoast.org.


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