Naval Support Activity (NSA) Annapolis has a variety of ecosystems within its fence line including river shorelines, forests, grasslands, and wetlands. The installation partners with federal and state government agencies to protect and manage these areas with the guidance of an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP).
The INRMP is a planning document, renewed every five years, for stewardship of the local ecosystems and natural resources. It identifies a wide variety of natural resources: including any protected species, natural habitat, wetlands, natural shorelines, forest stands, grasslands, and even potential recreational activities that align with the NSA Annapolis mission. It also identifies potential projects and establishes priorities that enable the installation to complete projects based on cruciality and as natural resource funds become available.
NSA Annapolis’ natural resources include numerous flora and fauna species, shoreline along the Severn River, Carr Creek, Mill Creek, and the Chesapeake Bay; as well as several small forests, and grasslands dotted throughout the facility property. It includes Greenbury Point, a largely-undeveloped 250+ acre natural area with various recreational resources and several walking trails and educational display boards.
“The potential project list in the INRMP is not a hard, set list of what we’re going to do. It’s more of a roadmap of our objectives and priorities. And we adjust our priorities based on multiple factors, to include the availability of funding,” said Matt Klimoski, NSA Annapolis’ environmental program director.
Within the Naval District Washington region, Naval Air Station Patuxent River and NSA South Potomac also have INRMPs. Any military installation with significant natural resources is required to have an INRMP by the Sikes Act, a law passed in 1960 with multiple subsequent amendments. The Sikes Act directs the Secretary of Defense, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state fish and wildlife agencies, to carry out a program for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations. The Sikes Act allows for the sustainable, multipurpose use of natural resources subject to military security and safety requirements (https://www.fws.gov/law/sikes-act).
The USFWS and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) reviewed and signed NSA Annapolis’ first INRMP in 2001, as well as the current plan in 2016. Every year, NSA Annapolis meets with the cooperating agencies, as well as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service, to conduct a metrics review. During the metrics review, recent program and project activities are reviewed, and planned activities are discussed, as well as new emphasis areas and updates to include species of concern and their habitat, encroachment, ecosystem management, invasive species management, and recreational usage.
“The cooperating agencies have reviewed and signed off on our natural resource management plan and concur with our proposed projects,” Klimoski said. “They understand that we don’t have unlimited resources to do everything on the proposed list, but overall I’d say they’re pleased with our performance.”
The installation’s INRMP lays out guidelines for protecting wetlands, restoring forests, maintaining Greenbury Point, managing deer populations, managing invasive species, and stabilizing shorelines against erosion. The program also includes surveying local wildlife populations for biodiversity.
Over the past five years, NSA Annapolis has completed over $2 million worth of projects on Greenbury Point related to the INRMP and Natural Resources in general. These projects include:
– Rare, threatened, and endangered pollinators and plants surveys
– Multiple invasive plant species management actions covering dozens of acres, including an ongoing project near the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Cottages, phragmites control in marshlands, and re-planting cleared areas with native species
– Accessibility improvements to the Bobwhite trail
– Multiple shoreline restoration projects on Carr Creek, Possum Point, and the Chesapeake Bay
– Pinewoods reforestation
– Deer tick control stations
– Oyster surveys on Carr and Mill Creek
– A bat survey and roosting research project
– Tagging of Monarch butterflies with USFWS
– A fish survey with the Maryland Department of the Environment
– Over 20 volunteer-based events involving trail clearing and trash removal, primarily with the Midshipmen Action Group (MAG)
Additionally, the installation built new fencing and lights along Greenbury Point’s access roads after a 2019 safety survey determined that the range posed a serious risk during range activity. Funding was granted to mitigate the risks in 2021. The access roads run adjacent to firing ranges and are not open to the public when the rifle range is active. Captain Homer Denius, NSA Annapolis commanding officer, said more fencing was required to maintain the surface danger zones mandated by Navy regulations and codes.
“The existing fencing was being circumvented by the public when the roads were secured posing a safety hazard to anyone on the point. The new fencing was constructed to meet Navy regulations that require a clear danger zone behind the firing range”, Denius said.
In the coming years, the installation is planning projects to remove invasive plants and survey more plant and wildlife species. NSA Annapolis will start work next year to rebuild the embankment around a pond near Carr Creek that holds back contaminated dredge material placed there in the 1920s. Klimoski said that this project will prevent the pond’s polluted sediment from spilling into the surrounding estuary. NSA Annapolis will also continue to conduct volunteer events with the MAG and other groups to clear and improve the walking trails and conduct educational outreach.
NSA Annapolis is also planning more shoreline restoration projects on Carr Creek. Shoreline erosion has become an issue throughout the Chesapeake Bay due to rising sea levels, according to Jonathan Watson, a marine habitat resource specialist with NOAA Fisheries.
“Humans have grappled with erosion for as long as we’ve had real estate. But with rising sea levels and climate change, erosion can certainly be exacerbated,” Watson said.
NOAA Fisheries advises the Department of the Navy and other Navy installations on their INRMPs. The agency also works with NSA Annapolis on other environmental initiatives.
“We coordinate pretty closely with the installation, and I think they understand what our priority resources are,” Watson said. “We show up where it makes sense for us to engage, and we welcome the opportunity to provide comments and technical assistance as needed.”
NSA Annapolis and cooperating agencies last updated the NSA Annapolis INRMP in 2016. The next update was originally scheduled to be completed in 2021, but additional time was needed to comply with changes required by new Navy guidance regarding INRMP structure and content, as well as initial internal review comments from Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC). The NSA Annapolis INRMP is the first one in Naval District Washington to undergo this significant reorganization.
The update is now anticipated to be signed by September 2023. The Draft INRMP is expected to be forwarded to USFWS and MDNR in July for review and comments. Once comments are received and incorporated into the INRMP, it will be forwarded for final Navy/Department of Defense review. If the schedule stays on track the final INRMP should be signed in late September.
This work, NSA Annapolis’ Holistic Approach to Natural Resources with Integrated Management Plan, by Rick Docksai, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.