Jacksonville Stormwater Manager, Pat Donovan Brandenburg to be honored at the 2023 Governor's Conservation Achievement Awards as Water Conservationist of the year.
Pat Donovan Brandenburg, Stormwater Manager for the City of Jacksonville, was selected as Water Conservationist of the Year for her efforts in restoring the health of the New River which runs through Jacksonville and Onslow County. Pat has played a key role along with City leaders and community partners in restoring the river through innovative methods, including the building of live oyster reefs, which effectively filter out pollutants and nutrients. The success of these and other measures over the few decades, has led to the reopening of the river for fishing and recreational activities. Pat oversees the New River Oyster Highway Project, which continues to provide a healthy habitat and clean water. The return of coastal wetland creatures signifies the remarkable rejuvenation of an area that was once devoid of life due to pollution (see related subject below).
As the Stormwater Manager for the City, Pat and her team work year round to ensure all of our area waterways are healthy and environmentally sustainable by establishing best practices, through education and monitoring. Local waterways include Wilson Bay, the New River and estuaries found in and around Jacksonville. It is often that you will see the City’s Stormwater Manager and Water Quality technicians on Wilson Bay or New River taking water samples, measuring and cataloging marine life as well as naturally treating invasive plants species or building live oyster reefs. These are just a few items on the ’to do’ in working for healthy, thriving waterways.
Pat will receive her honors at the 59th Annual Governor's Conservation Achievement Awards ceremony to be held in Cary, NC in September, 2023. (Image top right: Pat Donovan-Brandenburg, local fishermen and members of the NC Wildlife Federation are shown installing live oyster rings in reef #3 in 2019. (Image bottom right: Pat Donovan-Brandenburg, City Stormwater crew, local fishermen and members of the NC Wildlife Federation pose for a picture at the reef #3 sign in 2019))
Related subject: Sturgeon City and the Clean up of Wilson Bay
Born of a desire to help restore water quality to the New River, the Wilson Bay Initiative and the Sturgeon City projects have come to embody Citizen action to take back a once degraded river and for government to react as an inspiration for community involvement. For more than 40 years, the City discharged wastewater into Wilson Bay. Many other plants, including Camp Lejeune and the New River Air Station, also discharged into the New River. Agricultural runoff and other pollutants left the river organically dead.
The river was so degraded that by 1995, when a huge hog house lagoon escaped its berm and flooded into the New River, that the predictions of large fish kills and sudden death to the river did not occur. The event served as a wake up call to the Citizens who demanded a return of the river for recreation and commercial use. At about the same time, the Jacksonville City Council decided to close the old Wilson Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant and open a new environmentally friendly and expandable land treatment site that could safely treat wastewater and share the effluent with a huge forest.
Hearing the voice of the Citizens, the Jacksonville City Council said it was their moral responsibility to help clean up the New River and engaged in huge project to use oysters, aeration, restored wetlands, and stormwater mitigation to return water quality in Wilson Bay. But the Wilson Bay Initiative was so successful that the effect quickly spread and with a panel of scientists, regulators, river advocates, and interested Citizens, information about the process and advocacy helped to restore water quality to almost all of the river.
Today, the New River is the site of an annual triathalon, the "New River Splash", a regular sight of kayaker's and boaters, fishing enthusiasts, and is home to oyster reefs using millions of live oysters. The reefs are located along the edge of the New River in an effort to create structure to the flat bottom of the river, to attract marine life, help it grow and improve recreational fishing on the river. This Oyster Highway was created by the City's Stormwater Division, in partnership with Sturgeon City and County and State Organizations, with addition funding and volunteers from the community.