Albemarle Resource Conservation & Development, hiding in plain sight
NORTHEASTERN N.C. — As someone who feels fairly informed about the local area, I was surprised to learn recently about the Albemarle RC&D organization and the work that they do to advance the interests of the counties in the field of preservation of water and land resources.
Former Commissioner Marshall Stevenson, referred me to the agency’s Program Manager, Linda Peterson, who we can safely describe as the “fire plug” that keeps everything in order. If the Sergeants run the Army and the Chiefs run the Navy, Linda Peterson runs the Albemarle Council. This lady is energetic and organized, working part-time and keeping everything on time and in order.
So exactly what is the Albemarle RC&D and what do they do that is so vital to the 10 county region that they serve?
This organization has a Board of Directors of 28 members from the 10 counties as well as various at large with an executive committee of five people. In years past, they had a full-time government employee that served as a coordinator, meeting with county commissioners and other stakeholders in an effort to bring people together and organize the construction of a project involving land and water restoration.
However, the Obama Administration eliminated these permanent employees and left the councils to work out these projects on their own.
In 1964, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) formed the RC&D Council and chartered 364 councils throughout the United States. Based in Edenton, the Albemarle RC&D Council represents Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington Counties. This private not for profit agency had a Federal Coordinator to work with them dealing with government officials, county commissioners and others to ascertain what was needed for land and water restoration projects throughout the region. This employee helped the communities build projects, wrote grants bringing partners together, and would oversee the commencement of construction.
At that time, the agency had a great track record. Since 2011, the agency has been struggling to survie. In that year, federal funding was eliminated for all the RC&D Councils so the 28 volunteers who comprise the RC&D Board of Directors from the 10 counties, have been trying to craft a strategy for future sustainability. The Council receives annual contributions from each county to help with ongoing operating costs (approximately $8,500 total) but its future success will be based on the identification of new projects.
The Council is available to help develop a project and to write grants. A fee structure ($2500-$5000) helps to cover the cost of these activities. Technical assistance for implementing is typically built into the grant itself. The Board members help identify needs in their respective counties and meet four times per year to obtain project updates on existing projects and find out about what is happening with projects in the pipeline. Maintaining visibility in each county is the primary challenge since this requires manpower, and there is only one part-time paid employee.
Among the various projects that have been undertaken in the past and more currently, are:
Upper Little River Watershed Restoration
Pembroke Creek Park Improvement
Tyrrell County Water Management Plan
Tyrrell County Parks and Recreation Study
Tyrrell County Veterans Park
Plymouth Waterfront Restoration
Camden High School Environmental Classroom and Wetlands
And much, much more
Funding for many of these projects has been obtained from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Coastal Area Management Association (CAMA), US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
In many of these projects, the grant covers most of the cost of the project while the match for the county is small by comparison. Mrs. Petersen believes that the “Return on Investment“ is $10 or more for every $1 spent – a worthy value for our rural communities.
The total projects from the 1980s until present have provided grants totaling $14, 256,222 with local county matching funds of $5,381,645. For more information, about the Albemarle Resource Conservation and Development Council, go to its website at www.albemarlercd.org or contact Mrs. Petersen at 252-482-7437.
Albemarle RC&D Council’s track record has been based on successful partnership with county and town leaders, schools and universities, Soil and Water Representatives and interested citizens. Ideas for projects are always welcome.
When asked about how she came to join the organization, Petersen said she stumbled upon the RC&D when she retired from the health insurance field in Chicago where she was speech pathologist and later obtained her MBA and became a Hospital Administrator. She and her husband retired to Edenton, but she could not simply sit still and needed to have something to keep her busy.
When she found this position, she knew nothing of water and land conservation and resources, but she had a skill set of being highly organized, so she got the job and considers this to be the best thing that she has ever done! From our observations, the volunteers that make up the board of this agency feel that this is a ‘Mutual Admiration Society.’