Going for Green in Wisconsin

Going for Green in Wisconsin

Barker’s Island has undergone many transformations since Captain Charles S. Barker dumped vengeance sand in front of the lakeside home of his political frenemy, the mayor of Superior. Flash forward 140 years, and what began as a landmass of resentment has become a popular recreation spot and home to the Lake Superior Reserve’s offices and its Estuarium

In recent years, however, flooding and water quality problems have raised big concerns about the island’s sustainability. This prompted the Lake Superior Reserve to help write a new chapter in the Barker’s Island story—one in which green infrastructure plays a starring role.

“Green infrastructure creates welcoming spaces that people can enjoy and use to connect with the natural environment,” observes Karina Heim, the Reserve’s coastal training coordinator. “Our Reserve, like others, supports work that strengthens the estuary and the people who surround it. Promoting the science and the practice of green infrastructure in our local communities is one way we do that.”

In recent years, Barker’s Island has become a hub for green infrastructure demonstration sites. On Barker’s Beach, for example, pervious pavement parking spaces and raised boardwalks have helped improve the visitor experience. And as monitoring by the Reserve and others has begun to show, it is likely these installations also are contributing to improvements in water quality in receiving waters.

“The Island is our Reserve’s home,” says Heim, “and it’s fantastic to see and help steward the green infrastructure renaissance that is happening right now in this small footprint, high traffic area next to the water.”

To shine a spotlight on these improvements for local communities, the Reserve partnered with the City of Superior and others to host a green infrastructure walking tour for local decision makers last fall. Each stop featured a different improvement, hosted by an expert who could explain the design and its benefits with regard to water quality improvement and flood reduction.

“Barkers Island is one of Superior’s highly valued and highly visited access points to the estuary,” says Heim. “As the mayor expressed when he opened our walking tour, green infrastructure provides the community with benefits that go far beyond water management; we look forward to continuing to work with the City and the community to promote those benefits in 2022.”

First stop at Barker’s Beach. Matt Steiger, St. Louis River area of concern coordinator with Wisconsin DNR, explains how porous concrete under the picnic tables allows water to soak into the ground instead of running directly into the estuary, carrying pollution into the water.

Above: Impervious parking spaces prevented water from draining naturally and directed storm water to the beach. Below: Pervious parking spaces allow water to drain into filtering swales.

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Welcome Connecticut!

Welcome Connecticut!

A big welcome to the newest member of our national network—the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve!

After decades of effort by many organizations and volunteers, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) officially designated the Reserve today. It protects 52,160 acres in the southeastern part of the state, where the Connecticut and Thames rivers flow into Long Island Sound.

“A Connecticut Reserve makes congressional investment in our national System more powerful, while serving the needs of Connecticut communities,” says Rebecca Roth, NERRA’s executive director. “It enhances our ability to deliver the essential science, education, and technical assistance to support coastal industries and help protect people and infrastructure from sea level rise and flooding.”

Prior to this designation, Connecticut was one of only two ocean-bordering states lacking a Reserve. (Louisiana, where plans are underway to designate a site, is the other.) The Reserve protects an area with the region’s highest diversity of fish, including Atlantic salmon, and the endangered shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon. It also encompasses areas recognized as ‘wetlands of international importance’ by the Ramsar Convention and opportunities for public access at several preserves and state parks.

The Reserve will be managed as a partnership between NOAA and the State of Connecticut. Its research and monitoring programs will support the state’s communities in understanding and adapting to warming waters and sea level rise, which threaten habitats that promote climate resilience and support commercial fish and other wildlife. Like other Reserves, it will serve as a living laboratory where scientists and stakeholders collaborate to develop nature-based solutions to understand, restore, and conserve these natural areas so they can benefit all members of local communities for generations.

The area surrounding the Reserve includes North America’s oldest Indian Reservation, the Mashantucket Pequot, as well as ethnically diverse cities like New London.

“This Reserve was designated through a process that fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Roth. “Like every other Reserve, the Connecticut team will rely on these principles to ensure its programs receive insights from all community members and provide opportunities for everyone to participate, particularly underserved groups and those who have faced environmental injustice.” 

A public event to mark the Reserve’s designation is planned for this spring. Additional details will be posted on the research Reserve website at noaa.gov.

National Estuarine Research Reserve System—now serving communities across 24 coastal states and Puerto Rico. 

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Recipe Challenge: Salish Salmon

Recipe Challenge: Salish Salmon

We asked for your best estuary-sourced recipes, and Dennis Parent—retired commercial fisherman and volunteer with the Padilla Bay Foundation—delivered. His recipe for grilled Chinook salmon had our mouths watering and our spirits thinking about a trip to the wide wonderful waters of Washington State.

The Chinook (King) Salmon is native to Skagit River. On their way through the estuary as they head to the sea, young salmon use the vast eelgrass meadows of Padilla Bay as a refuge from predators and to fill their bellies before heading out to the deeper waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. Across the Salish Sea, eelgrass meadows serve as an important juvenile salmon nursery and are an important estuarine habitat for the health and recovery of Pacific Northwest salmonids.

Purple shore crab and numerous Japanese mud snails amidst the eelgrass of Padilla Bay at low tide.

Dennis’ recipe is a hybrid, influenced by original coastal peoples, ethnic cannery workers, and a long tradition of commercial fishers from Puget Sound and Alaska. This recipe is best with wild Pacific salmon—preferably a fresh fillet of Chinook—as the unique flavor comes from the rich North Pacific ocean. But do your best with whatever sustainable salmon you can get your mitts on.


  • 1 Fillet or portion of fresh wild Chinook salmon, about 1 inch thick


  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp red cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 cedar plank, about 1/4 inch thick and large enough to hold the fish


  1. Place fish in a close fitting container with sides.
  2. Pour enough marinade to soak fish, skin up for one hour, just prior to grilling. Move the fish as needed to ensure an even soak.
  3. Simultaneously, immerse the plank in fresh water for one hour.
  4. Preheat the grill to 400 degrees on high, then turn to medium heat. Keep the grill closed as much as possible from now on, and keep the temperature at 375-400F.
  5. Coat grill with BBQ spray.
  6. Place cedar plank on one half of the grill—the plank will infuse a smoky cedar finish. 
  7. Grill salmon face down on the rest of the grill for one minute.
  8. Carefully rotate salmon 90 degrees and grill facedown for one additional minute, to achieve grill marks.
  9. Gently flip salmon skin side down onto cedar plank and center on the grill. The plank should be slightly charring and smoking by now in the closed grill.
  10. Drizzle salmon with 1/3 of retained used marinade, and close lid. Cook for 5 minutes.
  11. Open grill and drizzle salmon again with retained marinade as before. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  12. Check center for doneness. Do not overcook—salmon will continue to cook for a bit after removal from the grill. The salmon should have grill marks and a shiny glazed finish, while the inside retains its moisture and flakes nicely.
  13. Serve with rice and enjoy with people you adore. It’s simply the best.

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

DC Download: December 2021

DC Download: December 2021

It’s sometimes said that Reserves are “the best kept secret in Coastal management.” In our books, 2021 will go down as the year that changed.

With many demands on the federal budget, Congress and the Administration demonstrated their faith that Reserves are partners worth investing in. They’ve provided $77 million for NERRS restoration and conservation over the next five years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

And now Congress is considering record-breaking funding for the NERRS FY 2022 budget, with a high mark of $34 million proposed for NERRS Operations by the Senate. A budget is a statement of what you value, and these proposed increases underscore how our Reserves, and our time-tested programs, are valued by Congress and our partners in NOAA.

These developments have left the NERRS poised for tremendous growth and change in 2022. And we owe much of this to our NERRA Board and Reserve Friends Groups and Foundations, each backed by members and volunteers that total more than 35,000 people nationwide. We can’t thank you enough.

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Welcome, Mackenzie!

Welcome, Mackenzie!

We’re happy to announce a new addition to the Sapelo Island Reserve team: Mackenzie Maxwell, the new part-time Volunteer Coordinator. 

“It is a privilege to work with you all to support Sapelo Island,” says Maxwell. “There are so many things about Sapelo that sets it apart from anywhere else on earth; I am excited to help preserve its natural beauty, as well as its rich history and culture.” 

Maxwell is familiar with the Sapelo community, with roots in nearby Shellman Bluff, where she lives with her two children. She is finishing up a bachelor’s degree in holistic health, and she brings a good mix of customer service and nonprofit experience to her new role.

“The folks at the Sapelo Reserve ought to be proud of the indelible marks you have made for such a worthy cause, I look forward to seeing the great things we will accomplish together!

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Author: Dolores