Buffer Incentive Program in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) offers incentives for urban and agricultural landowners to install buffers along waterways within Delaware’s Chesapeake Bay watershed. Eligible landowners that qualify will receive an incentive payment for land they enroll in the program.

A drawing of a stream, seen in cross-section, with forest buffers on either side.

A buffer is a linear strip of wooded or vegetated area that absorbs nutrients from groundwater and helps filter nutrients, sediment and other pollutants from water runoff.

These buffers are adjacent to waterways and help contain high stream flows, provide wildlife habitat and provide protection from flooding and erosion.

Buffers are a part of Phase III of Delaware’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to help reduce nutrient and sediment loads entering the Chesapeake Bay. Delaware’s WIP goals for buffers are to create an additional 65 acres of forest buffers and 8,118 acres of grass buffers by 2025. The Delaware Riparian Forest Buffer Action Strategy outlines the state’s plan for meeting its goals. This includes the creation of a state incentive program for planting buffers.

Qualified Landowners

The Buffer Incentive Program is for any landowner or local entity within Delaware’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed. For a property to qualify, it must be connected to, or next to, a stream or ditch.

To see if a property is within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, use the Find Your Watershed page at

This program is for both urban and rural applicants.

Both rural and urban buffers planted along tax ditches must have written approval prior to installation.

Urban Landowners

An urban buffer will need to be at least a quarter of an acre. Property owners must agree to keep the buffer for at least five years.

Rural/Agricultural Landowners

A rural or agricultural buffer must be at least half an acre. Property owners must agree to keep the buffer for at least five years.

Farmers that lease agricultural lands are eligible but must certify that they have an active lease. Applicants will need to be in good standing with the Nutrient Management Program or the Delaware Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation Program.


The Buffer Incentive Program covers the costs of installing the buffers and maintenance of the practice for the length of the contract.

Landowners receive a one-time incentive payment based on the type of buffer installed.

Incentive Payments (per Acre)
Forest Buffer (>35 Feet) $1,000
Narrow Forest Buffer (10 – 35 Feet) $500
Narrow Grass Buffer (10 – 35 feet) $500
Grass Buffer (>35 feet) $1,000
Urban Conservation Buffer (>10 feet) $500

Contact Us for More Information

If you are interested in the buffer incentive program and would like more information, please provide your information below.

First, we need your name and contact information.

Next, we need to know where your property is located.

Finally, how would you prefer that we contact you?