Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

Quality wetland

October 20, 2005


To the editor:

As an ecologist with over 15 years of wetland experience, I would like to respond to the Sept. 4 Journal-World article, "Quality of new, restored wetlands center of debate," which posed the question, "When it comes to creating new and restored wetlands, how good is good enough?"

One thing is for sure, we'll never approach the diversity and complexity of pre-settlement wetlands, but we could at least strive toward creating wetlands that are highly diverse and function well.

To be honest, restoring or creating wetlands isn't that difficult: Add water (enough to inundate or saturate the soils for at least two weeks of the growing season) and wetland seeds to a depressional area and you'll have a "wetland" in as little as a few years.

However, the wetland wouldn't be much to speak of. But in most instances it would meet Dr. Boyd's definition of a functioning wetland: contain water less than 6 feet deep for at least two weeks of the year, have hydric soils and contain hydrophytic vegetation. And it would also meet the almost identical performance standards of the South Lawrence Trafficway wetland mitigation site as outlined in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.

So when Dr. Boyd states that the success of the wetland mitigation is not dependent on plant species diversity, I beg to differ. He's technically correct, but I believe that high quality should be a primary goal in wetland creation or restoration not some mediocre standards established by the Corps.

Frank Norman,



Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

Not me. The county needs a route that completely avoids the wetlands, is more practical,less expensive and ties into an existing K10 interchange which could save millions of dollars.

In 1971 the State Highway Commission recommended a bypass for Lawrence that would be build south of the Wakarusa River. During this same year the BIA granted Douglas County a right of way for 31st and received no monies for the 24 acre easement.

In 1985 the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Transporation Committee,county commissioners,developers and other interested parties illegality met in secret to discuss a bypass. The county commission, not the State Highway Commission, later proposed a different southern bypass route. On June 7, the County Commission announced plans for a bond issue to fund the trafficway without doing their homework.

In 1987 a Baker biologist warned against destroying the wetlands habitat. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that in an impact statement all reasonable alternatives be rigorously explored and objectively evaluated. The 1993 study omitted the south of the Wakarusa River route recommended by the State Highway Commission in 1971. 1995 Douglas County tried once again to submit an EIS still with no study of the 1971 State Highway Commission SOR recommendation. The western leg was implemented before approval of the complete route was definitely established or approved thus the bridge to nowhere.

October 2005 still finds that all possible routes have not been rigorously explored. Certainly not the least expensive and/or practical.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

We need a bypass not a trafficway. Lawrence has enough trafficways scattered throughout Lawrence.

Had the county leaders shown some wisdom and accepted the State Highway Commission recommendation this discussion would not be taking place. It's the Chamber/developers/county commisioners, which in reality are pretty much the same people, that created this fiasco.

A bypass is far more practical for the long term and will provide a better bang for the tax buck. Something will likely materialize in the near future that will meet the demands more appropriately.

Jamesaust 12 years, 5 months ago

There's not a human being alive who knows how to recreate a wetland with the full range of diversity that exists naturally.

That said, the real question is if we can "afford" to have the real thing. The author's point that the quality of what is recreated needs to be negotiated closely is valid. We should not accept just any moist acreage with a signs saying "wetlands" posted on it. But it is increasingly clear that something less than the existing wetlands are going to have to be the solution here.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

Here is my two cents worth:

There is a less expensive and more logical option that has not been put on the table. The current plan going through a flood zone requires elevation which is a costly endeavor. Staying SOR and completly out of the wetlands/flood zones requiring fewer bridges and connecting to an existing interchange(#1057) could save a few million.

Taking the SLT south of the river to interchange 1057 and K10 could take traffic north to I 70 as well.

This accomplishes many things. A. Services JOCO and Douglas County traffic going to NW Lawrence or Topeka B. Services the Eudora Business Park east of 1057 C. Services East Hills Business Park and the SE Work Center area west of 1057 D. Diverts traffic out around the city as it should E. Keeps the SLT entirely out of the wetlands F. HNTB has researched SLT/1057 option but was never put on the table H. Reduces traffic substantially on 31st I. Services Tonganoxie

Working with the Kansas Turnpike Authority could save Douglas County taxpayers untold millions of dollars. Building this road at any cost at this point in time is simply not prudent use of Douglas County tax dollars.

Alison Smith 12 years, 5 months ago

I have to wearily agree with blue... This should have been dealt with several decades ago - witness merrill's rendition of this saucy plate of spaghetti. Given that this has become a legal landmind (sic), we can't fault johnny come latelys for not making miracles in 365 days....

Our North-Going Zax and our South-Going Zax have bumped in this Prairie of Prax. We have to steer clear and work around, over, or maybe even under them. See Dr Suess' "The Zax."

bearded_gnome 12 years, 5 months ago

wetlands habitat...swamp. breeding space for mosquitos, just what we need next to lawrence with the new mosquito-bourne meningitis etc.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

Major wetland functions and some of their values. (Source: Tiner 1998)

Water storage Flood- and storm-damage protection, water source during dry seasons, groundwater recharge, fish and shellfish habitat, water source for fish and wildlife, recreational boating, fishing, shellfishing, waterfowl hunting, livestock watering, ice skating, nature photography, and aesthetic appreciation

Slow water release Flood-damage protection, maintenance of stream flows, maintenance of fresh and saltwater balance in estuaries, linkages with watersheds for wildlife and water-based processes, nutrient transport, and recreational boating

Nutrient retention and cycling Water-quality renovation, peat deposits, increases in plant productivity and aquatic productivity, decreases in eutrophication, pollutant abatement, global cycling of nitrogen, sulfur, methane, and carbon dioxide, reduction of harmful sulfates, production of methane to maintain Earth's protective ozone layer, and mining (peat and limestone)

Sediment retention Water-quality renovation, reduction of sedimentation of waterways, and pollution abatement (retention of contaminants)

Substrate for plants and animals Shoreline stabilization, reduction of flood crests and water's erosive potential, plant-biomass productivity, peat deposits, organic export, fish and wildlife habitats (specialized animals, including rare and endangered species), aquatic productivity, trapping, hunting, fishing, nature observation, production of timber and other natural commodities, livestock grazing, scientific study, environmental education, nature photography, and aesthetic appreciation

Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

Wetlands Saves Tax Dollars: Economical and Fiscal

  • Pollution Control Wetlands filter water for free and thus lower the need for, or the loadings into, wastewater and drinking water treatment plants. Further loss of wetlands will lead to increased need for treatment plants and clean-up strategies.

  • Water Supply Wetlands and major retention basins, providing large quantities of clean water for municipalities. Wetland losses will lead to loss of quality water supplies, requiring costly searches for new sources of water.

    Flood Control Wetlands help control flooding, and thus prevent the need for costly flood control projects. A one-acre wetland holds 330,000 gallons of water if flooded to one foot.

  • Shipping By filtering tributaries and runoff, wetlands hold back vast amounts of sediment that would fill up navigation channels, saving hundreds of millions of tax dollars in dredging costs.

  • Property Protection By preventing flooding and by acting as wave barrier to prevent coastal erosion, wetlands prevent loss of property.

  • Property Values By serving as scenic open space and ad visual and sound buffers, wetlands enhance a community's amenities and therefore its property values.

  • Tourism and Recreation By producing so much wildlife and fish, by serving as scenic open space, and by protecting water quality, wetlands greatly benefit businesses based on fishing, boating, hunting, swimming, and sightseeing, including the lodging, restaurant and service sector.

  • Food Wetlands produce much of the fish harvested by the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, and are the only place where cranberry, wild rice and other wetland crops can be grown.

  • Natural Resources Wetland produce most of the furbearers for the trapping industry. Forest wetlands can be an important source of timber when managed properly.

  • Fiscal and Tax Savings By performing all the above benefits for free, wetlands save billions of tax dollars by avoiding the need for costly flood, erosion, pollution control, dredging and water supply projects. They bring in fiscal revenues by supporting the recreation, tourism, food and service industries. By enhancing residential property values, they maintain higher tax revenues.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 5 months ago

When the bypass around the city was first proposed, the route was south of the river. It was only after Haskell was relieved of its lands and heavy-hitting speculators bought up property along 31st that the route was shifted through the Haskell (not the Baker) wetlands.

But you know, traffic through Lawrence would be much easier if we had a 4-lane throughfare right through campus. Perhaps we should put that to a vote of Douglas County citizens. It shouldn't matter what KU thinks.

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