Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earth Day celebration today at World Peace Wetland Prairie first in five years with water on the area

The grass will be wet, the ground will feel spongy to the step and there will be spots where water is standing and the central flow area will have a flow today when you reach World Peace Wetland Prairie.
To enjoy the full experience, please wear waterproof boots or shoes you don't mind getting wet.
This is the first time in five years of Earth Day celebrations on WPWP that the seasonal wetland was truly wet. In past years, I had to point out the flow area to suggest people who wanted to plant flowers be sure they didn't put anything that wasn't tolerant of perpetually wet soil and even underground water on its roots in the flow area because it was dry on the surface.

Today, the main flow areas will be apparent.

The sad part is that the flow area has changed in the past couple of years and now has muddy, silt-laden water flowing instead of the absolutely clear water of the past.

Why is that the case?

The Aspen Ridge/Hill Place student-apartment project land was cleared in summer 2005 and silt fences were put up and a nearly complete change of soil on the land began. Silt fences never prevent siltation, they just sort of guide the runoff to the lowest spots and the water undercuts the silt fence and carries its nasty load of fill dirt downstream.

By the winter of 2006, enough impure runoff had entered WPWP to allow algae to bloom in the flow area and the situation has worsened in the past year as Hill Place work began. The result is that the vegetation in the flow area often appears muddy.

The rich black soil is the most significant aspect of WPWP. It makes the magic of wetland.
Siltation will decrease its ability to absorb and cleanse water. And it can fill the flow area and cause it to widen. OR, if the flow is increased by the storm drain routed to the northern edge of WPWP from Rochier Hill, it could wash out and deepen the flow area into a gully.

I hope a lot of interested people show up to see the changing dynamics of site.


Austin said...

Aubrey, I know you like to put a negative spin on the redirected water onto wpwp, but lest people forget, I'd like to remind everyone that we redirected that flow to feed needed water into wpwp to regulate the hydrologic pulse into the prairie AT YOUR REQUEST. This was done at an additional cost to Place Properties, and we would have gladly routed the water to the creek, but we wanted to accomodate you and help supplement the flow regime into the prairie.

aubunique said...

Austin, my initial plea to you guys and to Ron Petree was that water be routed from the west under the trail to restore the flow REGIMEN to the Pinnacle Foods Inc.'s 2 acres between the new trail and wpwp and that only local black soil be used to fill the old road bed and that no soil from other places be brought in and that no red dirt be used for the trail base.
The idea for routing water from the flow off of Rochier Hill (where the Summit Project is proposed) came from you or your cohort.
It sounded OK but it wasn't a replacement for the water directly from the west that was cut off and routed down the now canceled extension of Brooks Avenue through the Pinnacle Property and to connect to 12th St.
I do understand your explanation that the city engineering department disallowed the small irrigation pipe from the northwest that I envisioned when you first proposed bringing a portion of that water to wpwp. Had I been informed immediately that a large storm-drain-sized pipe would be required I would have asked that the irrigation plan from the northwest across Hill Place be dropped.
Currently, the pipe is acting more like a not-so-sanitary sewer rather than an irrigation pipe. The water is not detained in a settling basin or rain garden upstream and brings yellow silt and debris to wpwp during each significant rain.
The problem is that the city lacks a team of full-time inspectors of stormwater facilities and it appears that no water coming from the project is properly kept on site long enough to settle out before flowing to the Town Branch or down the Brooks Extension to 12th Street or to wpwp.
I suspect that the stormwater permit under which the contractors are working says that stormwater must be managed beginning with the first moving of earth until the work is completed. And I recognize that many people involved at various levels want to do things right. But, if the workers on site don't understand the rules or have a will to follow them, none of that counts for much.
We moved into the neighborhood in 1997 or was it 96? We quickly recognized the relatively rarity of the land we now know as WPWP and dreamed of buying it but had a mortgage to pay on our own half-acre and a sub-par income as journalists.
When we saw it become a city nature park before our first Earth Day at wpwp celebration in 2005, we expected it to be a demonstration site for land that captured the water that fell on it or entered through natural processes and actually helped protective downstream residents and water quality.
There was no plan to make it a stormgarden to clean the water from an adjacent development. However, on Sunday morning, I made photos to show that it can do that job with clear water at the south end leaving the wpwp and muddy water coming at the north end.
But the original developers had plenty of the same kind of rich, black prairie soil that would have cleaned the runoff from the whole site if planned property and built properly. You guys got the job of trying to cope with the mess that was left when the original project failed.
That was a challenge. And the only way fully to have met that challenge would have been to complete all the stormwater-management before any construction began and to have maintained those facilities from the beginning.
I cling to the dream that the finished product will stop the siltation and result in a credible restoration of what, back in 2000, was a fine part of our city's green infrastructure.
I hope to be able to put a positive "spin" on things when I see the finished product.

Anonymous said...

Aub is pointing out that the idea is to "keep the water where it falls" and to "protect the habitat," the theme he has on the top of the promotional handouts such as he gave us on the square last weekend for the earth day event at the peace prairie.
He'll probably have that on his tombstone with a raingarden for a burial site. Those old Louisiana natives are serious about their wetland.

Austin said...

Fair enough, Aubrey. I think you make some excellent points. I do truly believe that when the construction ends, you will see a much higher quality of water. I will do a better job through my office to inspect and control the stormwater control measures in place during construction.

Anonymous said...

As always, instead of being happy that the changes to the flows have made the wetland wet again, you grouse about the quality of flow.

If you wish to increase the amount of filtration above that required/requested by the city, you could certainly do so at any time.

Easier to cast stones that make a positive impact with some additional (inexpensive) filtration measures.