Mitigation Milestone Reached at Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site

Photo courtesy of GreenVest

Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Project will Restore and Protect 80+ Acres of Mattawoman Creek, Chesapeake Bay’s Most Productive Tributary

As one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most productive tributaries and a vital part of Maryland’s natural resources, Mattawoman Creek supports some of the largest populations of finfish, amphibians, and birds in the state. A collaborative team of private and public sector entities have designed the “Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site” in Pomfret, Charles County, Maryland, an effort that will enhance or create 64+ acres of wetlands and restore nearly 3,800 linear feet of this perennial stream.  With over 28,500 native trees and shrubs to be planted, this mitigation project will result in 80+ acres of continuous, forested wetland with complex and diverse vegetative communities. It is expected to provide a wide array of habitat to resident and transient wildlife, including birds, reptiles, invertebrates, amphibians and rare, threatened and endangered species.

Unique to this project, Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site is Maryland’s first-ever Umbrella Mitigation Banking Instrument (UMBI) for federal and other government agency use.   A UMBI is the bundling of multiple mitigation banks into one agreement in order to streamline the regulatory approval process, thereby eliminating steps and involving fewer resources. The Maryland UMBI document helps the USAF and other public agencies secure certainty of cost and schedule, facilitate timely permit issuance, and expedite the satisfaction of their permitted requirements for planned capital improvement projects. This approach also maximizes the scale of restoration and resulting land protection and efforts, creating contiguous blocks of habitat with greatly enhanced benefits compared to single, permittee-responsible projects. This precedent was a result of a partnership between United States Air Force (USAF) and Joint Base Andrews (JBA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and Princeton Hydro.

Projects completed under the UMBI will reduce federal and state workload expediting the regulatory review and issuance of permits by the MDE and USACE. Additionally, projects completed under this UMBI will aid in compliance with the Federal Paperwork Reduction Act where federal regulatory staff can evaluate success and performance issues for multiple permittees at one single habitat restoration or mitigation site. In addition, federal costs are capped, and liabilities  are transferred through to GreenVest, the private sector operator, and GreenTrust Alliance, the nonprofit bank sponsor, who will also serve as the long-term steward of sites restored under this program.

Pictured is the southern restoration area after
sorghum germination, prior to wetland creation
and reestablishment.
A function-based stream assessment was
performed on the degraded channel.

 

Photo courtesy of GreenVestDesign, engineering/modeling, and permitting of the site was completed by  Princeton Hydro and GreenVest under our currently Ecosystem Restoration contract with the USACE. Princeton Hydro also provided an Environmental Assessment and Environmental Baseline Survey, and conducted a geotechnical investigation, which included the advancement of test pits, visual and manual investigation techniques and logging, infiltration testing, laboratory soils testing, and seasonal high-water table estimations.

A wetland water budget was also developed for the proposed wetland creation and restoration to determine if sufficient water is available to establish or reestablish wetlands on the site. It was also used to inform design development including proposed grading and plant community composition. The establishment and re-establishment of wetlands on the site will be accomplished through directed grading, ditch plugging and stream restoration designed to maximize the retention of surface water, floodplain re-connection, and groundwater inputs.

Highlights from the Mattawoman Creek Wetland and Stream Mitigation project:
  • 80 acres of land were placed into conservation easement and removed from active row crop production and cattle pasture. The easement, which is held by GreenTrust Alliance, provides permanent protection for all 80 acres.
  • Over 64 acres of wetlands will be restored, created, enhanced or preserved, which will sequester approximately 75 tons of carbon per year.
  • 3,798 linear feet of perennial stream will be restored by re-establishing, historic floodplain access during more frequent storm events, stabilizing hydraulics and geomorphology, and adding aquatic habitat value.
  • Full integration of the wetland and stream restoration elements will occur exponentially, increasing anticipated functions and values in the post construction condition. Functions include: storm damage and flood attenuation, groundwater recharge and discharge, nutrient cycling and sequestration, local water quality improvement, and wildlife habitat enhancements.
  • This project will also create and enhance the forested wetland and stream habitat for the State-listed Threatened Selys’ Sundragon (Helocordulia selysii).
  • As part of the site design, over 28,500 native trees and shrubs will be planted.
  • The Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site is located within a Tier 3 Biodiversity Conservation Network area. These areas are classified by the Department of Natural Resources as “highly significant for biodiversity conservation” and are priority conservation areas that support critical species and habitats.
  • The project will yield advanced mitigation values: 7.913 in wetland credits and 1,595 in stream credits. These credits are durable and will be available for JBA’s use in order to satisfy permitted impacts associated with planned capital improvement projects.

Over 6,000 acres (25%) of the Mattawoman Creek watershed has been protected by public ownership and various conservation and agricultural easements, which, in addition to the Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site, help ensure that Mattawoman Creek forever remains a high-quality destination for outdoor recreation.

Princeton Hydro specializes in the planning, design, permitting, implementing, and maintenance of tidal and freshwater wetland rehabilitation projects. To learn more about our wetland restoration, creation, and enhancement services, visit: http://bit.ly/PHwetland

Innovative and Effective Approach to Wetland Restoration

The Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area is a 97-acre tract of open space that contains an extremely valuable wetland complex at the headwaters of Woodbridge Creek. The site is located in a heavily developed landscape of northern Middlesex County and is surrounded by industrial, commercial, and residential development. As such, the area suffered from wetland and stream channel degradation, habitat fragmentation, decreased biodiversity due to invasive species, and ecological impairment. The site was viewed as one of only a few large-scale freshwater wetland restoration opportunities remaining in this highly developed region of New Jersey.

Recognizing the unique qualities and great potential for rehabilitating and enhancing ecological function on this county-owned parkland, a dynamic partnership between government agencies, NGOs, and private industry, was formed to restore the natural function of the wetlands complex, transform the Pin Oak Forest site into thriving habitat teeming with wildlife, and steward this property back to life. The team designed a restoration plan that converted 28.94 acres of degraded freshwater wetlands, 0.33 acres of disturbed uplands dominated by invasive species, and 1,018 linear feet of degraded or channelized streams into a species-rich and highly functional headwater wetland complex.

BEFORE
View of stream restoration area upon commencement of excavation activities. View of containerized plant material staged prior to installation.

 

We used an innovative approach to restore the hydraulic connection of the stream channel with its floodplain in order to support wetland enhancement. Additionally, to further enhance wetlands with hydrologic uplift, the team incorporated microtopography techniques, which creates a variable surface that increases groundwater infiltration and niches that support multiple habitat communities. This resulted in a spectrum of wetland and stream habitats, including the establishment of a functional system of floodplain forest, scrub shrub, emergent wetlands and open water. Biodiversity was also increased through invasive species management, which opened the door for establishing key native flora such as red maple, pin oak, swamp white oak, and swamp rose. The restored headwater wetland system also provides stormwater quality management, floodplain storage, enhanced groundwater recharge onsite, and surface water flows to Woodbridge Creek.

Completed in 2017, the integrated complex of various wetland and upland communities continues to provide high quality habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species including the state-threatened Black-crowned Night heron and Red-headed Woodpecker. The work done at the site significantly enhanced ecological function, providing high-quality habitat on indefinitely-preserved public lands that offer countless benefits to both wildlife and the community.

AFTER
Post-restoration in 2018, looking Northeast. View of wetland enhancement approximately 2 months after completion of seeding and planting activities.

 

Public and private partnerships were and continue to be critical to the success of this project. The diverse partnership includes Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation, Woodbridge Township, Woodbridge River Watch, New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Mitigation Council, GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and Princeton Hydro. The partners joined together as stakeholders to identify long term restoration and stewardship goals for Pin Oak Forest Preserve, and nearly four years later, the partners all remain involved in various aspects of managing the property and this project itself, ranging from fiscal oversight by New Jersey Freshwater Wetland Mitigation Council and GreenTrust Alliance, to permit and landowner access coordination performed by Woodbridge Township and Middlesex County, or the ongoing stewardship, maintenance, and monitoring of the project and the larger park, being conducted by being conducted by GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

This project was funded through the New Jersey Freshwater Wetland In-Lieu Fee program. In 2014, GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and Princeton Hydro secured $3.8 million dollars of funding on behalf of the Middlesex County Parks Department to restore three wetland sites, which included Pin Oak Forest.

The Pin Oak Forest project is a great model for showcasing a successful approach to the enhancement of public lands through a dynamic multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder partnership. And, because of proper planning and design, it has become a thriving wildlife oasis tucked in the middle of a densely-populated suburban landscape.

Princeton Hydro specializes in the planning, design, permitting, implementing, and maintenance of wetland rehabilitation projects. To learn more about our wetland restoration, creation, and enhancement services, visit: bit.ly/PHwetland

The Plight of Aging Dams, and One Solution

As dams age, the danger to life and property around them increases. If they were to suddenly fail and flood downstream communities and infrastructure, there would be serious loss of property and life. More and more, dam removal has become the best option for property owners who no longer want or can no longer afford the rising cost of maintenance and repair work required to maintain such a complex structure.

The Courier-Post recently published this Commentary piece titled, “The Plight of Aging Dams, and One Solution”, which was written by Princeton Hydro’s Vice President and Principal Engineer Geoffrey M. Goll:

Many of our nation’s dams, while originally intended to provide benefits for mills, water supply and energy generation, are severely aged and unmaintained. Nearly 20,000 of the dams on the Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams – which doesn’t even include many dams that are not inventoried or known about – were built in the 1960s. With expected lifespans of 50 years, these dams have reached their limit. And by 2020, 70 percent of all dams will be over 50 years old. Like roads and bridges, dams also require upkeep, maintenance and eventually removal or rehabilitation.

As dams age, the danger to life and property around them increases. If they were to suddenly fail and flood downstream communities and infrastructure, there would be loss of property and life. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials, the professional organization for dam safety engineering professionals and regulators, estimates there would need to be a $21 billion investment to repair just 2,000 deficient, high-hazard dams. More and more, the removal of dams has become an option for owners who no longer want or no longer can afford the rising cost of maintenance and repair work required to maintain such a complex structure.

For dams like this, removal benefits local economies, and eliminates threats to people and property in local communities. There are also many byproduct benefits, including restoring fish migration routes, improving water quality, restoring floodplain functions and values, and increasing biodiversity.

On Sept. 8, we had the honor of meeting the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell during a visit of our Hughesville Dam removal project on the Musconetcong River, located in northwestern New Jersey. This project exemplifies the successes that can be achieved through public-private partnerships, including local communities, state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private commercial entities. This is the fifth dam removed on the Musconetcong River by a coalition of stakeholders, led by the Musconetcong Watershed Association. The Department of the Interior (specifically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) provided funding to remove this very old, out-of-compliance dam.

The success of these partnerships is due to the unique strengths that each organization brings to the table. This project achieved the removal of a flood and safety hazard, and will restore additional river miles for migratory fish, improve water quality by removing the heat sink of the reservoir, and provide additional safe passage for recreation along the river.

It is easy to see why Secretary Jewell chose this site to visit, but the old and outdated dam at Hughesville is far from alone. Across the nation, we need to remove dams like this at a much larger scale – aging dams that no longer are of value to us, but increase the danger to those who live downstream. If we can build on this momentum and start to address the issue of dam safety compliance on a national scale, we can address these threats to American’s safety and strengthen local economies.