Public Comment: Milburnie Dam removal

Just Raabe has seen his share of dam removals up close. I appreciate the point he makes in this public comment on removing the dam.

Milburnie Dam Removal Joshua Raabe Public Comment

N&O: Residents argue that removing Milburnie Dam would ruin scenery

Page A-1
Thu, Apr 22, 2010 05:36 AM
In Fight Over Dam Sides Ask: What’s Natural?

RALEIGH For more than a century, Milburnie Dam has stood 16 feet high in the middle of Raleigh, a stone wall that interrupts the Neuse River like an aquatic comma. Above it, motorboats troll through deep water; below, fishermen wade around a pounding waterfall.

Now a Raleigh firm that does environmental work wants to tear out the privately owned dam and let the Neuse flow freely, removing the only man-made obstacle between Falls Lake and Pamlico Sound. Doing so, they say, would bring shad and other fish further upriver and improve the water quality by speeding up a slowed-down Neuse.

In Fight Over Dam Sides Ask: What’s Natural?
Read more

Four Year Checkup: Lowell Park looking good for the new decade

I dropped by RS’ Lowell Park today in Kenly, NC, Johnston County.  Lowell Park is the site of the former Lowell Dam that RS shot to dust in 2005 for the NCEEP.  We purchased an additional 17 acres at the site so that we would leave behind something for the community after the removing the dangerous and defunct structure.

The interpretive signs could use a little paint, but otherwise the site is in ship-shape.  We pay an elderly gentleman to maintain the site and he does an excellent job.  There was hardly a cigarette butt to be seen and the grass was mowed as neat as a pin.

Scroll over and click to see full screen:

SwampGate: Purchasing nutrients from a wetland bank prohibited by EEP's own rules

As an informational update on the brewing controversy concerning the state paying twice for work done once, “Stories from the Field” offers a snippet from the EEP‘s own rule book.  The rule specifically and unequivocally prohibits the dual use of a single mitigation site for wetland and nutrient mitigation, as was done at least once by a private contractor, and perhaps many times by the rule maker themselves:

Ecosystem Enhancement Program:
“Policies, Process, and Procedures Manual,” May 4, 2008

2.0 DEFINITIONS AND PROJECT REQUIREMENTS TO GENERATE RIPARIAN BUFFER MITIGATION CREDITS.

2.9 Wetland and Buffer Mitigation. Wetland mitigation may not overlap with riparian buffer mitigation. When wetland mitigation is implemented in a riparian zone using buffer restoration techniques that could also generate riparian buffer mitigation, a decision must be made as to which type of credit will be claimed from the project. A specific area on a project can generate either wetland mitigation credits or riparian buffer mitigation credits. Portions of a project can be designated as generating riparian buffer mitigation credits and portions generating wetland credit, but these areas cannot overlap.

2.10 Nutrient Offset and Buffer Mitigation. Nutrient offset mitigation is required to be stand alone mitigation in order to generate nutrient offset mitigation. Any area being used for nutrient offset mitigation cannot be used to generate stream, wetland, or buffer mitigation credits. Similarly any area being used to generate riparian buffer mitigation credits cannot be used to generate nutrient offset mitigation.

SwampGate: News and Observer busts EBX for hitting the punch bowl twice

Quite a find on my porch this morning. The state’s paper of record revealed a long-stewing controversy in the obscure but important world of compensatory environmental mitigation policy.  [EBX paid twice for wetlands work, December 8, 2009]  RS’ principal competitor, Environmental Bank and Exchange (EBX), sold nutrient mitigation credits to the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program subsequent to the site being banked, restored and previously paid for by the North Carolina Department of Transportation for wetland mitigation credit.  In industry parlance —  we call this a “double-dip.”

Read more

The Flying Turkey takes more air photos

When Pam and the kids and I visit our family in Beaufort, North Carolina, I often take the opportunity to hire a small plane at the friendly Michael J. Smith Airport to take photos of nearby RS sites. I did so yesterday and enjoyed nearly perfect conditions.  Here are some pictures of the Bear Creek, Jarman’s Oak and Lloyd wetland and stream mitigation sites. (As regular readers will recall, I flew Bear Creek earlier this month. But I returned this time WITH my stabilized lens).

I also flew the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s North River Restoration Site, about which I have provided some background below.

Note: If you “click through” the photo box you can more easily read captions and navigate the photos.

Enjoy!

Below are some photos of North River Farms, which is being restored by the North Carolina Coastal Federation. This project is near and dear to RS’ heart. RS owned the option to purchase this 6000 acre farm in the 90’s. Determining that the farm had significantly more restoration potential than could be used as mitigation in the watershed (unless Cape Canaveral were relocated to the NC coast), we contacted the NCCF and suggested they take our option and make an application for its restoration to the then newly formed NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The rest is history. The project is now one of the largest coastal restoration projects in the nation. We retained 390 acres within the farm, for which RS was recently awarded a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to restore and protect. Brassgrill and I will blog in the future and tell you more about this project.

Flat Out Wonderful: RS teams with Houston's Katy Prairie Conservancy to sponsor the nation's largest stream mitigation bank

Restoration Systems is excited to share the news of our latest (and greatest) proposal for a mitigation bank outside of North Carolina.  RS, the Katy Prairie Conservancy of Houston, and the Warren family have entered a long-term Joint Venture to develop the nation’s largest stream mitigation bank on the 6000 acre Warren Ranch in northwestern Harris County.

The historic Warren Ranch is the largest working cattle ranch in Harris County and one of the last remaining spreads of its character and size on the perimeter of Houston.  As proposed, the bank will service the compensatory mitigation needs of nearly six million people as the city sprawls westward.   All told, the project will restore, enhance and preserve streams and wetlands over 20 miles of the ranch.

The Katy Prairie Conservancy, one of Texas’ oldest and most respected Land Trusts, plans to dedicate their share of  project proceeds to help retire the debt on the Warren Ranch and restore and permanently protect it to native prairie grassland.  The prairie ecosystem west of Houston has suffered severe degradation in the past. Today it faces obliteration by the relentless march of the city to the west.

RS is very fortunate to have found our farsighted partners, the KPC, its Executive Director Mary Anne Piacentini, and the Warren family.   We look forward to filing you in on the details of the project and updating you as it progresses.   For now, please enjoy the videos below of the Flat Out Wonderful Warren Ranch.

Moutaintop Mining Update II: The unstoppable force steps closer to the immovable object

obama_yes_we_can_300x300

There was further news last week concerning the fearsome batttle over the federal 404 permitting of mountaintop removal (MTR).  As closely followed by the Charleston Gazette’s indispensable MTR blog, Coal Tattoo, the EPA has notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and “elevated” the consideration of 79 permits to mine coal by removing the overburden and placing it into 179 miles of adjacent valleys and streams.  As previously noted on the RS blog, this is a titanic battle — with a very uncertain ending — between powerful political and business forces.  And it all comes down to….you guessed it: mitigation.

The Army Corps now has 60 days to respond to the concerns of the EPA.  The letter from EPA addresses mitigation specifically, and challenges the adequacy of the proposed compensation:

4. Mitigation — Headwater streams are vital components of watersheds. They provide critical ecological functions necessary for the health and productivity of downstream systems. EPA believes additional evaluation of the 79 permits is needed “to assess the effectiveness of existing mitigation plans to compensate for anticipated loss of  functions associated with the proposed mining-related burial and mine through of headwater streams.”
 
 

RS is not a practitioner of the type of mitigation typically performed to compensate for MTR — on-site “Creation.”  Our firm almost exclusively performs off-site “Restoration” of resources to meet No-Net-Loss mandates.  However, there are very few opportunities to restore streams in coal country.  The mountain landscape seems to come in two conditions:  Either relatively intact forested mountains — or moonscapes after the montain has been “flipped” for the coal. As a result,There is very little to be restored in the immediate watersheds in order to compensate for the mining losses.

That’s all for now.  In future blogs on the subject, however, I plan to  address: 1) the misleading information put out by some scientists who are fighting mountaintop mining with such fervor they fail to distinguish stream “creation” in reclaimed mine spoil, from highly beneficial mitigation practices such as restoration based Natural Channel Design projects.  And, 2) alternative mitigation strategies for this unique impact, such as preservation coupled with out-of-basin improvements.