PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Carolina Crossroads Permittee-Responsible Mitigation Project

Located in the heart of South Carolina, the Carolina Crossroads I-20/26/126 Corridor Improvement Project (a.k.a., Malfunction Junction makeover) is the number one interstate improvement priority for the state of South Carolina (https://lnkd.in/euFJQc2). Construction of the Carolina Crossroads project requires unavoidable impacts to waters (of the U.S.) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as regulated by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) evaluated multiple mitigation alternatives to offset aquatic resource impacts. The mitigation option that SCDOT selected has offset impacts through the restoration, enhancement, and protection of more than 80,000 linear feet of stream and the protection of more than 8.6-acres of wetlands. This large-scale and unique mitigation project will also protect more than 2,600 acres of land adjacent to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Belfast Wildlife Management Area, providing future public use and wildlife management benefits.

 

Wildlands led site identification and acquisition, mitigation plan development, natural channel design, generation of construction documents, and construction oversight of the restoration and enhancement activities. Due to the size of the mitigation project and this project serving as the largest stream mitigation project undertaken by the SCDOT, mitigation development was a collaborative effort among multiple project partners including SCDOT, HDR, Open Space Institute, Wildlands and members of the regulatory community. The size of the project site, and availability of on-site resources, allowed Wildlands to critically evaluate on-site materials and maximize the beneficial re-use of native and natural materials during construction. This practice reduced the client’s cost by reducing material import, maintained native characteristics through the reuse of available materials, and facilitated the primary objective of natural channel design. During construction, Wildlands utilized ArcGIS Online to communicate project status with key stakeholders. The contractor completed construction activities at the mitigation site in early 2022 and Phases 1 and 2 of the Malfunction Junction makeover are underway. Wildlands is currently providing post-construction monitoring services.

 

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Hendersonville Multi-Area Streambank Restoration Project

Wildlands recently completed the Hendersonville Multi-Area Streambank Restoration Project, which involved 11,000 linear feet across 13 sites on Mud Creek, a state listed 303(d) stream.  Funded by NCDEQ as a City Green Infrastructure Project, Wildlands partnered with Kee Mapping and Baker Grading to take this large, multi-phased project from initial feasibility through construction and monitoring.  Project highlights included:

  • The largest of the 13 sites was designed as a model/pilot project for urban stream and floodplain restoration. Receiving runoff from a  Walmart, apartments, and I-26, the stream was overly wide and eroding.  The design and construction resestablished floodplain connection using native materials for fish habitat structures as well as grade control.
  • Wildlands used ArcGIS online (AGOL) as: a communication tool between staff, the landowners, and the City; to document construction progress and survey; and for monitoring required by NCDEQ and Corps of Engineers.  Wildlands’ Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Gregory, GISP notes that, “Using AGOL allowed us to efficiently track all data through successive project stages.  All data, from initial landowner requirements to construction changes, was organized geospatially throughout the project and available with just a click.”  Check out screenshots from the AGOL application, below.

 

  • Real-time easement acquisition tracking by the City and stakeholders prior to project implementation

American Bittern sighting at Chantilly Ecological Sanctuary at Briar Creek

The American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) is a medium-sized, wading bird in the heron family. They are often found in the marshy areas along side of lakes and ponds. This particular American Bittern spent the past winter in one of the small retention ponds at our Chantilly Ecological Sanctuary in Charlotte, NC. The bird was first seen November 11, 2020 and wintered through April 25, 2021. During this time frame, it was spotted over 70 times! These birds typically prefer the coast, but this special bird decided to winter in the city. This is a success story for Chantilly and a point of pride for Wildlands!

 

Check out the photos below taken by Patty Masten, along with the eBird map showing all historical records for American Bittern in the county. Note, the red circle on the map marks the Chantilly location.

 

Together, Wildlands Engineering and Wildlands Construction restore the Critcher Brothers Mitigation Site

We are thrilled to share this video that captures the synergy between Wildlands Engineering and our recently created construction company, Wildlands Construction. The Critcher Brothers Mitigation Site is a Wildlands-owned mitigation bank in the Yadkin River Basin of North Carolina. Approximately 21,000 cool stream credits will be delivered through stream restoration, enhancement, and preservation in a rural area historically used for cattle and agriculture. Construction was completed in 2021.

Unique ‘Pink Sundew’ plant spotted at Wildlands‘ Devil’s Racetrack Mitigation Site

This spring, Wildlands’ land stewards found a new population of pink sundew (Drosera capillaris) within a restored wetland at our Devil’s Racetrack Mitigation Site.  The pink sundew is a carnivorous, perennial plant found in pine savannas and wet, peaty areas. They are low-lying plants with rounded traps of sticky, tentacle-like leaves to hold their insect prey. This specimen was the first such sighting at the site and is also believed to be the first county record of the species (LeGrand et.al., 2021). Prior to restoration, the site was in agricultural production for decades.  Seeing this plant recolonize after so many years in agriculture is truly remarkable!

The Devil’s Racetrack Mitigation Site successfully reached the close-out milestone in August 2021 and is now in long term stewardship.

Source: LeGrand, H., B. Sorrie, and T. Howard. 2021. Vascular Plants of North Carolina [Internet]. Raleigh (NC): North Carolina Biodiversity Project and North Carolina State Parks. Available from https://auth1.dpr.ncparks.gov/flora/index.php.

 

Wildlands helps NCDOT protect critical aquatic habitat to mitigate impacts from construction of Interstate 540

In 2018, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) worked out an agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center to mitigate potential effects to critical aquatic habitat from the Interstate 540 expansion. As part of this agreement, NCDOT committed to preserving land along the Little River and Buffalo Creek in northeastern Johnston County. Wildlands was one of the firms selected by and contracted with NCDOT to acquire the necessary land to meet the agreement conditions.

This past summer, Wildlands met with landowners along Little River and Buffalo Creek and successfully purchased 450 acres of conservation easements along 37,897 linear feet of stream (over 7 miles) from 27 different landowners. The conservation easement areas contain Little River Aquatic Habitat, dubbed by the North Carolina Heritage Program as a Natural Heritage Area with exceptional collective conservation value. This habitat area hosts imperiled species, including the dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon), yellow lance (Elliptio lanceolata), Atlantic pigtoe (Fusconaia masoni), Neuse River waterdog (Necturus lewisi), and Carolina madtom (Noturus furiosus).  The project landowners expressed deep love for the streams and were excited to do their part to protect them in perpetuity.

Wildlands will work with subcontractors this winter to plant native hardwood trees on previously unforested areas within the conservation easements. Triangle Land Conservancy, who assisted in the acquisitions, will serve as the long-term land steward.

Click here to view enlarged map »

Wildlands’ Norkett Branch Mitigation Site reaches the “close-out” milestone

Wildlands is pleased to announce that the NC Interagency Review Team (IRT) has approved the Norkett Branch Mitigation Site in Union County for close out! As the prime consultant for this full-delivery project, Wildlands performed existing site assessment, conservation easement acquisition, permitting, stream restoration design, construction, and seven years of post-construction monitoring of geomorphic stability and vegetation. As a result of these successful efforts, this project delivered 10,098 stream credits to the Division of Mitigation Services to offset unavoidable impacts in the Yadkin 05 River Basin. For the past ten years, our team has been dedicated to creating this 30-acre riparian corridor and respite habitat to benefit the ecology and water quality in the Yadkin watershed.

 

Wildlands Completes Ward Mill Dam Removal

Wildlands recently partnered with the Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development Council, MountainTrue, and American Rivers to remove the Ward Mill Dam, located in Watauga County, NC. The dam was a concrete and rock structure approximately 25 feet high and stretching 110 feet wide across the river. The on-site historic mill and powerhouse, which served the community for over a century, was preserved and protected in place. The removal of the dam has reconnected 35 miles of aquatic habitat in the mainstem of the Watauga River, dozens of miles of tributary reaches and has returned free-flowing aquatic habitat and greater resiliency for the eastern hellbender, native fishes, mussels, and other riverine species. The North Carolina and Southeast Aquatic Barrier Prioritization tools highly ranked Ward Mill Dam as a removal priority for the connectivity benefits.

 

Wildlands conducted assessment and sediment analyses to evaluate impounded sediment volume, sediment potential for contamination, and to analyze the ability of the Watauga River to assimilate sediment release from the dam removal and develop a sediment management plan. Wildlands used USGS gage flow data, sediment grain size distribution analysis, and hydraulic and sediment transport modeling to support project recommendations.

 

 

Also, check out this project video by Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development Council.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 319 Grants Fund Wildlands’ Recent Urban Ecological Restoration Work

McPherson Park Improvement Project | Greenville, SC

Through an EPA 319 Grant (Grant), Wildlands Engineering, Inc. (Wildlands) designed, permitted, and oversaw infrastructure and stream improvements within McPherson Park in Greenville. This project features natural channel design practices, bioengineering measures, and stormwater control measures. The City of Greenville (City) replaced impervious features (e.g., concrete swale, asphalt parking) with bioswale retrofits and pervious pavement to infiltrate and filter stormwater runoff, providing a water quality benefit to downstream receiving waters, such as Richland Creek. Native river rock within bioretention facilities, stamped concrete pavers and vegetative geolifts enhance park aesthetics and serve to stabilize stream banks and treat and improve water quality.

The urban environment presents a unique challenge for ‘natural’ design approaches, but serves as a great platform for public outreach and education. This project not only provides stream and water quality improvements but integrates a variety of features to support public education. Through our partnership with the City, our team was able to anticipate design and construction hurdles. The project was phased to minimize interruptions to the City’s citizens (and park visitors) in a high-traffic urban park. Completed in August 2019, this project has proven to be a benefit to both park infrastructure and the environment. Check out the before and after photos below.

 

Gills Creek Stream Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Project | Columbia, SC

Through a separate Grant, the Gills Creek Watershed Association (GCWA) partnered with Wildlands to assess and design stream stabilization and stormwater water quality improvements along a reach of Gills Creek, an impaired 303(d)-listed stream, within the City of Columbia and Richland County, South Carolina. Wildlands’ design for this project improves water quality, provides in-stream habitat, and enhances the aesthetic benefits to this reach of Gills Creek while fostering community use of this unique urban resource.

Through a coordinated effort by the project’s stakeholders, this project was advertised to contractors in March 2021, with an anticipated construction notice-to-proceed in late April. This is a major accomplishment for the GCWA and a demonstration of the association’s continued efforts to improve water quality and benefit natural resources within the Gills Creek watershed.


McPherson Park Improvement Project before and after photos:

Wildlands’ project wins NAFSMA’s Green Infrastructure First Place Award!

We are thrilled to announce that our Reedy Creek Stream Restoration Project has been awarded NAFSMA’s Green Infrastructure First Place Award. Click here to view full list of awards »

Wildlands served as the prime consultant for this project, which was the first design-build project to generate stream and wetland mitigation units for the City of Charlotte Umbrella Stream and Wetland Mitigation Bank.