Wildlands plays a role in the 2023 NADO Award for Land of Sky Regional Council Project

The Land of Sky Regional Council (LOSRC) was recently awarded the 2023 NADO Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award for their project “Regional Stormwater Services Program – MS4 Information Management System.” The system was configured by Wildlands Engineering for LOSRC who funded and deployed this technology across multiple jurisdictions (Fletcher, Woodfin, Black Mountain, and Weaverville) for a fraction of the cost of typical management systems. It provides a low-cost alternative for smaller jurisdictions that do not use a digital asset management system for stormwater infrastructure.

The MS4 Information Management System is a low-cost alternative for smaller jurisdictions that do not use a digital asset management system for stormwater infrastructure. The MS4 Information Management System is an integrated documentation system for stormwater outfall inspections – both for identifying maintenance needs and for discovering possible illicit discharges; it can also be used for reporting.

The system is built on the esri GIS platform and centrally hosted and managed in ArcGIS Online (AGOL) by LOSRC. Proactive stormwater management is crucial to protecting water quality. LOSRC aims to map all the stormwater systems in the region and uses this system to provide a simple field-based mobile app to support inspections and maintenance. Communities can access the platform anywhere and it’s designed to be used on a tablet or smartphone in the field. The system consists of inspection forms (ArcGIS Survey123), a locationally aware mobile map (ArcGIS Field Maps), and the stormwater system inventory (AGOL). Surveys documenting illicit discharges and/or high priority storm maintenance requirements will trigger an email to the corresponding town public works director. Survey123 also consists of a web-application that provides a data dashboard to review and report on the information collected with the inspection forms.

In the future, the system can be expanded for additional MS4 permit requirements (e.g., SCM inspections, catch basin cleaning, facility, and pavement management).

Wildlands looks forward to providing more quality, accessible, and functional online mapping tools for future clients!

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A Day in The Life of a Wildlands Environmental Scientist

At Wildlands Engineering we work together to facilitate the success of each project, something that would not be possible without the help of our environmental scientists! Their valuable work and dedication to collecting field data are integral to every phase during the life of a project.

Each challenge in the field and in the office is a rewarding opportunity to bolster knowledge and promote the best practices that will help us conserve and restore the environment. No matter the task or assignment, our main goal is to leave the project we restore in better shape than we found it, making a positive and sustainable impact.

Learn more by hearing from our scientist on what it’s like for a ‘day in the life of an environmental scientist!’

From the Stewardship Corner: Words from one of our Land Stewards

In 2020, Wildlands introduced our Land Stewardship Team as an avenue to taking a more holistic and tailored approach to the management of each mitigation site and its unique needs. Wildlands identified the importance of vegetation establishment to long term success in stream and wetland restoration projects, and as a result implemented the stewardship team. These individuals are tasked with facilitating the achievement of site monitoring goals housed within the company. The addition of the stewardship team allows for immediate, dynamic, and ecologically strategic responses to issues relating to the biological integrity of mitigation projects overseen by Wildlands, as well as increased assurance in the quality of stewardship tasks such as invasive species removal, the establishment of diverse native vegetation, and the rehabilitation of soil health.

Our sites have flourished under the watchful eye of our land stewards. They bring their distinct sets of expertise to identify and improve our projects through nature-based solutions. Through the newness of the stream and wetland mitigation industry, it lends itself inherently to innovation. Criteria of stream restoration projects, namely the stability of restored streambanks, converge in the success of the vegetation within riparian buffer zones.

Let’s catch up with one of our land stewards, Andrew Lemon, as he describes his experiences working for Wildlands out of our Raleigh office.

 

“My first experience with the mitigation industry was as a Land Stewardship Intern at Wildlands over the Summer of 2022. Being able to experience firsthand the knowledge and care with which our stewards handled their sites was inspiring and influential to me personally and professionally. I was incredibly grateful to be offered a full-time position on the stewardship team as a Stewardship Technician upon my graduation from UNC-Wilmington and the opportunity to return to the fold to hone my own skills in restoration focused land management.

 

Andrew Lemon in the field holding a tiny snake!

I found myself especially excited by what the novelty of the Wildlands stewardship model entails, a new form of land management entirely. Stewards are generally able to navigate sites by memory, through thick vegetation and swampy terrain. Stewards are adept in recognizing patterns, and subsequently adapting management strategies to be harmonious with the natural cycles of our sites. Seeding native grasses and forbs in accordance with the rain and timing treatments of invasive species with growth cycles are just a few common examples of ecologically driven land management activities. Sites are not seen as one-size-fits-all generators of stream and wetland credits, but are approached holistically, with a sense of reverence that these crucial ecosystems deserve.

While environmental stewardship existed long before the stream and wetland industry, long before streams and wetlands were impaired to the point of requiring restorative measures, the personal touch provided to sites under the care of Wildlands sets a standard previously unforeseen in the private sector restoration industry.”

 

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Southside Community Stormwater Improvement Project

Since 2019, Wildlands Engineering (Wildlands) has been working on several green infrastructure project initiatives with our long-time partner RiverLink, a watershed group with the mission of promoting the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River and its watershed. Wildlands recently completed the Central Asheville Watershed Restoration Plan for Riverlink, which consisted of project identification and developing an interactive watershed plan. Within the watershed plan, projects were identified in multiple subwatersheds, including Nasty Branch which runs through the Southside Community. In the 1960s and 1970s, this and other nearby black communities were negatively impacted by urban renewal projects, which left a profound impact on the social structure and well-being of the community.

Over 1300 businesses and homes were lost from the Southside Community between the 1960’s and 1970’s.

 

Among the many projects identified, one stood out for its apparent need of creating a more functional space, safe environment, and resilient infrastructure at the Erskine Apartments – located along Livingston Street in the heart of Southside. The watershed plan identified proposed activities to target a drainage issue in the cul de sac on Water Street where water was seeping onto the road resulting in a bad odor and unsafe conditions, particularly in winter.  After further evaluation of the site and its contributing drainage and infrastructure, a multifaceted project was proposed to address multiple community needs as well as provide stormwater management to improve water quality in Nasty Branch.

In addition to the drainage issue, concrete stormwater swales and corrugated metal pipe systems from the original apartment construction in 1969 were failing, a powerline behind residences was very low to the ground creating an unsafe feeling environment, and areas of dense invasive vegetation created unusable spaces and consumed native trees and vegetation. Discussions with community leaders, meetings in the park, and door to door efforts lead to a list of community needs and desires that were assembled into a cohesive improvement plan to address as many considerations as possible.

Wildlands helped prepare technical information for grants to fund the project. Multiple entities contributed funding to the project including the apartment owner, the Asheville Housing Authority. The project used stormwater control measures called regenerative stormwater conveyance (RSC) channels to replace pipe and concrete ditches. These incorporate sand-based media to provide additional water quality treatment. Rain gardens and a stormwater wetland were implemented to capture parking lot and rooftop runoff; a french drain routed subsurface flow into the stormwater system to resolve road seepage; a power line relocation addressed the low overhead line; and trails and sitting areas for contemplation and to honor lost loved ones were incorporated into the project. The paths and a bridge over the RSC channel connect kids and community members to the nearby park, community center, school bus stops, and other nearby destinations. For more information, visit RiverLink’s Project Page »