03/16/04 — Building a wetland

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Building a wetland

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 16, 2004 1:59 PM

KENANSVILLE -- A man-made wetland is taking form on a farm in the middle of Duplin County.

A track excavator clears trees that will later be dragged onto higher ground to give wildlife a place to build nests.

A group of orange-vested workers, who started working in knee-deep mud on the edge of the field in the morning, have finished a 1,000-foot-long fence.

The state Department of Transportation bought a 373-acre farm between Kenansville and Beulaville to build the wetland. The wetland will be used to replace wetlands that are destroyed by road and other construction projects, says County Maintenance Engineer Lynn Reynolds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving the state 50 acres of credit for the wetland.

"We can use these credits up on projects," he said. "It's like money in the bank. ... The state can use it for anything. It doesn't have to be for highways."

The wetland is a joint project between the Army Corps of Engineers, the state Division of Environment and Natural Resources, the N.C. Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the DOT.

The state has budgeted $500,000 for the job, but Reynolds says he thinks it can be done for $200,000, maybe less.

When the job is done, the wetland will be turned over to the Wildlife Resources Commission, which will plant trees. It will be a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

The DOT is doing the initial work. A 10-acre field on the property will be under four or five inches of water when the job is done.

The work started on March 8, with putting in small dams on the ditches, some of which will be filled in and some widened into miniature ponds. A water-monitor well will show whether the water table is rising as expected.

In the past few years, Reynolds said, his department has been making environmental issues one of its top priorities. "We've been educated a lot about the effect of erosion on the habitat and the water," he said. "I never realized what it did. We try our best now to be environmentally friendly."