Nature is all around us, sometimes in the most unsuspecting places. On this cold wintery morning in Greeley, Colorado, I happened to be standing next to a street side bush. Within the bush, were little shadows hidden among a network of branches and dead leaves. Not a single bird made a sound, yet it was full of life. How many birds can you count?

GEO recently traveled to Vietnam to attend our final Master Plan workshop for Ba Vi Resort in West Hanoi with SWA Group and SOM. This will be a first class mountain resort destination that supports and enhances the existing site ecology and manages water onsite to protect the reservoir water quality. This will be one of the first projects in Vietnam to deploy LID development infrastructure and wetland bio-filters.


GEO was part of the winning team led by Barghausen’s landscape architecture group. Our teams’ concept looked to capture and reuse stormwater from the Expeditor Building (3rd and Madison) rooftop and terraces using a modular tool kit of green roof trays, blue roof trays, rain collection umbrellas, and water lattice panels to covey storm flows from the roof to a cistern on the ground level. New tools are required for addressing retrofits in urban area. Thanks to the International Living Futures Institute, Boeing, and Expeditors for sponsoring this competition and pushing innovation! Check out the cool video developed by Jessi Barnes @ Barghausen.

https://www.designinpublic.org/event/recycling-the-beauty-of-puget-sound/

In 2017, GEO designed a state of the art regional treatment system to treat runoff from 128 hectares (316 acres, or 1/2 sq. mile) of intensely developed urban sources contaminated with stormwater illicit connections.  This system owned by the local water utility, will treat runoff prior to it entering the
Mengjiawan Reservoir, ZhenJiang, China. The system comprised of two Advanced Bioretention Systems (ABSs) with a combined treatment area of 3,600 sq. meters (0.9 acres). A high rate engineered media allowed for a compressed treatment footprint resulting in 0.3% of the source area. 

Integrated into the reservoir’s landscape plan, this complex treatment facility now treats this entire area prior to discharge into the Mengjiawan Reservoir, the headwaters of the Yudai River.  Completed in mid-2018, the system has now been operating for half a year with excellent results. 

The Three Peninsula Wetland project – a 240 ha (2.4 km2) lake fringe wetland restoration will have significant ecological functional lift on a landscape level and help bring a lake viewed as a national treasure back to health. These fringe wetlands frame Dianchi Lake in Kunming, China’s 4th largest freshwater lake. This is one of China’s largest wetland restoration projects with a construction budget exceeding $100 million dollars. Dianchi Lake, a once healthy lake system the 1950s that supported Kunming’s population with an abundance of freshwater mollusks and fish is now a eutrophic system due to uncontrolled release of untreated sewage and agricultural runoff over the last 7 decades. Wetland plant diversity has plummeted from over 100 aquatic and emergent plant species to less than 20. Mark Merkelbach is leading China-based engineering and landscape design teams in treating 10 streams that enter the lake through the project site and restoring critical wetland and riparian habitats. Stream water treatment involves a multi-step process of pre-settling, vertical flow-through wetlands, aeration, and horizontal flow wetlands. These systems comprise of almost half of the project area fully integrated into the site’s new natural landscape. The government has set an aggressive construction schedule with ground breaking to begin in the fall of 2019 and activities completed within 2 years.

I starting to imagine what emergent wetland habitats would look and feel like on this barren sand island in the Xiang River with the SWA Group in 2012. It started with just a sketch…

Through careful hydrologic and grading analysis, we constructed a framework where park visitors and local flora and fauna could flourish. On a recent visit this March 2019, it was amazing to see how this site has evolved. Wetland habitats have staked their ground within a very dynamic river landscape. Active deposition and erosion are visual features still making this “park” feel wild and fluid. Below, habitat wood was added to help jump start the natural process of decay which provides much needed habitat structure and carbon inputs to the site soils. I will report back in another 5 years!

Prior to Army Corps anti-logjam crusade in the late 1800s, the Skagit River Valley was a beaver and salmon playground (an excerpt from Ben Goldfarb’s recent book Eager).  Government Land Office (GLO) surveys between 1866 to 1895 (below) document “willow swamps” and “lagoons”, clearly the handy work of beavers. They created diverse wetland complexes along Nookachamps Creek floodplain, which encompasses the current Skagit Environmental Bank property (390 ac) in Washington State.

To reverse a century of agricultural drainage practices and restore wetland hydrology on this piece of property, a series of channel spanning wood weirs were constructed in 2016 to emulated beaver dams. They collect fines, provide much needed fish habitat, raise surface water elevations, and thus increase wetland hydrology.

Any yes, with the sound of leaky water, the beavers have returned (below)! We have done our best to restore basic structure to this site, now it is up to the locals to do the rest.

I guess hummingbirds are like (salmon), they come back to the same tree (stream) to nest (spawn). A clear sign that spring is on its way. We are blessed to have these birds frequent our office deck each year!

GEO who is part of the Herrera consultant team just completed our first workshop with the City of Vancouver, B.C. to develop an Integrated Water Management Plan for the Cambie Corridor Project. This project encompasses 1,000 hectare or 9% of the City’s total area, will add 34,000 new housing units, and support 50,000 new residents by 2041. GEO will be using guidance provided by the City’s Biodiversity and Urban Forest Plan to quantify ecosystem services that this project will generate.