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.
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.
GEO’s work spans the globe from exotic resort master planning to supporting WA state local developers in developing strategies to minimize environmental impacts to critical areas. I am still lucky enough to get in the field and dig pits to identify hydric soils for projects. I am always in awe of how water, microbial communities, and soil create amazing underground art forms. This is a great example of depletions and concentrations in wetland soils.
An epic sunset over the Da River valley, west of Hanoi, Vietnam. GEO is working with SOM based out of San Francisco to develop a master plan for this 402 hectare resort development tucked within broad-leaf tropical forested hillsides. GEO is leading the roadway, drainage design, and ecological planning for this project. Lucky to have my partner in crime, Bill Lucas with me on these trips.
Mark Merkelbach worked with the SWA Laguna Beach office to provide hydraulic and ecological design of the Baxi Island in Changsha, China. This involved modeling river water surface elevations which were used as a basis for design of permeable island levees, multiple wetland complexes, and habitat wood structures. This project was recently recognized as a ULI Urban Open Space Award Finalist.