Small Area Plan for Dekalb County's NE Expressway's Wetland Reserve and Green Corridor
Mondragon, Michelle K.
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Today the design and construction business has implanted a demand for a new market, returning altered waterways to a more natural condition; undoing the harm and damage that have accumulated with years of over and misuse to our rivers and streams. During the seventies, a different paradigm managed our waterways, the building of stream banks made of cement and rock, the altering of structure in the channels was meant to control the flow and sediment levels, with little regret to the damage the eco-system received. These new changes in techniques are due to the high demand of the economic returns that our water resources are gaining for our communities. According to the National River Restoration Science Synthesis over one billion dollars is the annual cost to restore our eco-systems, however the damage often is so extensive, there is no restoring the eco-system back to its original condition. This gives to the process being more of a rehabilitation practice, moving it closer to its natural movement (Landers, 2010). At the Federal level, the NRCS is continually working towards channel stabilization and wetland restoration. It provides funding and technical design assistance for private properties. It has produced manuals such as ‘Stream Restoration Design Handbook’, Stream Restoration Planning and Design: Fluvial System Stabilization and Restoration: Field Guide. Other agencies engaged in efforts are the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees 193 million acres covering 200,000 miles of streams and rivers (Landers, 2010). Wetlands should be preserved and recognized, as a valuable resource assuring a balance in the environment. These wet sponge areas function in multiple ways for a variety of creatures, man included. They are home to many fish and wildlife, while improving and protecting our water quality, functioning as storage for floodwaters, and maintaining the surface water, especially during dry periods. Rivers and streams flow naturally and along them are mini ecosystems, in which many plants and animals rely upon. However, these natural flow regimes are being altered, destroyed, and polluted, thereby changing the use of the rivers, streams and creeks that are responsible for the transportation of waste disposal, hydroelectricity, intensive agriculture demand, flood-control projects, and so many other human activities. Only two percent of our rivers remain in a natural state here in the U.S. The natural functions have almost disappeared, largely due to man’s need to control flooding. As a result, many species have disappeared, or relocated, causing the closure of fisheries, depletion of ground water sources and declines in the quality of the water and its availability (E. P. Agency, (2001). Natural disturbances to the eco-system occur regularly, with little room for adaptability, some of these natural causes are fires, floods, droughts, storms, herbivore and disease outbreaks. However, these disturbances are vital to the maintenance of a healthy and productive ecosystem i.e. many plants and animals contribute to producing clean air and water by allowing nutrient cycling to occur(Davis, 2001). These wondrous areas, once thought as waste lands, are only now being appreciated; almost too late, as they are disappearing, leaving our surface water and groundwater sources to evaporate. Groundwater withdrawals have increased by 46%, while forty-two percent of the nation’s stream length are found in poor biological condition, leaving 40% of the freshwater fish to become vulnerable, threatened or endangered (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there were approximately 39.8 million acres of wetlands found within the coastal watersheds in 2004; this measures a net loss of 361,000 acres lost between 1998 and 2004 that equals an average loss of approximately 59,000 acres over that 6-year period. Those exhibiting the greatest loss are found in the Gulf of Mexico, which is six times higher than the rate of fresh-water wetland loss along the Atlantic coast, while there was a net gain of 24,650 acres in the Great Lakes coastal watershed.(Stedman, 2008). These magnificent places are home to a wide variety of bird species, who live within the area year-round, while others use the wetland areas along their migration route, when traveling between their winter and summer grounds.