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Wetland Drainage, Restoration, and Repair

Wetland Drainage, Restoration, and Repair

Thomas R. Biebighauser
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    Wetland Drainage, Restoration, and Repair
    Book Description:

    Wetlands are a vital part of the landscape and ecology of the United States, providing food and shelter for species ranging from the beautiful wood duck to the tiny fairy shrimp. These areas provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, protect communities from flooding, and recharge groundwater supplies -- yet they continue to be destroyed at an alarming rate. A detailed analysis of wetlands management,Wetland Drainage, Restoration, and Repairis a comprehensive guide to the past, present, and future of wetland recovery in the United States.

    The book includes a historical overview of wetland destruction and repair over the past two hundred years and also serves as a unique resource for anyone, from novice to engineer, interested in the process of wetland restoration. Author Thomas R. Biebighauser draws from his own vast experience in building and repairing more than 950 wetlands across North America. Included are numerous photographs and case studies that highlight successes of past projects. Detailed, step-by-step instructions guide the reader through the planning and implementation of each restoration action. Biebighauser also provides a number of effective strategies for initiating and improving funding for wetlands programs.Wetland Drainage, Restoration, and Repairis essential reading for all who care about and for these important ecosystems.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6048-1
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science, Aquatic Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    Wetlands are the best places to visit if you want to see wildlife. The sight and sounds of startled wood ducks and honking geese rising from the marsh can provide quite a thrill. Helping young people investigate wetlands by netting tadpoles and fairy shrimp is an experience everyone will remember. Communities are discovering the many values of wetlands and are even beginning to build them as tourist attractions. They’re also realizing how important these ecosystems are for reducing the severity of floods and for improving water quality.

    The purpose of this book is to help people build wetlands. By following...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Ages of Drainage
    (pp. 3-10)

    One doesn’t have to look far to find a television, newspaper, or magazine story that is expounding on the many values of wetlands to society. Unfortunately, society’s appreciation for these productive ecosystems is a rather recent phenomenon. Historically, we find that many who owned wetlands did not share our modern admiration these ecosystems. To understand why wetlands have been maligned, it is imperative to realize that there has always been great incentive for their removal. To the subsistence or tenant farm family, the acreage gained by draining a marsh could mean the difference between life and death. the better-off landowner,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Why They Pulled the Plug
    (pp. 11-16)

    Farmers have fought water and wetlands to both create and improve areas for crop production over many centuries. Thorough drainage has been considered the first and most important step to profitable crop growing on a large proportion of the farms in the country.¹ Undoubtedly, some immigrants brought with them views of wet ground similar to those recorded by Sir Charles Coote in a survey of agricultural land in King’s County, Ireland: “This country abounds with a fine rich grass, and only wants draining and gravelling to be made of the best quality . . . but the fields are greatly...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Ditching for Dollars
    (pp. 17-25)

    A number of practices have been used and perfected over the years to remove what was considered to be excess water from a tract of land. These techniques generally involve the construction open ditches, burying drainage structures, and covering them with soil Gaining an understanding of how these methods were actually employed to drain wetlands can be helpful in identifying actions needed for their restoration.

    The most important step to draining a wetland involves first identifying then blocking its main supply of water. Early landowners recognized that runoff from mountains and hillsides was responsible for maintaining many wetlands, and so...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Plowing to Drain
    (pp. 26-29)

    Perhaps the least expensive means for growing some crops in a wetland involves plowing soils in such a way as to create areas of higher ground. Soils are directionally plowed in the driest time of year to raise portions of a field high enough so that roots of planted corn, tobacco, wheat, oats, and grass will not drown. Farmers may call the method of directional plowing in Kentucky and Ohio “bedding fields,” “making W ditches,” or “lands.” The practice is used to farm wetlands on clay and silt loam soils with either standing water or a high water table, or...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Sticks and Stones
    (pp. 30-38)

    Long continuous boxes were often constructed from boards and then buried to drain wetlands in areas where wood was plentiful and clay tiles were expensive or not available. Several authors described how larch boxes or tubes were used to drain swampy or mossy soils in Scotland. The tubes had holes drilled in them and were claimed to be used with economy and good results.¹ Wooden boxes made from green-cut hemlock boards were used to drain lands near Rome, New York, in 1856. The boxes were buried 4 feet deep in wet soils and were found to be in excellent condition...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Miles of Tiles
    (pp. 39-46)

    John Johnston introduced the practice of burying clay tiles to drain wetlands for agriculture in the United States in 1838. The use of clay tiles increased greatly in the mid-1800s and became the standard for land drainage until they were replaced by plastic in the early 1970s. W. I. Chamberlain stated: “Tile drainage has superseded all other kinds of underdrainage, as, for example, that with poles, rails, slabs, brush, cobble stones, or with the mole-plow. It is immensely better than any of these; more durable, more efficient, and really cheaper in the long run.”¹

    Buried clay tiles work as covered...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Massive Machines and Plastic Drain Lines
    (pp. 47-57)

    Ed Stevens owns a small farm in Carter County along the Stinson Road in the hills of eastern Kentucky. His largest field, at 3 acres, was suitable for hay but too wet for row crops. After retiring, he wanted to raise corn for sale at the farmers’ market. “The field held puddles of water,” he said, so he asked Jimmy Lyons, district conservationist for the NRCS, to help him dry the land. Jimmy was surprised at his request as there had been little interest in draining lands in the last few years. “You can buy good ground cheaper than you...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Filling and Leveling
    (pp. 58-61)

    Farmers took considerable effort to fill low areas that held water on their land. John Johnstone recommended leveling the surface of a bog or marsh after it had been completely drained.¹ A. I. Root described the importance of filling low areas where water may stand by taking soft earth from higher portions and throwing it into depressions to prevent harm to crops. He stated, “I recommend having ground gradually brought in shape so that there will be no depressions where water may stand for even an hour.” He also encouraged farmers to shape the land so that water would flow...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Wetland Drainage Stories
    (pp. 62-83)

    A report prepared by Thomas E. Dahl in 1990 contained now widely used data listing the extent of wetland loss in the United States from the 1780s to the 1980s.¹ Like so many others, I was shocked by the magnitude of wetland destruction the first time I viewed the findings. I wondered where these historic wetlands had been located and whether it might be possible to find traces of them on the ground. This began my quest to find drained wetlands and to identify clues that would indicate their existence.

    Randy Smallwood, district conservationist with the NRCS, purchased a 70-acre...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Vestiges of Wetlands Long Past
    (pp. 84-99)

    Identifying drained wetlands can be difficult. When a thorough job is done in draining, there is sometimes no indication that an area was once a wetland. In some cases, any traces left are barely noticeable. Don Hurst, district conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) who has devoted a career to helping farmers drain lands as a means of improving crop production, says that he would have a tough time spotting an area that used to be wet, providing a quality job was done with the drainage, as few, if any, signs remain to betray the previous nature...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Building and Restoration
    (pp. 100-117)

    When I begin a wetland restoration workshop, like to ask participants how one can possibly eat an elephant, the answer being “one bite at a time.” The same is true for wetland restoration. Begin with one small site, not an entire landscape, and don’t attempt to change the world.

    Experts tell us in journals and magazine articles that we really don’t know enough about wetlands to restore them and that wetland creation is a poor substitute for the real thing. Many the young natural resource managers I meet are so worried about failing in their first attempt build a wetland...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE Building Wetlands on Dry Land
    (pp. 118-154)

    When building a wetland, many are quick to pass by higher areas of dry ground to look for low wet sites. Well-drained locations are often thought to be unsuitable for wetland restoration because they lack the puddles and aquatic plants believed necessary for constructing successful wetlands. Fortunately, these stories show how naturally appearing wetlands designed to hold surface water can be built on dry sites that were previously thought to be best suited for crops.

    On the surface, the small managed fields along Clearfork Creek in Rowan County appear well suited for wetland construction. Considering they are surrounded by small...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Building Wetlands on Wet Land
    (pp. 155-170)

    Building wetlands in places where you get your feet wet is rewarding yet has its own set of challenges. Generally, most any area that holds some water can be reshaped to hold more. Soils are wet for two main reasons: they have a high water table, or they are underlain by packed, fine-textured soils that retain surface water. The key to successfully building wetlands in wet areas is selecting the right strategy, either dipping into a high water table or shaping and compacting a basin so that it holds more surface water.

    Gravel pits can provide suitable locations for wetland...

  18. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Highways and Waterways
    (pp. 171-181)

    Culverts through roads provide great wetland establishment opportunities, and beavers have known this for years. Existing culverts can often be modified to saturate soils upstream, or to pond water, by using the road for a dam. Those steel corrugated culverts that are used in many areas often have only a 20-year life expectancy, so their replacement may offer an opportune time to return wetlands in an area.

    I have established small, emergent wetlands by attaching water-control structures to the upstream end of existing culverts. The most successful of these involves using a simple 90-degree elbow, with a vertical section of...

  19. CHAPTER FIFTEEN Do Waders Come in Size 4?
    (pp. 182-193)

    Many educators are finding that a small constructed wetland makes a valuable and attractive addition to the outdoor classroom at their school. Creating a wetland within easy walking distance of a school provides a ready laboratory for ecological studies. A school’s science curriculum is greatly enhanced by involving students in the actual sampling of invertebrates and vertebrates in a wetland. Students can better retain the principles of chemistry by witnessing the reduction equation in action when both seeing and handling wetland soils. Educators have said that more than the teaching of sciences benefits from constructed wetlands, as even art students...

  20. CHAPTER SIXTEEN Flourishing Flora
    (pp. 194-198)

    Wetlands are generally defined as areas having hydric soils, the presence of water (either standing on the surface or saturating soil during all or part of the growing season), and plants adapted to living under saturated conditions. To help assess a constructed wetland is a success, A. E. Plocher and J. W. Matthews ask the key question, “Does the site have dominant hydrophytic vegetation?” They also suggest assessing functional problems regarding whether or not the vegetation is unacceptable by listing these two assessment criteria: (1) exotic or weedy species should not be among the most dominant species in any vegetation...

  21. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Fixing Failed Wetlands
    (pp. 199-216)

    Walking up to a constructed wetland that was designed to hold water and finding it dry would give anyone a sick feeling, especially the wetland builder. Knowing whether or not a wetland is functioning as designed can be a challenge and may take as much time to figure out as building a new wetland. A. E. Plocher and J. W. Matthews describe a reasonable means for determining wetland success known as a “Wetland Assessment Procedure” that contains eight general attributes for evaluating the functional success of a constructed wetland: wetland status, functional problems, realism, floristic quality, size, and landscape setting;...

  22. CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Finding Funding
    (pp. 217-222)

    Knowing how to identify drained wetlands and to plan for their restoration will not accomplish much unless financing is available to complete the job. Fortunately, many government and non-government organizations have funding available for wetland projects. The following information can help individuals develop a successful strategy for obtaining the funding needed to implement wetland restoration program.

    Preparing a short proposal is an important first step when looking for money. The proposal should contain objectives, locations, methods, budget, time frame, people and organizations involved, and whom to contact for more information. Try to write this proposal in four pages or less,...

  23. Notes
    (pp. 223-232)
  24. Glossary
    (pp. 233-234)
  25. About the Author
    (pp. 235-236)
  26. Index
    (pp. 237-241)