The collaborative effort that resulted in Moses Creek restoration in Schmeeckle Reserve has earned a 2013 Federal Highway Administration Environmental Excellence Award.
The award recognizes collaboration and partnership among city, state and federal officials, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and consultants in the Highway 10 wetland mitigation project. Janet Smith, regional environmental coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) in Wisconsin Rapids, nominated the project.
The biennial award honors initiatives that incorporate environmental stewardship into planning and project development. The Federal Highway Administration and state DOT funded most of the project.
“This is significant recognition for a collaborative effort that really brought together a number of government agencies and outside entities and resulted in a very positive project. Everyone deserves to be proud,” said Ron Zimmerman, director of Schmeeckle Reserve, a 280-acre natural area owned and operated by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
UW-Stevens Point connections were woven throughout the project, completed in late 2010.
“It was a great team effort,” Smith said. “It’s a wonderful, high-quality mitigation site with multiple benefits to the community and to wildlife. I’m most proud of the diverse group of people who came together. With multiple parties involved, it can be a great challenge to adequately meet everyone’s objectives and still meet the main goal.”
Since the 1970s, restoring the segment of Moses Creek that runs through Schmeeckle was a goal, Zimmerman said. Moses Creek meandered and bubbled out of the ground in a pristine sedge meadow north of the city of Stevens Point in the 1860s. Then it was ditched, straightened and funneled into a storm sewer.
Zimmerman discussed the restoration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Chris Knotts, a UW-Stevens Point graduate. Knotts, now retired, proposed the restoration as a mitigation project to DOT in 2007. The agency was searching for a site to compensate for unavoidable wetland impacts from the nearby U.S. Highway 10 bypass project.
“A lot of people in different places were able to see the possibilities,” Zimmerman said. Among them were Knotts and John Gardener, former Stevens Point community development director.
Brian Kronstedt of Quest Civil Engineers, Wisconsin Rapids, the firm DOT hired to assist in site supervision, went to UW-Stevens Point. “He was a wildlife graduate and had spent time in the Reserve. He knew the value the Reserve brings, and he worked to piece this together,” Zimmerman said.
Schmeeckle’s directors Zimmerman and Jim Buchholz coordinated details, provided history and helped shaped the aesthetic, educational and recreational elements of the design. UW-Stevens Point students assisted with data collection and other studies throughout the process.
Other key players were the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; AECOM, the engineering design consultant; Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., biological consultant; and Earth, Inc., which did the construction.
City officials and community members assured the integrity of Schmeeckle Reserve and the Green Circle were maintained. “
The project restored 17 acres of riparian wetland meadow and tall shrub plant communities and naturalized 4,300 feet of Moses Creek. Among the benefits, the site:
provides high-quality habitat and increases the diversity of wildlife and plants,
offers educational opportunities for students and the community,
improves the quality of aquatic habitat,
provides needed wetland mitigation acreage for the state DOT,
saves money by restoring an area that did not require the state to purchase land, and
improves drainage in flood prone areas north of UW-Stevens Point.
The DOT is monitoring the wetland for the first 10 years. Schmeeckle and UW-Stevens Point staff and students will provide long-term management and stewardship.