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Biohabitats Projects, Places, & People

Check out the latest Biohappenings…

By Amy Nelson

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EcoTrend-Setting In NYC?

When looking for the latest in business, fashion and the arts, many of us turn to New York City. But did you know that the Big Apple is also home to some leading-edge ecosystem restoration and water quality improvement pilot projects? Biohabitats, working with the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) and partners Hydroqual and Hayzen & Sawyer, is leading the implementation of five innovative pilot projects to help improve water quality within New York City’s Jamaica Bay watershed.

The first involve beneficial uses for algae. Increased nutrients in Jamaica Bay have stimulated the growth of macro-algae. In eutrophic systems like Jamaica Bay, this can lead to oxygen depletion and a decline throughout the food chain. In the Bay, the culprit is sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca). Working with University of Arkansas scientists, we are testing the harvesting and beneficial use of this macroalgae.

We are testing micro-algae, on the other hand, for its use as a water treatment device and potential biofuel at the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant. An Algal Turf Scrubber (ATS), a technology developed by HydroMentia, Inc., has been installed at the site.

Mimicking a stream system, the ATS promotes the growth of beneficial algae which helps clean pollutants from water pumped through its floway.

Like the macro-algae, microalgae periodically harvested from the ATS may be the source of fuel for the future! We’ve already created our first liter of fuel from New York City algae!

Like all of these pilot projects, the ATS is already generating lots of buzz.

We are also working to restore oysters, some of nature’s best water filters, within Jamaica Bay. This summer, along with the NYCDEP and the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Biohabitats and Ecological Restoration and Management constructed oyster beds in the waters near Queens and installed oyster reef balls in Brooklyn. We are also giving this project some ‘mussel.’ Substrates for ribbed mussels, another filtering species, are being constructed in Brooklyn’s Fresh Creek, where their ability to filter discharge from combined sewer overflows will be tested. The final restoration pilot project involves the restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation. Over 4,000 eelgrass plants have been installed thus far. We are continuing to monitor the oyster and eelgrass sites through the winter, and to date, the sites are all thriving. The big test will be later in the spring when waters start to warm up. We look forward to those warmer monitoring times!

Building A Young, Green-Collar Job Corps In The Low Country

Given the widespread need for ecological restoration and economic recovery, the emergence of environmentally-focused jobs is a welcome phenomenon. This is especially true in North Charleston, South Carolina, where a new project is providing area at-risk and court-involved youth with the chance to improve their future and their environment. Biohabitats is collaborating with the Michaux Conservancy to create a unique program called the Michaux Restoration Crew (MRC). By providing on-the-ground training in ecological restoration job skills to 100 young people, the MRC helps support social justice and strengthen economic opportunity while creating healthy, vibrant ecosystems. With training from Biohabitats, MRC participants will master skills such as: installing native plants for wetland, woodland and stream restoration projects; building and installing wildlife nesting structures; installing deer fencing; restoring oyster reefs; performing soil sampling and water quality monitoring; and surveying invasive plant species. Through work, continued education and accountability, the program aims to build the character of young adults, improve their communities and enhance the natural world.

We are currently looking for ecological restoration opportunities throughout the Charleston metropolitan region that could benefit from this program. If you have any ideas or would like to find out more about this program, please contact Keith Bowers at 843-529-3235 or kbowers@biohabitats.com.

Southern Utes Continue To Improve Local Ecology & Environmental Education

As Colorado’s oldest continuous residents, members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe are deeply committed stewards of the landscape. Biohabitats has had the honor of working with the Southern Utes on several design/build stream restoration projects in southwestern Colorado. Recently, we teamed with tribal members to restore stability and ecological function to Beaver Creek. High, eroding banks, and a diminished riparian buffer were degrading the creek’s overall quality.

Working closely with tribal members, we developed a design that created low, vegetated benches to narrow channel sections and provide high-flow energy dissipation. Our design increased the riparian buffer, cut off an overly-tight bend and created an oxbow in the channel. Swiftly handling a carefully timed permit review, we were able to take advantage of the limited construction window between snowmelt and irrigation return-runoff events. Construction, which included planting of numerous locally-collected willow stakes and culturally important native shrub species by members of the Southern Ute community, was completed on time. We also hosted an ecology lab class for students from nearby Fort Lewis College and managed the students’ volunteer planting efforts.

Linking Projects To Improve Maryland’s 2nd Most Polluted Stream

What do a community pond and an abandoned sand mine have in common? Both are now the sites of ecosystem restoration projects aimed at improving water quality in the St. Martin’s River, Maryland’s 2nd most nutrient contaminated stream. The 33-acre Lizard Hill Sand Mine is located near Ocean City in the coastal bays region of Maryland’s eastern shore. For decades, the mine was surrounded by berms and bypassed by a tributary to the St. Martin’s River. Carrying nutrient-heavy agricultural runoff, (mainly from nearby chicken farms) the tributary would flow into Bishopville Pond, where it would be retained by a dam. Periodically the nutrient-rich material would be flushed by major storm events into Bishopville Prong, and ultimately, the St. Martin’s River.

Working with the Maryland State Highway’s Environmental Enhancement program, we redesigned the tributary to flow through the mine site, and modified the landscape with a series of wetlands to treat the agricultural runoff. Working with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and with the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA, we are also converting the Bishopville Dam in a manner that restores continuous flow and fish passage. The dam conversion transforms the in-line pond into an off-line pond that meets the Bishopville community’s desire to retain their historic pond and restores the historic anadramous fish resource. Construction of the Lizard Hill Sand Mine is slated for early spring and the Bishopville Pond project will likely require another year before construction.

Tinkering With A Creek

This summer, Biohabitats was selected to by the Cuyahoga County District Board of Health (CCBH) to lead the design-build restoration of a tributary of Tinkers Creek that runs through the property of a public high school in northeast Ohio. Our goal is to restore the “Hudson High School Trib” in a way that maximizes ecological benefits, minimizes disturbance and inspires community stewardship. This project is part of a continuum of restoration projects within the suburban Tinkers Creek Watershed focused on integrated restoration and education.

We’re thrilled to be working with CCBH, Hudson High School, the Tinkers Creek Watershed Partners and the City of Hudson on a design that will not only improve local ecology but also catalyze community revitalization, environmental education and volunteer stewardship. Throughout all phases of the restoration, the project will be used as a “Land Lab” for Hudson High School teachers and students. By integrating with the school’s Science, English and Art programs, the project will create curricular connections to the natural environment, stimulating stewardship for generations to come.

A Model Solution Along The Bronx River

Addressing streambank stability at the confluence of a stormwater outfall can be tricky business, especially when the water is flowing down a pipe about 50 feet at a 45-degree angle. But that’s just what we were called upon to do for the Bronx River Alliance. The Alliance needed help remediating a crumbling pipe carrying stormwater from southeast Yonkers to the Bronx River. The pipe was beginning to dislodge from the bank, and the unchecked force of water reaching the river through the deteriorating pipe was causing significant bank erosion along the river.

To tackle this challenge, Biohabitats developed a two-dimensional hydrodynamic model which helped the Alliance understand the effect of existing flow patterns on streambank stability. The model was then used to understand how flow patterns and stability would be affected by proposed design solutions. With the help of the model, the Alliance was able to select a cost-effective design which repairs the headwall and stabilizes the streambanks. The design solution also includes planting native riparian vegetation and providing much-needed public access to the river.


New Biohabitats Office Provides Even More Service In Southeast!

The Southeast bioregion, which spans both the Piedmont and Coastal Plain physiographic regions of the southeast U.S., includes a variety of ecosystems ranging from coastal marshes, interior swamps to long leaf pine forests. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce the opening of an additional office to serve this biologically rich and diverse bioregion. Our office is located in Noisette, a sustainable community being redeveloped at the former Navy Yard in North Charleston, South Carolina. Next time you are in the Low Country stop by and visit us. You can find us at 2120 Noisette Blvd., Suite 106B in North Charleston. Or give us a call at 843.529.3235. Grits and oysters are waiting!

On Monday, January 31, senior ecologist Joe Berg will be sharing his knowledge and expertise with participants of the 2011 Delaware Estuary Science and Environmental Summit. Joe will use a case study to illustrate the benefits of placing priority on source control vs. end-of-pipe restoration projects when striving for watershed-wide restoration.

If you’re looking for Joe a few weeks later, he’ll be in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, presenting at the Upper Midwest Stream Restoration Symposium. At this event, which will take place February 27-March 4, Joe will address the use of regenerative stream conveyance.


Ever wonder what it’s like to attend one of those major, international conventions that draws leaders from all over the globe? Check out Biohabitats president Keith Bowers’ blog about his participation in the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10). Held in Nagoya, Japan this past October, the biennial Conference is intended to advance implementation of the Convention Biological Diversity (CBD), an agreement signed by 150 government leaders in 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development. It requires countries to develop and implement strategies for sustainable use and protection of biodiversity.

As part of the delegation from the Society for Ecological Restoration International, Keith formally ‘intervened’ in the conference proceedings to encourage world environmental leaders to use ecological restoration as a mechanism to achieve Convention objectives. In his remarks, he passionately encouraged “countries with capacity, to provide targeted scientific, technical and financial support for ecosystem restoration initiatives in developing countries.” Keith and other SER delegates also hosted side events which focused specifically on ecological restoration. Though the practice of ecological restoration is among the strategies laid out in the CBD, it had never been directly addressed at previous Conference of the Parties. Way to go, Keith!

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