Urban Farm Reaps Harvest of Water Quality Improvements

CliftonPark, located in northeast Baltimore, is not your typical public city park. And that’s not just because it features clay tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. Since 2009, the park has also been home to Real Food Farm, Baltimore’s answer to the city’s need to expand beyond its networks of community gardens and house a fully operational farm. When the farm needed help developing a drainage and stormwater management plan to comply with the Maryland Department of the Environment’s latest stormwater regulations, they turned to Biohabitats. Eager to help the farm further its mission while enhancing water quality, we developed a plan that not only fits with the site’s long-term master plan and daily operation and maintenance requirements, but adds value and interest. Our designs included a bioswale, a rainwater harvesting system that uses a retrofitted bicycle to generate a human-powered irrigation pump, and a landscaping plan that includes native, edible crops. The plan will likely be implemented in 2013, and we can’t wait to see this kind of high yield agriculture come to life!

A Fitting Wastewater Solution for Renowned Water Research Center

The mission of the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, Pennsylvania is bold and clear: “To advance our global knowledge and stewardship of fresh water systems through research and education.” Because of its location along the East Branch of White Clay Creek, classified by the State of Pennsylvania as an “Exceptional Value” stream and watershed, the Center is also recognized as a facility that is dedicated to long-term, experimental research on an ecosystem that is an outstanding representative of its type. When the Center began designing its new outreach building, they sought a wastewater treatment system that would replace old septic fields and align with the Center’s mission.

As a key member of the team for this LEED Platinum project, Biohabitats designed a natural wastewater management system to process flows from the Center’s overall campus and replace outdated septic fields. Components include a primary treatment tank, constructed wetlands, a trickling filter, and a sand filter. The new system not only helps protect groundwater and nearby streams, but integrates directly into the landscape and provides a relevant and dramatic backdrop to the Center’s research. We were happy to join a large crowd of people in celebrating the opening of the new Moorhead Environmental Complex earlier this month.

First Living Shoreline Restoration Along Passaic River

The Nereid Boat Club is a non-profit dedicated to bringing people back in touch with thePassaicRiver. First organized in 1866, the club has inspired generations to head to the river, exercise outdoors, and learn about a local resource through its many rowing programs. But along with a long history comes the need for an occasional renovation.

When the club needed to replace a dilapidated bulkhead and improve stormwater management, they turned to Biohabitats. We replaced the wooden bulkhead with a living shoreline, and designed a bioswale to capture and treat runoff from surrounding streets. Although the bulkhead once offered some degree of shoreline protection, it provided little aesthetic value and virtually no habitat. Stormwater had scoured away sediment from behind the bulkheads, actually worsening beach erosion. As a result, stormwater flowed directly into the Passaic River. The living shoreline uses native plants, grasses, trees and shrubs to provide stabilization while also adding beauty and habitat.  Rather than weaken over time, these ecosystems get stronger, offering ongoing protection as well as habitat, water quality improvement and beauty. We are proud to have been involved in the first living shoreline restoration project to be constructed along the lower Passaic River, and we were delighted to attend the ribbon cutting last month. We look forward to seeing the Nereid Boat Club continue for another 146 years!

Biohabitats Texas Projects Receive Awards

The restoration of Flewellen Creek in Fort Bend County, Texas, transformed a degraded stream into the centerpiece of a 3,200-acre, mixed-use community development. The project recently received a Merit Award from the Texas Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a Silver Award in Engineering Excellence from the Texas Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies. As a member of the project team, which included SWA Group and Brown & Gay Engineers, we couldn’t be prouder!

The 2,300-acre Galveston Island State Park is home to a variety of natural habitats, including beach and dunes, coastal strand prairie, tidal marsh and seagrass  beds. Developing a 50-year plan to protect these habitats and provide recreation in the face of climate change was no simple task. But we were up to it, along with our project team, led by Studio Outside. The project also received an Honor Award for Planning and Analysis from the Texas Chapter of the ASLA.

Baltimore’s Healthy Harbor In Headlines

As we mentioned in the last issue of Leaf Litter, we have been working with the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore to further their Healthy Harbor Initiative, an effort to make Baltimore’s Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. Two Healthy Harbor water quality improvement/education pilot projects made lots of headlines this spring.

To celebrate Earth Day, we worked alongside volunteers from the Living Classrooms Foundation’s Crossroads Middle School, T. Rowe Price, and others to plant and launch a flotilla of more than 50 new floating wetlands in the Inner Harbor and educate passersby about water quality.

The additional 2000 square feet of wetlands was considered a tenfold scale up to the six floating wetlands that were installed at the site in 2010.

The wetlands, which use discarded plastic bottles removed from the harbor for flotation, were constructed over the past year by volunteers from several companies and organizations in and around Baltimore. The large flotilla is now thriving in front of Baltimore’s World Trade Center, drawing the attention of residents, tourists, and of course wildlife!

For over six months Biohabitats has been operating and collecting data on an Algal Turf Scrubber® (ATS™) which has been quietly hard at work in a gravel lot in the Fells Point area of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, cleaning polluted water along a 300-foot floway powered by a small pump, gravity and sunlight.

The ATS™, which was installed at the site by Biohabitats and the University of Maryland, harnesses the natural abilities of algae, bacteria, and phytoplankton to filter and remove nutrients and other pollutants from water while injecting high levels of oxygen into it.

Students from the neighboring Living Classrooms Crossroads Middle School, who had helped us test and monitor the system as part of their educational program, were so excited about this ecologically engineered technology they decided to build their own on their school grounds.

This spring, after testing showed the ATS™ to be highly effective at producing algal biomass, we decided it was time to celebrate with an official ribbon cutting.

Crossroads students deftly described their ATS and then headed to the site of the larger system, where they helped us cut the ribbon and share the news about the power of algae!


Atlantic Crossing Important Step in Bridging Expertise to Marine Restoration

Unfortunately, the world’s oceans are under assault. Many marine fisheries are on the verge of collapse, coral reefs may be the first large-scale ecosystem in human history to go extinct, and changes to sea water chemistry from industrialization and climate change are profoundly affecting marine aquatic life. Oceans are also being targeted for off-shore energy, mining of precious metals and minerals, and as conduits for pipe, power and communication lines.

Biohabitats’ mission has always been to “Restore the Earth and Inspire Ecological Stewardship.” Given that 70% of Earth’s surface is ocean, and recognizing that conservation and restoration will play an ever increasing role in the development of our oceans, we are taking steps to bridge our experience and expertise in coastal restoration to marine restoration.

In May, Biohabitats president Keith Bowers visited with Gilles Lecaillon of Ecocean SAS and James Aronson, head of the Restoration Ecology Group in the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France. Ecocean specializes in developing and implementing innovative new technologies for the sustainable use and management of the marine environment.  In essence, Ecocean has developed technical expertise and field application of post-larval capture and culture PCC of marine fish for restocking depleted marine fisheries.  Biohabitats is currently exploring collaboration with Ecocean to pioneer the application of PCC in North America.

Keith will also attend a two-day workshop inNorth Carolinato examine connectivity for large apex marine consumers. According to Dr. Jim Estes, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, “These animals, which once existed nearly everywhere, have been exterminated or depleted across much of the earth. On land this has occurred mainly because of predator control and habitat destruction. In the sea, these animals were and continue to be exploited for food and other products of human value. Once thought to be of little or no importance to biodiversity beyond their mere existence, large apex consumers are now beginning to be seen as key players in the functional integrity of ecosystems.”

Upcoming Conferences

If you are eager to learn more about urban agriculture and network with urban farmers, there are two . Two conferences are coming The 2012 Urban Agriculture Summit will take place August 15-18 in Toronto, Canada The Growing Power Conference will take place September 7-9 in Milwaukee, WI

Also this week, fluvial geomorphologist Vince Sortman will be at the AWRA’s Riparian Ecosystems Conference in Denver to deliver three exciting presentations. Vince will share “Riparian Restoration Strategies for Cottonwood Forests in Colorado’s Front Range,” “Riparian Vegetation Establishment Associated with Stream Restoration Projects in Semi-Arid Southwest Colorado,” and “Using Abandoned Gravel Mining Pits for Riparian Restoration in Northern Colorado.”

Heading to New Orleansnext week for the State of the Coast conference? If so, you won’t want to miss senior ecologist Ed Morgereth’s talk about the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on coastal habitat restoration and management.

Water resources engineer Ted Brown will present on the topic of integrated watershed restoration at the Water Environment Federation’s 2012 Stormwater Symposium July 18-20 in Baltimore,MD.

This year’s annual gathering of the Ecological Society of America will take place in Portland, ORAugust 5-10. Senior ecologist Joe Berg’s presentation on restoring ecosystem services through Regenerative Design fits perfectly with the conference theme–Life on Earth: Preserving, Utilizing and Sustaining our Ecosystems.

Ecologist Suzanne Hoehne will present “Integrating Stormwater Management into the Natural Landscape Through an Innovative Approach” to participants at the Kentucky Stormwater Association’s annual conference. This year’s conference will take place in Florence, KY August 8-10.


Congratulations to water resources engineer, Vince DeCapio, who is now licensed as a professional engineer in the state of New York. Vince, who works out of Biohabitats’ Hudson River Bioregion office, has been applying his civil and environmental engineering expertise to projects along the East Coast for more than six years, but this achievement is a milestone to celebrate. Becoming a licensed Professional Engineer in New York is a multi-year process, and we’re proud of Vince for seeing it through!

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