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Monday, November 3, 2003
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Ohio University restores, creates wetlands as part of runway extension project

By Jessica Cyr

In an effort to mitigate the environmental disturbance caused by the airport runway extension, Ohio University, with the help of designers and contractors, has restored one area of designated wetlands and will create four acres of wetlands near Hebbardsville Farm.

"The goal was to relocate existing wetlands which were in the way of, or would sustain significant impact from, the runway extension during construction," said Tim Kern, the project manager for the facilities planning and construction office.

Before the extension project began in August 2000, R.D. Zande and Associates, an engineering firm, performed an environmental risk assessment, which studied the project's possible impact on the environment and to see how adversely it would affect the surrounding area. The Environmental Impact Study, which was submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), highlighted the extension's impact on the wetlands near the airport. Ohio University was required by the FAA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mitigate any possible disturbance by restoring wetlands one-and-a-half times the affected acreage.

"It was required by both federal and state law per the clean water act, and the regulatory oversight was delegated by federal law from the federal EPA to the Ohio EPA," Kern said. "All regulatory compliance activities were performed."

Work on the on-site wetlands began in November 2000 and included the restoration of a stream, which was rebuilt and redirected.

"We manipulated the direction of flow and all of the curves to keep the flow rate at a slow and even pace," said construction and engineering coordinator Dick Planisek. "An environmental engineering firm, URS Engineering, designed the runway, as well as the wetlands. They designed a configuration of land, stream and water that was set up to promote a slow but steady flow of water through the site, allowing the sediment time to fall out and prevent additional sediment being picked up and going downstream. The design not only involved the land contour and trenching of the stream, but also the planting of indigenous plants, all of which will help build a healthy streambed that is sustainable."

During the project, which was sponsored by the FAA, the Ohio Department of Transportation/Aviation and Ohio University, all efforts were made to ensure that the environment did not suffer from the construction and machinery used.

"During construction, the contractor installed silt fencing and flood control devices so that while water is running off of the project, the contaminants and the loose materials from the soil don't get into the stream," Planisek said. "There was a constant effort during the project to control the water leaving the site to make sure that it was in its proper condition."

The mitigation near the airport ended in January 2003 and once funding is received, off-site work will begin at Hebbardsville Farm. Because there was not enough area at the airport to restore and create the designated acreage, Hebbardsville Farm was identified as a second site for project and will soon be home to four acres of wetlands.

Linda Stroh, director of airport operations, is pleased with the project and the environmental benefits for the airport.

"The on-site mitigation went very smoothly; the wetland area is landscaped to accommodate the local wildlife attracted to that type of environment," she said. Stroh added that pilots should be on the lookout for the waterfowl that are now attracted to the site.

Jessica Cyr is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.
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