Archive for September, 2013

rain garden in League City

rain garden in League City

It is doubtful that anyone driving or walking past a detention pond with its typical chainlink fence perimeter has stopped to admire it. Surrounding one with shrubs and trees and adding a fountain in the center does little to increase appeal. Detention ponds are required by developers when natural systems such as native prairies, wetlands, and woodlands are paved over to build roads, homes, parking lots and malls. They were designed as an attempt to make up for the natural porous, or permeable, areas lost to development.  Nonetheless, rainwater, also referred to as stormwater, which once soaked into the soil and helped to replenish groundwater, rapidly runs off the solid, impervious surfaces. Along the way it picks up substances such as pesticides and synthetic fertilizers from landscapes, oil and grease from parking lots and pet waste. As a result, we see flooding, polluting of rivers, bayous and bays, and lowering of water levels in aquifers. (more…)

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Think Before you Flush

What happens to things you flush down the toilet?  No, that’s not a philosophical question.  I mean literally, what happens to them?  Flushed items move through a series of pipes leading out of your home and into either a septic tank or your community’s sewer system.  For a majority of us, it’s the sewer system.   In case you haven’t noticed, the Texas coast is flat.  Very flat.  And gravity doesn’t move things along very quickly so we rely on a series of pump stations to move “stuff” through our sewer pipes all the way to the wastewater treatment plant.  The system works pretty well for normal waste but other items cause clogs. (more…)

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I know it is too early to tell just how successful our herbicide treatments have been—at least how effective the treatment will be in the long term.  But, our recent vegetation monitoring cycle in Phase 2 and 3 of the restored prairie wetlands at Sheldon Lake State Park suggests a very positive effect and we can certainly hope that it lasts.

phases only

Each quarter for the last 3 years, we have ventured out to our designated vegetation assessment plots—all 156 1-square meter plots– to tally all the plants therein.  (Actually the monitoring of our restoration sites goes back to Phase 1 in 2005, but those were different ponds in a different time).  It has been through these monitoring cycles that we (TCWP staff and Paul Roling, our beloved volunteer Botanist) note the anecdotal changes in the plant communities—of which one of those observations was the increasing presence of Vaseygrass—which corroborated what Kelly, the Park’s Natural Resource Ranger, observed independently. In some areas, the Vaseygrass dominated the cover, and that spurred our summer plan to invest in regular herbicide treatments targeting the exotic grass.

Now, almost three months later since our first day out in Phase 3 with the 25-gallon sprayer, we are approaching the end of the season and we are seeing the initial results.  Whole swaths of exotic vegetation are gone, dead, done. The few mornings/afternoons of reconnaissance suggest that the “kills” were pretty thorough—with little or no live leaves and apparently few areas of regermination.  But until early September, we had no data to support what we were seeing on the ground.

Our June monitoring cycle showed Vaseygrass present in 47 of the 156 plots with the highest coverage recorded at 70-95% coverage (this is the highest record for a single plot within the whole matrix).  The September monitoring cycle showed Vaseygrass present in only 29 of the 156 plots with the highest coverage recorded at 5-30%.  That, my friends, is a drop! Of course, we would like for the coverage to be in zero plots, but that’s still the future goal and a reachable one based on these results.

We still have to finish sections of Phase 2 and hopefully we have enough time, before the end of the season, to catch it all.  Many thanks to Cullen and Kelly for keeping it going, and Paul for coming out to account for the changes.

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Collage 1

Lawns are boring. There, I said it. A look out the window at an expanse of emerald green has no allure for me. There are no attractions there for butterflies, songbirds, or honeybees, either—they would starve or not even bother to make a fly over. To say a person dislikes a lawn borders on heresy to many. After all, when we say the word landscape, most of us conjure up that big swath of a perfectly mowed, managed, monoculture. Yes, monoculture, as in one plant species. In fact, more than forty million acres, roughly the size of New York State, are covered in it, making lawns, or turf grass, our largest irrigated crop. (more…)

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We are moving closer to installing floating wetland islands in what may be the first such project at a school in Texas, and one of the first public installations anywhere in the state. The floating wetlands will be in the storm water detention basin (aka “the pond”) of the Education Village campus in League City TX, part of the Clear Creek Independent School District (CCISD).

islands composite

Left: Floating wetland islands in Canada. Source: Biohavens International. Right: A pilot project in Baltimore Harbor. Source: Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore.

What is a floating wetland? It’s a small buoyant man-made island that grows wetland plants. CCISD’s islands will be made of a dense mesh of recycled plastic fibers produced by Martin Ecosystems. These floating wetlands have plant, soil and root interactions similar to a natural wetland and provide surfaces for colonies of beneficial water-cleaning microorganisms. (more…)

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