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Madison, WI December 4, 2013. Last night City staff briefed a small group of citizens on its new program to inventory, characterize, investigate and conduct remediation planning on brownfield sites in the City of Madison.
During the meeting City staff gave an overview of the brownfields program including the benefits of redeveloping brownfields, details on the EPA grant and how and on what kinds of sites it can be applied, and described the three brownfields corridors. City staff was assisted in this presentation, and the question & answer session that followed, by employees of the firm SCS Engineers, that was hired to perform site investigations.
Brian Grady of the City Planning Division also provided an overview of how the assessment program will be implemented, including details on types and levels of site investigations, outreach to potential partners, and how the public can provide input into the assessment program
Why the Interest in Brownfields?
Click here to see this earlier post on the brownfields assessment program. Madison’s brownfields assessment is funded by a three-year, $400,000 grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) that runs through September 30, 2015.
Brownfields are defined by the Wisconsin DNR as “abandoned, idle, or underused commercial or industrial properties, where the reuse or re-development may be hindered by real or perceived contamination.” Land use types and businesses that can–but not always–produce contamination include manufacturing plants, gas stations, dry cleaners, automobile dealerships and/or repair shops, fuel storage tanks, and sites where pesticides or herbicides have been stored.
Brownfields in Madison
City staff have identified three corridors that contain many of the City’s brownfields: Packer’s Avenue/Pennsylvania Avenue (North Corridor); East Washington Avenue (Isthmus Corridor); and Park Street (South Corridor). See here the City’s Brownfields Assessment Program Fact Sheet for more information and a map of the brownfield corridor. Individual maps of the three corridors may be found here on the City’s Brownfields home page. (NOTE: A portion of the South Corridor runs through the eastern end of the Lake Wingra Watershed and is close to Arboretum wetlands, and Lakes Wingra and Monona.)
Brownfields Assessment Program
According to City staff, the emphasis of the assessment program is on redevelopment and cite these potential benefits: 1) reducing risks to public health and the environment; 2) use of existing infrastructure; 3) increasing property values and tax revenue; 4) increasing job and housing opportunities.
City staff explained that the immediate next steps in the implementation are to rank sites, expand outreach, and conduct site investigations.
Site prioritization will be based upon:
- degree of contamination
- potential for near-term development
- community priority
To aid in setting priorities, City staff will expand outreach to potential partners and citizens to get a sense of community priorities in terms of sites of special environmental concern and sites that should be re developed first.
Current partners include the Northside Planning Council, East Isthmus Neighborhoods Planning Council, and the South Metropolitan Planning Council, because the three brownfield corridors align with the service areas of the planning councils.
Site investigations will follow a four-step process to first identify conditions that would indicate potential contamination; then decide if candidate sites are actually contaminated; define the magnitude and extent of contamination; finally, select a remediation strategy that combines effectiveness, cost, and redevelopment potential.
To Learn More . . .
City of Madison Engineering Division maintains a brownfields home web page with updates on the program, meeting notices and agendas, and links to more information. Click here to reach the City’s brownfields home page.
The City of Madison will host a Brownfields Assessment Program Kickoff meeting on Tuesday December 3, 2013 at which time the public will receive an overview of the City’s Brownfields Assessment Program and citizens will also be given an opportunity to indicate which sites have the highest priority.
The public information meeting will be held in Room 260 of the Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. The meeting will begin at 6pm and run til 7:30 pm. Click here for the meeting agenda.
Brownfields are defined by the Wisconsin DNR as “abandoned, idle, or underused commercial or industrial properties, where the reuse or re-development may be hindered by real or perceived contamination.”
The City of Madison, operating on a $400,000 grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), has identified three corridors that contain many of the City’s brownfields: Packer’s Avenue/Pennsylvania Avenue (North Corridor); East Washington Avenue (Isthmus Corridor); and Park Street (South Corridor). See here the City’s Brownfields Assessment Program Fact Sheet for more information and a map of the brownfield corridor. Individual maps of the three corridors may be found here on the City’s Brownfields home page.
Lake Wingra Watershed Has It’s Own Brownfields
Brownfields straddle the Park Street corridor (see map here). Because Park Street is near the easternmost boundary our surface watershed, it is the Park Street brownfield corridor that is of most interest to those of us who live, work and play in, or just plain love this watershed.
The portion of Park Street that is in the Lake Wingra Watershed (from Bram Street on the south to Olin Avenue on the north) is the area of immediate concern because of the concentration of brownfields. These are largely on the western (lake side) of Park Street.
More details to follow. Also, check back here for a report on the Tuesday evening meeting.
The beautiful Thoreau Community Rain Garden now has a brand new sign that’s just as well done as the rain garden it spotlights.
The sign, which is as colorful in November as the rain garden is in the summer, now will add a bit of cheer to the winter landscape. In addition to color, the sign gives good, solid ecological information about why rain gardens are important and how they function.
This fine rain garden is on the grounds of Thoreau School and Nakoma Park on Madison’s near west side. It’s beautiful show of native grasses and blooming wildflowers, has graced the neighborhood for a couple of springs and summers.
The Thoreau Community Rain Garden is an excellent example of civic engagement and community-based restoration in service of enhancing the social, cultural, and ecological attributes of the neighborhood.
This rain garden project, under the leadership of project manager Stephanie Robinson, is also a model of community partnerships. Funding came from the Thoreau School Environmental Fund and the Foundation for Madison Public Schools, 2012 Youth Garden Grant. Sponsors included: Thoreau Community; Thoreau Green Team 2011-2012; Girl Scout Troop 2611; UW Arboretum Earth Partnership Program; Dane County Office of Lakes and Watersheds; and Gere Tree Care, Inc.
Deadlines for public comments on 2013 plan updates range from December 12, 2013 to May 27, 2014.
Deadline dates vary by the water body concerned
Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission has just issued its final two sets of draft aquatic plant management plans and at the same time has requested public comment on these latest plans.
The first set of plans is for the Jenny and Kyle Preserve Ponds, Vilas, Tenney, and Warner Park lagoons, and the Verona Quarry; the second set of plans are for Fish, Crystal, and Indian Lakes. You can reach the plans by clicking here, and then navigating to the appropriate link on the page that pops up. The deadline for submitting public comments on these two plans is December 12, 2013. Comments may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org
These plans and public input received will be presented to the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission at its December 12 meeting. The other six plan amendments will also be presented to the Commission for approval at that meeting.
Why Are Aquatic Plant Management Plans Important?
The Lakes and Watershed Commission reminds us that:
“Aquatic plant management plans are important because they summarize the status of aquatic plant communities in these waters, and guide aquatic plant mechanical harvesting that Dane County staff may conduct in these waters.”
Aquatic plant management plans (APMP) also summarize the ecological health of the lakes, and describe methods for meeting the needs of the variety of the sometimes competing recreational uses (including boating, fishing, swimming, bird watching, and natural history enjoyment) that our lakes provide.
Comments Also Sought on Updated Plans for Lakes Wingra, Mendota, and Monona
Revisions to the original 2007 plans for these lakes, plus Lake Waubesa, Kegonsa/Lower Mud Lake, and the Yahara River/Upper Mud Lake are also ready for public comment. The revised plans can be downloaded here.
Comments for the Lake Wingra and Lake Kegonsa updates are due May 15, 2014. Public input for Lakes Mendota, Monona, and Waubesa are due May 24, 2014; comments on the Yahara River/Upper Mud Lake aquatic plant management plans (APMP) are due May 27, 2014.
Why Is In an Aquatic Plant Management Plan?
Aquatic plants are essential for a fully functioning lake ecosystem. They provide cover, habitat and food for fish and other creatures that live in the lake. Some aquatic plants such as Eurasian water milfoil–the primary target of weed harvesting–is super aggressive and clogs waterways, making fishing, swimming, and boating difficult and unpleasant.
In the language of the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission: “Aquatic plant management plans provide an inventory of existing plants in a lake or stream, and describe how native plants will be protected for their role as the foundation of healthy ecosystems, while nuisance non-native species will be controlled and recreational access will be provided. These plans are required by the Department of Natural Resources in order for them to permit aquatic plant harvesting programs under NR 109 Wis. Admin. Code.”
In more familiar terms, the APM plans do not describe lake restoration goals and methods, but rather only address vegetation management goals. These APM goals are expressed in terms of desirable plants (usually natives) that the managers want to encourage; and weeds that managers want to contain or eradicate.
The APM plans list the frequency of occurrence, abundance and distribution of both desirable plant species and nuisance species. The aquatic plant management plans have maps that show the general locations in the lakes where various plant species grow, and describe strategies and tactics for how the plants will be favored, or, in the case of weeds, harvested and removed by aquatic weed cutters.
To Learn More
Go to the website of the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission by clicking here. At this site you will find more details about the aquatic plant management program and links to supplemental information on: 1) a field guide to aquatic plants; 2) a discussion about the roles of aquatic plants in lakes; 3) the WIDNR’s aquatic plant management program; and 4) an aquatic plant guide from the Minnesota DNR.
Madison, WI November 25, 2013–Those of you who travel Midvale Boulevard and Verona Road or the West Beltline Highway (HIghways 12 & 18 & 151) on Madison’s near SW side are aware of the massive reconstruction and reconfiguration of the Verona Road/Hwy 151 interchange that began this summer. The project of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WIDOT), is expected to last 6 years. Click here for a link to information about the project and upcoming public information meetings.
The popular and influential watershed and environmental watchdog blog, The Contractor Report, tells us that all is not well with the early stages of the project. This current work involves the removal and recycling of asphalt and concrete. Recycling concrete may be a good thing but in this case it is producing wind-borne silica dust that blows into the nearby residential neighborhood.
Other site deficiencies include incomplete erosion prevention measures, tracking of soil into the streets, and unprotected storm water drains. For fuller reporting and photos of this issue see the blog post, “A Tar Sands Mine in Madison??, on The Contractor Report.
On a blustery November afternoon I took a bike ride south from downtown Chicago to explore the city. After a few miles of pedaling along the lake shore bike path from Millennium Park, I passed the landmark McCormick Center and soon was riding through masses of prairie grasses of the recently initiated Burnham Centennial Prairie restoration.
Begun in 2010, Burnham Centennial Prairie is a project of the Chicago Park District, and is part of Burnham Park, named after Chicago’s famed architect. Chicago Park District has produced a series of You Tube videos about their work in general, and a very detailed and informative one about the Burnham prairie restoration, in particular. See it here.
Burnham Park is part of a large complex of Chicago open space, much as Daniel H. Burnham himself envisioned it should be, including meadows, prairies, open grasslands, a bird sanctuary, concessions, a state park, and the Adler Planetarium.
All this within an easy hike or bike ride from downtown Chicago.
Lessons Learned from TREAT
Focus is on working with people
TREAT has been extremely successful in its stream corridor restoration, one of its goals is the restoration of wildlife habitat through the establishment of migration routes for endangered marsupials. TREAT (Trees for Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands on the eastern edge of “The Outback”) has also been successful at engaging people in the restoration program by focusing on recruitment, relationship building, recognition and retention.
Specifically, TREAT taps into the variety of motivations of the residents of the Tablelands to achieve restoration results on their own property by conducting a series of workshops that offer training on monitoring, sampling and other things property owners can do to improve the quality of water in streams on their own property.
TREAT matches skills and interests of volunteers with specific restoration tasks by relying on indigenous people to use their technical knowledge of the tropical forest to collect the fruits and design the seed planting mixes. TREAT relies on other volunteers with specific training or experience in cleaning and sowing seeds and caring for the young plants to take on these tasks. Other volunteers are encouraged to use their professional skills or to gain new knowledge to achieve TREAT restoration outcomes.
Much of what TREAT accomplishes is facilitated by the variety of strong partnerships it forges with shire, state and federal agencies and the funding opportunities that these partnerships have opened up. Through newsletter articles and at weekly workdays, TREAT spotlights the knowledge and achievements of each volunteer. (See this earlier post for more information about the TREAT program and its partnerships.)
TREAT showers its volunteers with respect and encourages them to advance through a variety of training workshops, continual evaluation and positive feedback.
All these efforts combine to improve the restoration and enhance the performance and satisfaction of the volunteers and other partners.
There are many global examples of ecological restoration projects that combine a shared vision and common community understanding of what needs to be done to restore social, cultural, and ecological well-being. Here the spotlight is on an exemplary model of local, state, regional, and national cooperation and collaboration found in Queensland, Australia: Trees for the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands (TREAT) near Malanda.
Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands
The Atherton Tablelands—a high plateau on the edge of the Outback—is former tropical rainforest now mostly given over to dairy and beef cattle, some sugar cane and high-income horticultural crops for the nursery industry. The Tablelands host a growing eco-tourist industry and are attractive to both retirees and those just looking for a summer home. These land uses have destroyed, degraded and fragmented the native rainforest, leaving just small, isolated islands of original forest stranded in an agricultural sea. The remaining small remnants of tropical rainforest are increasingly susceptible to invasion by weed species and provide poor habitat for threatened and endangered species. Therefore, one restoration goal in the Atherton Tablelands is to provide habitat and a migration corridor for the endemic Lumholtz tree kangaroo, a small marsupial of the forest canopy.
To achieve restoration goals, local Queensland restoration ecologists use a variety of restoration strategies or methodologies to fit different situations and goals. But whatever the restoration plan, their work relies upon partnerships, collaboration and civic engagement. In Australia, restoration is cooperative government/volunteer effort and Trees for the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands (TREAT) is one such example.
TREAT is a volunteer organization powered by partnerships with local, state and federal governments and other volunteer organizations. TREAT (one of Australia’s top 25 restoration projects) and its governmental partners have formed a full-service restoration practice. TREAT secures funding from state and federal governments and partners with local and regional groups to restore plant communities in Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area tropical rainforests. (TREAT’s work is done under the auspices of the Wet Tropics Management Authority.)
TREAT also assists private landowner applicants by cost sharing as a partner in the grant application. TREAT coordinates, sponsors and finds funding for a range of other programs such as the Threatened Species Network, and the Weed Spotters Network which trains people to identify, find and map outbreaks of invasive species.
Land Use Changes
Land use changes in the Tablelands raise concerns not only about habitat loss but also about water quality because of increased nutrients from fertilizer and manure runoff, chemicals from pesticide and herbicide applications and erosion and silting of streams and trampling of stream corridors by cattle. Because of this TREAT officials view their work both as a land management exercise and as a tree-planting program. TREAT promotes improved water quality through a series of workshops that offer talks on monitoring and water quality sampling. TREAT also provides landowners with incentives to do simple things—such as installing silt traps, rehabilitating wetlands, and planting corridor buffers with appropriate tree species that exclude cattle from waterways—to improve the quality of water in streams on their own property.
In a typical year TREAT nurseries produce, and volunteers plant, thousands of tropical rainforest trees. Staff of the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency use their technical knowledge and indigenous people contribute their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of the tropical forest to collect the fruits and design the seed and planting mixes. TREAT volunteers clean the seeds, sow them and care for the seedlings until they are ready for out-planting.
In February and March of 2006 for example, TREAT volunteers planted just over 7,000 trees along Peterson Creek, a stream corridor restoration designed to serve as a habitat corridor between two tropical forest remnants. This work is typical of the shire-based Wet Tropics Tree Planting Scheme and has been widely practiced since the wet tropics received World Heritage status in 1988.
Restoration Implementation Using The Rainforest Model
Plant species that are key building blocks and drivers of ecosystem function are missing from some of the fragmented and cut over Wet Tropics World Heritage Area’s rainforests. Also missing is the structural complexity, diversity of life forms (trees, shrubs and vines) and various forms of litter that indicate active nutrient cycling, a key ecosystem function. The restoration strategy is to plant the building blocks or framework species that attract the birds that introduce and disperse species. Restorationists use the existing remnants such as those found at the Curtain Fig as “repair guides” that provide important clues about the structure and composition of original ecosystem. The restored forest then expands upon, and buffers, the remnants, reduces edge, and creates “stepping stones” or links in fauna dispersal and habitat corridors that lead to even more dispersal and establishment of rainforest flora.
One endangered type of Australian rainforest that benefits from this restoration strategy is Mabi Forest—a structurally complex forest known for its vines—which is now down to about 2% of original extent. This isolation has implications for maintaining and restoring wildlife habitat because of loss of important food plants, and fragmented habitat, which disrupts migration routes and isolates breeding populations.
The Mabi Forest is important habitat for several rare animal species such as the Lumholtz tree kangaroo, a pocket-sided marsupial and over 114 species of birds, including the ostrich-sized Southern Cassowary. The cassowary’s population (as of 2010) was only 1,200 to 2,500 individuals and efforts are underway to restore a habitat corridor along the coast and throughout the Tablelands. The Cassowary’s population decline is thought to be due in part to fragmented breeding habitat caused by agriculture and grazing, and loss of important food plants because of deforestation.
Next Time: Lessons Learned from TREAT
Minnetrista means “gathering place by the waters”, in this case the White River that flows through Muncie in central Indiana. Minnetrista is also the name of the home of the F.C.Ball family, the folks who gave their name to Ball jars, Ball State University and the I.U. Health Memorial Hospital in Muncie.
I visited Minnetrista in July of 2012 not just to see the Ball Mansion and to view antique canning jars, but also to visit with Horticulture Manager Dustin Stillinger and see the extensive gardens and natural areas at Minnetrista that he manages.
Dustin gave me a wonderful tour of the Minnetrista campus on a pleasant morning in July of 2012. While the formal themed gardens were gorgeous and meticulously maintained, what really caught my attention was the natural area and the numerous green infrastructure features were designed into the landscape–not added as an afterthought.
Below are photographs I took that day of just a few of the striking landscape features to slow down and infiltrate rainfall.
The green infrastructure features are both functional and attractive.
Sometimes a bit of grey infrastructure can be turned green.
Dustin Stillinger and his staff should be justifiably proud of the thoughtful and gentle way they care for the land at Minnetrista.