November 30, 2015
Kate Gazzo, M.S.
In September, Great Ecology staff attended the State of the Estuary Conference in Oakland which is focused on the current health of the Estuary. The San Francisco Estuary, the largest estuary along the Americas western coast, supports an abundance of life, including 18 million California residents. The Estuary is comprised of the San Francisco Bay and the Delta – a network of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries. The 2015 State of the Estuary Report (a significant component of the conference) summarizes the most recent research and ecological trends for the Bay and Delta. According to the report, the condition of the San Francisco Bay and the condition of the Delta differ. The ecological status of the Delta is degraded and in a declining state as a result of water diversions and decreased freshwater inflows. The San Francisco Bay on the other hand has received years of restoration and attention and is much healthier; however, large areas, especially marsh, are jeopardized by sea-level rise.
What factors have caused the Estuary to be in decline?
The Delta has been in a state of artificial drought for over fifty years (San Francisco Estuary Partnership 2015). Diversion of freshwater flows to the south for municipal and agricultural use have led to decreased freshwater entering the Bay and saltwater intrusion. Freshwater flows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers historically entered the delta, mixed with saltwater, and created abundant brackish water habitat; they also delivered sediment that created and sustained marsh habitat along the Bay-Delta. Over time, as less fresh water has entered the system, the salinity gradient, also known as the X2 gradient, has migrated further into the Delta and increased the salinity of these areas, altering habitat conditions for species such as Bay shrimp (San Francisco Estuary Partnership 2015). Additionally, little sediment is now imported under the low flow conditions across the Bay and Delta. In the face of climate change and sea-level rise, existing tidal marshes in the Bay Area are expected to flood and transition to open water habitat. Because the North and Central Bays are highly developed, there is little room upslope migration of marshes (San Francisco Estuary Partnership 2015).
How is the drought affecting the Estuary?
The Bay-Delta/Estuary is facing a slew of problems including, projected sea-level rise between 2-5 ft., increasing water and air temperatures, salinity intrusion, and less water in spring and summer due to decreased snowpack (San Francisco Estuary Partnership 2015). However, the most pressing problem this year appeared to be a lack of water caused by continued water diversions coupled with extensive drought. The current drought is considered one of the worst on record due to the combination of minimal precipitation and historically unmatched high temperatures (MacDonald 2015). The combination of artificial human-induced drought and natural drought have led to a fraction of freshwater flows the Estuary typically receives under a normal water years, resulting in minimal water to be shared among fish, birds, farms, and municipalities.
How can we improve conditions in the Estuary?
With El Niño predicted to bring intense precipitation across California in 2016, some relief in the Estuary may be provided next year by increased river flows; nonetheless, flows will become increasingly inconsistent in forthcoming years as the frequency of floods and droughts becomes more variable. While many models indicate precipitation will increase across California, drought is also expected to be more frequent. Strategies to adapt to an uncertain climate future in the Estuary emerged at this year’s Conference. These strategies included:
G. MacDonald. “Drought, Demography, and Conservation in 21st Century California”. State of the Estuary Conference. Oakland, CA. September 2, 2015.
San Francisco Estuary Partnership. 2015. State of the Estuary 2015. Oakland, CA.
October 30, 2015
On October 27, 2015, Woodbridge Township Mayor, John E. McCormac, introduced the public access groundbreaking event at the Woodbridge Waterfront Park. This important milestone, attended by the Woodbridge Redevelopment Agency, the Brownfields Development Area Steering Committee, Great Ecology and other members of the development team, signified the site’s transition from restoration efforts to the construction of trails, boardwalks, and an overlook structure which will provide valued public access to the site and views of the Raritan River. The overlook structure, conceived and designed by Great Ecology, will initiate the series of construction activities slated for the public access element of the project.
Learn more about Great Ecology’s work supporting the Woodbridge Waterfront Park Restoration.Leave a comment
August 14, 2015
Great Ecology’s President, Dr. Mark Laska and VP, Technical Services, Timothy Hoelzle are heading to the SER World Congress next week, August 23-27. The bi-annual conference unites leading practitioners, researchers, and government agencies focused on ecological restoration from across the world.
We are thrilled to be a part of this year’s event as both Dr. Laska and Mr. Hoelzle are chairing sessions and presenting restoration best practices and innovative projects.
Monday, August 24:
Mr. Hoelzle joins Dr. Aida Farag of the U.S. Geological Society to lead two symposia on Monday and Tuesday.
For the first symposium, Mr. Hoelzle and Dr. Farag will lead a session on Restoration and monitoring for success for lands and aquatic systems impacted by resource extraction (SY10; Monday @ 10:30). This session will focus on identifying constraints and opportunities for restoration of drastically disturbed environments with a focus on regulatory issues, novel reclamation methodologies, and economic modeling approaches. Mr. Hoelzle will present opinions on reclamation and restoration of lands where selenium issues are of concern (SY10.4). In addition, Dr. Laska joins the session to present how creative solutions driven by ecology can be applied to achieve beneficial re-use for underutilized properties (SY10.1).
The second symposium, Restoration of impaired ecosystems: An ounce of prevention or a pound of cure?, will present the results of the SETAC-SER Technical Workgroup meeting in summer 2014 (SY22; Tuesday @ 1:10). This Workgroup united top scientists and practitioners to develop best practices for the integration of remediation and restoration of contaminated ecosystems. The session will focus on the key findings on restoration goal setting, implementation, monitoring, and important pitfalls, which will also be published in an upcoming journal issue of Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management.
Tuesday, August 25
Our cities are becoming more populated and worldwide cities are making a push to increase urban green spaces. In the Oral Presentations O24 session, Dr. Laska stresses the core features of successful urban restoration projects. The challenge, create highly functioning and resilient ecosystems in the face of competing pressures. Join Dr. Laska to learn the best practices for the urban, hybrid ecosystems. It all starts with location!
1605 Oral Presentations O24 EXCHANGE 8
Moderators: Mark S. Laska, Ph.D. and Louise Egerton-Warburton, USA
Theme: Participation and Urban Restoration Urban restoration
O24.1 Designing for function and resiliency: using science to enhance habitat and enrich the landscape experience M.S. Laska, Ph.D., Great Ecology, San Diego, USA
O24.2 Transforming the Way Children Learn to Care and Act about Endangered Species S.S. Burnes, L. C. Jones, Captain Planet Foundation, Atlanta, USA
O24.3 Prescribed Goat Browsing at the University of Georgia (USA): Contexts, goals, impacts, and advantages E.G. King1,2, E.A. MacDonald3 – 1Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia,Athens, USA, 2Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, USA, 3College of Environment and Design, University of Georgia, Athens, USA
O24.4 Should we sweat the small stuff? Restoration and management effects on litter decomposition and microbial functioning in the Chicago Wilderness L.M. Egerton-Warburton1, L.G. Umek1,2 – 1Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, USA, 2Program in Plant Biology and Conservation, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA
O24.5 The Formal and the Informal City in Africa: Planning and Governance Dilemmas G.I. Nwaka, Humanities and Social Sciences, Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria
Check out one, both, or all of their talks!
Contact us to set up a meeting with Dr. Laska or Mr. Hoelzle at SER World.Leave a comment
July 15, 2015
Integrating the built and natural environments, the newly completed Croton Water Filtration Plant is a now providing water to New York City. With the capacity to filter 290 million gallons of water per day, approximately 1/3 of the City’s water needs, the Plant is New York City’s first filtration plant and the result of an interdisciplinary project team.
The City receives the majority of its water from nearby reservoirs, providing the largest unfiltered water supply in the U.S. and earning the City’s reputation for the cleanest drinking water. However, due to development within the Croton Watershed, water quality deteriorated and in 1998 the City was required to build a filtration plant to meet federal drinking water requirements.
To reduce the footprint of the Plant, one of the City’s largest infrastructure projects, it is built approximately 80-feet below ground in Van Cortlandt Park and includes a 9-acre green roof – the Mosholu Golf Course driving range. The team used green infrastructure and water resource management best practices to solve key challenges of how to collect, filter, and store water on site. The result of a creative collaboration between regulators, architects, and ecologists, the design minimizes the discharge of stormwater and groundwater into the sewer system by on-site treatment using constructed wetlands and bioswales benefiting the surrounding ecosystems.
The multi-billion dollar project has been a long time in the making, from the initial concept designs to excavation to construction and planting to flowing water.
The project was led by the Hazyen and Sawyer/ Metcalf & Eddy Joint Venture. Great Ecology supported the Grimshaw Architects Team along with Rana Creek, Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect, Atelier Ten, and Sherwood Design Engineers.
Below are just a few of our top images from the project.Leave a comment
June 23, 2015
The final rule of the Clean Water Act’s definition of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) was issued on May 27, 2015. Initially proposed last year, the changes will go into effect shortly. Project managers and landowners need to understand how the revised ruling will affect their projects.
10 Second Summary
Impetus for the Rule change
The motivation was based around confusion over the definition of Waters of the U.S. jurisdiction following court rulings, including Solid Waste agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States.
Key Aspects of the Rule Change
The new rule outlines 8 categories of waters, 6 of which are jurisdictional by rule, and 2 of which are subject to significant nexus tests. The two which are subject to test are:
Another change, revised the definition “tributary” water of a traditionally navigable water, which is currently jurisdictional. Per the definition, a tributary must have physical signs or features of flow – defined bed and bank, and an ordinary high water mark (OHWM).
Implementation of the Rule
There is a grandfathering provision for transitioning to the new rule from the old one. JDs (jurisdictional determinations) that are submitted prior to the posting of the new rule in the Federal Register may use the old rules. The new rule will be effective 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
In a panel discussion hosted by the Environmental Law Institute government officials and legal advisors discussed industry, NGO, and agency perspectives. We recap select key points below, and you can listen to the full panel discussion on C-Span.
Industry Perspective on the Rule
The main issue from the industry representative is that the rules are largely unchanged relative to defining jurisdiction, and in particular to the definition of “tributary”. The agencies still use the OHWM (ordinary high water mark) method, which is problematic and broad, and may lead to regulation of a variety of water conveyances.
The distance threshold is also problematic. If any part of a feature is within the 4,000-ft threshold and is connected, the whole feature is regulated.
Portions of exclusions in the new rules are problematic. Erosional features are excluded, but only if they lack a defined bed and bank, stream features, and an OHWM. There may be difficulty distinguishing erosional features, ephemeral streams, and ephemeral ditches.
Certain features created in dry land are excluded, but there is no agreed upon definition of “dry land”. Artificial water features may or may not be jurisdictional depending on whether they were created in dry land, which must be proven historically.
A representative from the Natural Resources Defense Council was largely in favor of the changes. He noted disappointment with an exclusion for isolated wetlands, which he explained are mostly excluded from jurisdiction (as long as there is no connection to traditionally navigable water or tributaries).
Dry Land Exclusion & OHWM Discussion
The panel discussed the dry land exclusion, which the industry representative suggested may affect features such as green infrastructure. For example, a stormwater swale created to capture water may take on wetland characteristics over time, which may result in this feature becoming jurisdictional over time if it can’t be proven that the feature was created in dry land. The EPA insisted that the likelihood of losing tract of the history of these features is unlikely.
OHWM has regional variability. The EPA suggested that adding presence of “physical features” will help to add clarity to determining jurisdictional streams. The USACE panelist indicated that the USACE will provide resources, including manuals, to help make these determinations.
Additional reference: The National Law ReviewLeave a comment
June 18, 2015
Great Ecology is thrilled to be the Environmental Business Journal’s Achiever of the Week!
Each week the EBJ highlights one of the 2014 Business Achievement Award Winners. Great Ecology was recognized in the for our 21% growth rate and year end revenue of $4.6M in 2014. This is Great Ecology’s second year as a Business Achievement awardee, receiving the Bronze Medal for Small Firms in 2013.Leave a comment
June 17, 2015
Phragmites australis, everyone’s favorite invasive species and found on almost all wetland restoration projects. Recovery of Phragmites dominated areas, requires knowing what treatment options are available, how the selected treatment will impact recovery, and the likelihood of success.
Our Associate Ecologist, Zak Lehmann, shares new research, trends, and developments surrounding Phragmites removal and recovery presented at the 2015 Society for Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting.
We know Phragmites is more productive both above and belowground – crushing native plant communities. This increased productivity means they have a higher nitrogen demand. However, they are able to thrive in nutrient-limited ecosystems – how? Justin Meschter of Northeastern University answered this question in the session, Deeply Rooting Phragmites Australis Utilizes Deep N Pools to Circumvent Competition with Native Species and Meet Higher Aboveground Nitrogen Demands.
What happens to land after removing Phragmites and how easily can the land recover itself? Eric Hazelton of Utah State University presented 5-years of monitoring data after Phragmites removal from study site in Chesapeake Bay. Key findings presented in the session, Tidal Phragmites Marshes Have Diverse Native Seed Banks: What is Limiting Recruitment After the Invader is Removed:
What this means for restoration projects: Gradual elimination of these types of habitats may be better at promoting native recovery instead of a single, holistic elimination.
Another study detailed the effects of various removal treatments used along the Great Salt Lake. The study applied removal treatments at two scales; smaller 1-acre plots, newer Phragmites invasion, and 3-acre plots of older well-established invasives.
Removal treatments applied to both scales (1-4):
Used on the smaller test plots (plus treatments 1-4 above)
Study presented by Christine Rohal, University of Utah. Session: Phragmites Management at Multiple Scales: Method Comparisons on the Great Salt Lake.
An evaluation of the genet richness (a measure of genetic diversity) of Phragmites found in the Great Salt Lake and Chesapeake Bay wetlands found that:
Study presented by Karin Kettenring, Utah State University. Session: Patterns of Phragmites Clonal Diversity Across Space, Time and Management Regimes.
When selecting removal methods, it’s important to know and understand which techniques will promote natural recruitment. A more general discussion tied together ideas discussed above.
June 3, 2015
Sea level rise is not evenly distributed globally. The coastline of western North America has not faced the same level of challenges of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts but addressing and adapting to sea level rise in California is a top priority. The 2015 Coastal Symposium united leaders in coastal resiliency planning from municipalities, state and federal agencies, academia, and the private sector. Our Director of Ecology and California native, Nick Buhbe, attended the symposium and shares his top take-aways ranging from notable coastal projects to adaptive planning tools already in use.
Leading researcher and consultant, Dr. Reinhard E. Flick of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, shared his extensive research in coastal processes including sea level rise (SLR), effects of tides and storm surge, and coastal erosion.
Based on what is known from studies of the polar regions, there is already 30-40 feet of SLR which “baked in” to the climate change which is unavoidable; the question is how fast will the SLR be realized.
Changes will not be overnight, but the effects are likely to be driven by chance coincidence of storm surges and high tide events. At low tide, effects of storm surges or large wave events will be relatively muted. However, when the high wave events or storm surges occur over long periods of time or match with “king tides,” the effects will be significant as areas not usually inundated become flooded.
The California Coastal Commission’s Draft Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance is a framework addressing sea level rise in Local Coastal Programs (LCPs) and Coastal Development Permits (CDPs). Specifically, it details how the State intends to apply the California Coastal Act, the primary coastal management law to address land use, public access and recreation, and the protection of coast and ocean resources.
Following sessions presented case studies of Local Seas Level Rise Adaptation Planning Projects funded by the California Coastal Conservancy, Coastal Commission and Ocean Protection Council. Key take-aways from the case studies:
Where we are:
We’ve built many models and used them and other tools to inform vulnerability.
Where were going:
Vulnerability studies and adaptation pathway analyses have been used to develop site-specific projects, which have been implemented and are in the process of being evaluated for lessons learned.
Of particular interest to Great Ecology’s coastal scientists was the Thin Layer Salt Marsh Sediment Augmentation Project.
We know successful resiliency projects may include artificial reefs, tidal marsh enhancements, living or soft shorelines, and dunes. However, there are still a few big questions remaining:
An Orange County pilot study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Prado Dam is currently under consideration to study one application of this idea.
Presenters advised although SLR and climate change are often met with skepticism, communicating the importance of protecting infrastructure and responsible taxpayer fund management has been well received.
As we know sea level rise and resiliency planning and adaption are highly complex. Currently in California, pilot projects are being implemented at the local levels, and the lessons learned from these first steps will greatly inform what tools can be effectively implemented to minimize catastrophic effects.Leave a comment
May 13, 2015
Today, resiliency and New York City are deeply intertwined. Last week the Waterfront Alliance (WA) (formerly the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance) hosted their annual Waterfront Conference. With speakers and attendees from all sectors, discussions focused on new approaches, ideas, and best practices for waterfront resiliency and development. Our Director of Design, Linda Gumeny, RLA and Associate Landscape Architect, Carl Carlson attended and share their top take-aways.
Key themes throughout the day:
This has been a growing trend in the landscape architecture field and the basis of Great Ecology’s approach (ecology + design).
The overarching topic of the day, particularly new ferry links for low income and disconnected neighborhoods, a cornerstone of Mayor DeBlasio’s five-borough ferry service initiative.
Several presenters emphasized the importance of understanding and acknowledging true experts of a community are those who live within it – they need to be involved in any planning or design process.
The consensus is engineers need to work with landscape architects and ecologists to develop hybrid green/gray alternatives. Each project location is unique and presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. There is no one size fits all solution for resiliency.
Developing, designing, and implementing resiliency measures requires a collaborative, integrated approach blending all disciplines from engineering, to design to ecology. We need to plan for the future and layer in resiliency planning from sea-level rise to drier climates into all projects to ensure long-term success.
Waterfront Alliance President and CEO, Roland Lewis, sums it up perfectly; “At the waterfront, it’s all about collaboration. We learn from each other and challenge each other—and our collective wisdom results in better, more inclusive decisions for our coastal communities.”
As practioners we need to understand how we can adapt best practices and creative approaches to different waterfronts and coastal environments. Which lessons learned from New York City can be applied to San Diego or San Francisco? How about New Orleans? What can each city teach us for the others?
The upcoming Coastal Symposium in San Diego, CA is focused on understanding and applying lessons learned. Stay tuned for our next take-aways after attending and exhibiting at the conference.Leave a comment
May 12, 2015
Associate Ecologist, Dr. Jill McGrady joins the 2015 SERCAL Conference as a presenter in the Urban Restoration session on Wednesday, May 13. Dr. McGrady’s presentation, Innovative Remediation and Habitat Restoration Approaches on Corporate Lands, uses a case study of the Woodbridge Waterfront Park in New Jersey, one of Great Ecology’s signature projects.
Her discussion highlights how corporate landowners can successfully manage complex remediation and restoration projects on contaminated sites using best industry practices that focus on connectivity to the habitat, partnership with the community and stakeholders, and innovative ecological approaches. The presentation will also include a look at Great Ecology’s innovative mitigation design which saved the client millions of dollars in compensatory regulatory charges and returned public connectivity to the Raritan River.
SERCAL 2015, “Restoration for the Next Generation” is the 22nd annual conference of the California Society for Ecological Restoration, which will focus on industry topics such as urban restoration, mitigation banking, wetlands restoration, grasslands, restoration for special-status plant species, and expanding restoration.
Join Great Ecology’s President and Founder, Dr. Mark S. Laska and Dr. Jill McGrady at the 2015 SERCAL Conference this week in San Diego, CA.
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