20 to 22 sites in Berkeley, Jefferson counties will be examined in the study
June 9, 2011
MARTINSBURG - A study of nearly two dozen wetlands in Berkeley and Jefferson counties will get under way soon, and the first two are just outside Martinsburg.
Two adjacent wetlands east of Green Hill Cemetery and squeezed between East Burke Street and CSX railroad tracks will be the first areas examined as part of the study of wetlands throughout the area, Patti Faulkner explained in a telephone interview Wednesday.
She works for the West Virginia University Division of Forestry Environmental Research Center, which is doing the study for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
DNR wants the study done to validate its Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure, Walt Kordek said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Stationed in Elkins, he is assistant chief for wildlife diversity and technical support of the DNR.
The state Department of Environmental Protection must report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the condition of wetlands in West Virginia under the U.S. Clean Water Act, Kordek said.
"Over the past couple of years, we have randomly sampled wetlands across the state and extrapolated the results, applying them to all wetlands, of which there are 50,000," he said. "But we need to validate that against a long-term study, and that's where Patti Faulkner comes in."
There are 16 different functions performed by wetlands that the study will look at, such as nutrient filtration, sediment retention, flood control, animal habitat and biodiversity, he said.
"The data will show how wetlands are functioning," Kordek added.
How a wetland functions is key to the mitigation process if development impacts a wetland, he said.
"It's not acre for acre anymore," Kordek said. "Now, you have to replace the function. If you have a highly functioning wetland for flood attenuation, you have to replace that function. So, we have to measure the function and that's why we need to do the validation study."
Seventy-five percent of the $60,000, three-year project is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the state is covering the balance of the costs, Kordek said.
Faulkner said that most of the sites in the study are small and on private property. The two wetlands off Burke Street are a forested floodplain through which the Tuscarora Creek flows and an emergent area with plants, grasses and sedges.
A small part of the study area is on Martinsburg city property, and Faulkner needs to get permission from the city to do the study on that land. She is on the agenda for today's City Council meeting.
Some of the work Faulkner will be doing at the sites include sticking metal rods into the stream bank to determine the amount of erosion by measuring how much of the rod is exposed and laying ceramic tiles in the wetland and measuring how much sediment builds up on the tiles to determine sediment input.
The study will run through December 2012, she said.
"We'll have one entire growing season," Faulkner said.