Wetland Institute Participant Helps Construct 7 Wetlands

You can’t say that volunteering for the BCWF’s Wetland Education Program doesn’t lead to great opportunities. In July one of our summer volunteer interns, Mike Botic, while volunteering at the Wetlands Institute (WI), was invited to the Quamichan Watershed (Vancouver Island) to witness the construction of several wetlands by Kai Rietzel, a WI participant.

Kai (of the Cowichan Land Trust and the Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society) partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and international wetland construction expert Tom Biebighhauser to create 4 wetlands and 3 smaller, ephemeral wetlands in just three days!

The proposed location was an existing drainage ditch that had been filling with shale sediments originating from a large construction project upstream. Over the years, these deposits had filled the ditch and eventually began to spread onto the land. During peak periods, this shale was also being discharged into Quamichan Lake. Kai’s project originally aimed at building three wetlands to trap the shale sediments, filter excess nitrogen and phosphorous, and provide wildlife habitat.

The two excavator operators were working on wetlands for the first time but thanks to Kai’s experience with excavators at the Wetland Institute and Tom’s expertise, they soon got the hang of things. The first wetland was primarily created to filter the shale, while the second targeted excess nitrogen and phosphorous that could originate from nearby agricultural practices.

Kai and Tom were careful to construct the wetlands so water would not overflow onto the land. As the excavator operator became more comfortable he became more creative, adding natural meanders and pools to create a more natural appearance. As Tom tends to do with Wetland creation, he decided to be creative himself, implementing a technique he had never tried: taking the excess brush amassed through construction and buying it in the wetland.  Not only would this sequester some carbon, but it would also stimulate nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

An excavator transplants Skunk Cabbage, a plant commonly found in wetlands.

By the end of the second day, two wetlands had been created and littered with coarse woody debris. The first wetland was already filling with water and attracting multiple dragonflies and damselflies. Tom Biebigheuser explained that these two wetlands were constructed with the natural, gradual slope of the area to create a more natural flow, decreasing construction work and allowing for a more natural appearance.

Mike unfortunately had to leave that evening, but later learned that Tom and Kai were able to not only complete their 3 wetlands, but created a 4th plus 3 smaller, ephemeral wetlands. Talk about exceeding your goals!

Congratulations on your success, Kai!

This project was undertaken with the support of Nature Conservancy of Canada , EcoACTION, Vancouver Foundation, and the Public Conservation Assistance Fund.

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