Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Summer "Vacation"

Mom and I -- surrounded by a few dozen of my immediate family -- all of whom are joining me and Standing for Something Great
(photo taken in early August back at the family farm at our 19th annual Kraus Camp Out reunion weekend)

We are now inside ten days before our kids are back in school (which will be a full week, if not two, later than most have returned). Per usual, summer has absolutely flown by. Long days and late sunsets, lots of activity and some extended travel, and lots of writing -- for various grants and permits -- have largely put me on an unofficial . . . and unintended . . . summer "vacation" from both the blog and social media. It's high time I provide some updates because there has been PLENTY going on . . .

One of a variety of wetland habitats sprinkled
into the often arid Colorado Rockies
in summer (photo taken just outside
Silverton, CO in July)
Since day one of this project, I've said we are never going to be satisfied with treading water; we are always going to strive to be moving ahead, making improvements to the property and, where possible, the surrounding community. In 2015, we set a goal of accomplishing 1-2 "major projects" each calendar year. Over the last several years, this has translated to an average of two larger-scale initiatives each field season. Typically, at least one of these projects has required permitting through the US Army Corps of Engineers and other affiliated agencies. And whenever and wherever possible, we seek funding assistance to get the job done efficiently and done right.

With just over four months remaining in 2019, we are on-track to complete as many as SEVEN major projects at Standing Rush this calendar year:
(1) completion of what we call "Structure 1" -- the primary water conveyance structure to the West Marsh;
(2) re-armoring of over 1,000 linear feet of our bayfront ("exterior") dike;
(3) rehabilitation of 3,000 linear feet of earthen berm that makes up our southern boundary on the West Marsh;
(4) rehabilitation of more than 1,000 linear feet of interior berm to augment #2 above (awaiting final permitting approval -- haven't written about this one yet);
(5) rehabilitation of 2,000 linear feet of interior berm to augment restoration activities begun in 2016 (awaiting final permitting approval -- again, haven't written about this one yet);
(6) completion of what we call "Structure 2" -- the second phase of #1 above that will further enhance connections between the West Marsh & Sandusky Bay (slated for construction Sept-Nov); and,
(7) permanent legal protection of an additional ~200 acres of coastal marsh habitat through the USDA's Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) program.

News just came yesterday that ~200 acres
of our West Marsh have been officially
selected for funding through the USDA's
Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) Program
Clearly, there has been a lot going on. And clearly, there is plenty still to do on this list. The complexity of all these moving parts has been amplified by the fact that Roy was away for the last couple weeks of June and I was away for the first couple weeks of July (on a family road trip to Colorado). When you are a staff of two, this has a profound impact. But both of us needed to get away.

As with so much of the work that we do, success is predicated on persistence, collaboration, patience, talented subcontractors, good communication, and good fortune . . . or some would say, dumb luck. Weather is a constant wild card -- as is persistent high water (a reality that is apt to last well into 2020). Permitting is often largely out of our control -- at least after the application is submitted. And there is a chronology that often creates a chain reaction of cascading consequences -- intended or unintended -- as each project evolves.

But we feel generally fortunate as to where things currently stand. We continue to feel very much supported by federal, state and local partners. People are paying attention to our efforts (which isn't critical, but it's certainly helpful if they can help in the collaboration). [In fact, at one point last month, I was compelled to book a flight home from Colorado because Governor DeWine was planning to pay us a visit. That outing had to be postponed because of a stubborn budget process, but we did get the opportunity to show a US EPA representative around the property.)

TPS instructor Laura Kubiak took Standing Rush's
message with her all the way to Alaska this summer
And yet with all the progress taking place on the ground, what I'm perhaps most excited about is what's currently happening from our collective desktops.

Just yesterday, we received official acceptance into another round of WRE funding (see #7 above). This means we were one of perhaps a dozen properties from the entire state of Ohio that was selected for enrollment in the USDA's perpetual easement program. While we haven't yet "closed" on the easement (think real estate transaction), things seem to be aligning favorably such that we could in a matter of months. To see how important this is in the fulfillment of our broader mission, see the announcement of our first easement, which closed this past May. There is a ton of paperwork involved in this process, but the long-term benefit to the property far outweighs the headache, at least from our perspective.

Speaking of paperwork, much of my time recently has been spent developing a comprehensive plan that is intended to both guide and prioritize future management improvement projects and attract additional funding and technical partnership opportunities. This will remain a primary focus for me for the better part of the next couple months. It will mean a lot less time in the field, but I promise I'll keep on Roy to take lots of pictures. And as the sun sets earlier and we get back into an autumn routine, I promise to be posting more!

Three nieces "spreading the gospel" at Machu Picchu, Peru (photo by Ellen Dziubek Photography) --
remember to submit your photos in Standing Rush gear for a chance to win a tour of the marsh --
shop "marsh merch" here