Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Here We Go Again -- Structure 2 Underway! (Update #1)

Site overview for Structure 2, looking west/southwest in Standing Rush's West Marsh;
40-acre Rest Pond in the foreground, 145-acre Main Marsh in middle, and Sandusky Bay in background

While equipment and building materials have been mobilizing on-site for going on three weeks now, our second new "water conveyance structure" (a.k.a. "Structure 2") is finally starting to look like something. "Structure 1" -- completed this past January -- connects Sandusky Bay to our West Marsh. The challenge is that it only provides ideal connectivity to the most adjacent management unit.

While we received the official green light on Structure 2 about a month ago,
the last few weeks have focused on mobilizing equipment and raw materials
(above: steel sheet piling being off-loaded from flatbed along highway)
When complete, Structure 2 will be an approximately 6' wide x 8' deep x 45' long steel and concrete, open-topped conduit (essentially, a simplified version of Structure 1) that will serve as connection between our 40-acre "Rest Pond" (adjacent to the bay) and the 145-acre "Main Marsh" on west side. As it stands today, any water exchange between these two units is limited to passage within 40-feet of 18-inch PVC pipe.

This immensely improved connection will encourage much broader access and use by a diverse population of fish species that benefit from moving in and out of the marsh. It will also allow us to convey much larger volumes of water across the entire site as we work to tie agricultural and surface water runoff (from the south) into the marsh.

Steel sheet piling lying in wait (Rest Pond to left; Main Marsh to right); Structure 2 will be built through this earthen
berm that was completely reconstructed by Standing Rush in 2016
With modest coffer dams in place and surveying complete, the trench within which Structure 2 will be built was cut
late last week (Rest Pond in background)
Temporary steel H-pile was placed last Friday as a guide
for the placement of the sheet-pile walls
(click here for a visual of  how it will eventually look)
Think improved water quality. Typical flows are south to north at the site, So Structure 2 will complete the structural infrastructure needed to "fully reconnect the kidneys." To complete the metaphor, as water from fields and ditches can be diverted into the upstream (south) end of the marsh, it can now gradually work its way downstream (north) through nearly 200-acres of wetland and near-shore estuary before entering the open bay. This significantly increased natural filtration area will provide dramatically  increased residence time, giving time for solids and particulates (which add to turbidity) an opportunity to settle out. Flow-through will also subject macronutrients like derivatives of both phosphorus and nitrogen (the biggest contributors to algae issues in the open bay and lake) to ideal conditions for uptake within the wetland footprint. Our mantra is we would rather "grow bigger cattails" than have those otherwise available fertilizers/nutrients bypass the marsh and enter directly into Lake Erie (to grow algae).

This project was originally conceived and proposed for funding in the spring of 2017. Funds were secured through GLRI (federal dollars) and ODNR (state dollars) for Structure 1 just over a year ago and construction took about five months (September - January). We kept at it over this past winter, resubmitted for Structure 2, and received confirmation this past spring of a second round of funding (utilizing the same awesome team of collaborators) that will allow us to complete Structure 2. Our goal -- especially consider this simplified design involves no pump, no electricity, and significantly fewer parts -- is to have this project buttoned up well before the snow flies. With temps continuing to bounce from the 50s or 60s at night into the 70s, 80s, and even the 90s, that seems a long ways away. But as we know too well, you can never count on the weather.