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The many uses of the Functional Wetland.

In a recent City council meeting that was held in a small city in northern Wisconsin, a developer was trying to present a plan. This development plan included approximately 16.4 acres of wetland. He was trying to sell the development to the City Council with the consideration of recent changes of the Department of Natural Resource's stormwater requirements.

According to EPA's National Water Quality Inventory: 2000 Report, prepared under Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act, urban stormwater runoff and discharges from storm sewers are a primary cause of impaired water quality in the United States.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources answer was a program called Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES). The ultimate goal of WPDES is to prevent the transportation of pollutants to Wisconsin's water resources via stormwater runoff.

Part of the requirements of WPDES is the replacement of traditional curb and gutter that is typical with street construction to be replaced with shallow grass swales and retention ponds. The concept of this plan is to slowly release the stormwater back into the wetlands through the natural soil filtration. Traditional curb and gutter generally takes all the water collected and dumps it into the rivers without natural or synthetic filtration.

Some of the concerns of the City Council about this type of development were children and the swales, mosquitoes, flooding in basements, sidewalk construction and off-street parking.

To the environmentalist, it is a start of water, soil and wildlife conservation. To the city dweller, it takes them out of a bug free concrete habitat into unfamiliar natural ecosystem. And to the developer it is a double edge sword. One side is that they can't fill in the wetlands to sell more lots. But then on the other side they reduce development costs by using natural sources instead of expensive concrete stormwater control applications.

The EPA estimates urban storm sewer discharge contributes to 13 percent of impaired rivers, 18 percent of impaired lakes, 55 percent of impaired ocean shorelines and 32 percent of impaired estuaries. With this back to natural water filtration outlook the deteriorating water supply could gradually be turned around.

City of Medford Committee of the Whole Meeting Minutes 5/31/05
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources web site.
EPA National Water Quality Inventory: 2000 Report

About the Author:
Kevin Doberstein enjoys wildlife and nature while hiking in the Wisconsin great outdoors. This web site displays outdoor wildlife and nature photography. The Wisconsin Outdoor Recreation and Wildlife Blog is for promoting and protecting nature and wildlife resources in the state of Wisconsin.

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