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481 Mitigation Project: Ontario Watershed

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Contact:
Kelli Alfano,
Public Affairs Coordinator
734/623-2000 or kalfano@ducks.org

481 Mitigation Project:
Ducks Unlimited Works With the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to Restore Key Wildlife Habitat in Lake Ontario Watershed

Syracuse, NY – April 10, 2006 – In continuing their work to conserve, preserve and restore wetlands, Ducks Unlimited’s (DU) Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office has identified the Lake Ontario watershed, which encompasses the low-lying lake plain habitat and stretches across western, central, and northern New York, as a high priority area for conservation work. DU’s goal in the focus area is to improve the quality of wetland and associated upland habitat, and to address habitat restoration needs surrounding the focus area to decrease fragmentation.

An important project in the Lake Ontario watershed is the 481-mitigation project, located off of I-481 in Syracuse, NY. The project is scheduled for completion during the summer of 2006.

DU has worked with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the on this project.

“The greatest shortcoming of this site, as it existed, was lack of topsoil in the basin area. Without topsoil, wetland vegetation that benefits waterfowl and other wetland birds could not develop. Add to this the fact that the old water control structure was vandalized, and conditions were ripe for Phragmites to flourish,” said Ducks Unlimited Biologist, Peter Gibbs. “Ducks used the pool, but not to the extent possible were it a healthy emergent marsh. We anticipate increased use by spring and fall migrating waterfowl, including Mallards, Blue-wined teal, and Wood ducks. As the vegetation grows, some ducks may utilize the wetland for brood habitat. Shore birds may utilize the pool along with other species of wetland wildlife.”

According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Senior Wildlife Biologist, Daryl Jenks, “This site was developed as a result of the I- 481 Bypass project. The created wetlands became severely degraded over the 20 years prior to transfer of the property to NYSDEC. Abuse by irresponsible off road drivers, and illegal dumping caused this site to become an eyesore.

Many partners have been involved with this project including USACE, NYSDOT, NYSDEC, National Grid, and adjacent landowners. However, thanks in large part to the experience and technical resources of Ducks Unlimited, the North Pond site has been transformed and is well on the way to becoming a functioning wetland.” Jenks adds, “Collaborating with DU staff, especially Peter Gibbs, continues to be a pleasure as well as a learning experience. I look forward to completion of the North Pond site and an upcoming project on the South Pond.”

The Corp’s permit calls for the establishment of 10-acres of emergent marsh within the 30-acre pool. The first step toward reaching the goal required removal of Phragmites from the basin and adjacent upland areas. Phragmites is an invasive plant that chokes out wetland vegetation that attracts waterfowl and other wildlife. Approximately 18,000 cubic yards of Phragmites laden material was excavated, from within the basin during the winter of 2005. The remaining Phragmites was sprayed with the herbicide RODEO in the fall of 2004 and again in late summer 2005.

Ten acres at the west end of the basin were staked. Eighty-five hundred cubic yards of topsoil, imported from the construction site, were required to cover the area with six inches of soil. The topsoil will provide a medium for establishing a diverse community of wetland vegetation. Some of the imported soil contained wetland seed stock. Ducks Unlimited broadcast additional seed to the soil after it was spread in the fall of 2005. With proper water management, this 10-acre enhancement will develop into a productive emergent marsh. The basin work is 85 percent complete. The remaining topsoil will be spread during the early summer of 2006.

Work on the basin rim was also completed in December 2005. A low section, approximately 300 feet long, was raised using material from within the basin. This will allow the pool water level to be raised for high water management if the need ever arises.

An additional 4,000 cubic yards of material will be brought onto the site this spring. This topsoil will be used to establish a grassland buffer, 33 feet wide. The buffer will ring the entire basin and will be planted with a mix of cool season grasses. It will provide cover for wildlife as well as filter sediment that would otherwise flow into the basin. DU is also responsible for monitoring the site for 10 years, upon completion of the project. One task will be looking for a re-growth of Phragmites and treating it as needed. Monitoring will begin in the summer of 2007.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands ­- nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.

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