With a little low-tech mucking around down-drainage from the springs and seeps many of us have on our Driftless properties, there are real habitat-enhancing rewards awaiting!
Helping to enhance and create wetlands does a lot of good … from providing important habitat to reducing nutrient runoff and replenishing groundwater. And, what is really fun is that a person can accomplish so much of this with just a few hours of work and by following the guidance from Utah State University Restoration Consortium’s “Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes,” hereafter referred to as LTPBR.
This LTPBR approach focuses on building Post-Assisted Log Structures of various sorts in order to add complexity and hydrologic inefficiency to water conveyance. One of the Consortium’s stated principles, applicable here to the subject of enhancing wetlands, is: “Hydrologic inefficiency is the hallmark of a healthy system. More diverse residence times for water can attenuate potentially damaging floods, fill up valley bottom sponges, and slowly release that water later, elevating baseflow and producing critical ecosystem services.” There are innumerable sites here in the Driftless where this principle and these techniques can be applied.
The Consortium’s primary techniques are Post-Assisted Log Structures, or PALS. One is the Beaver Dam Analogue (BDA) that was mentioned in my last blog entitled “Helping Beavers Help Us.” Other PALS relevant to creating and enhancing wetlands are: Bank-Attached PALS, Channel-Spanning PALS, and Mid-Channel PALS.
Here in the Driftless, we have countless springs and seeps along the bases of our hillsides. I had one such series of springs and seeps at the base of a hill when I bought my property 19 years ago. The area was broadly wet and full of skunk cabbage, water cress, and marsh marigold. I needed rubber boots or got wet feet to cross it back then. However, over the interceding wet years, the water cut more deeply into the valley floor and created an 18” deep and far more direct drainage channel to the West Fork. The surrounding area has dried up, been overtaken by reed canary, grown far less diverse, and just plain gotten ugly. In fact, Tracy Hames of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association visited and referred to my formerly sweet, little spring-fed meander as having become nothing more than an ag drainage ditch! I was chagrinned. The entries that follow will describe my efforts to restore this little wetland.
Post-Assisted Log Structure under construction
Post-Assisted Log Structure at work
If you have even a vague interest in any of this, please check out Utah State University Restoration Consortium’s web site: www.lowtechpbr.restoration.usu.edu for the full scoop and the rationale behind this approach. Though much of that work pertains to western waterways, their PALS techniques are applicable to the non-navigable waters and springs and seeps that are the subject of the wetland enhancement efforts I will detail in the blog entries to follow. Also, if you wish to proceed with any of this, I highly recommend purchasing their inexpensive little LTPBR Pocket Field Guide. It is full of excellent instructions and diagrams … can be used to spell your plan-of-work right out … so fun.