County road commission ‘banking’ on wetlands

Jim Iwanicki

MARQUETTE — The board of Marquette County Road Commission at a special meeting Wednesday voted to move forward with the wetland banking grant application approval process for two sites.

The two grants were awarded to the road commission by the Michigan Wetland Board for Local Transportation Agencies for preliminary engineering work on the Diorite Pit and the Republic Sand Pit to determine if the areas are good candidates for becoming wetlands.

The board hopes work funded by the grants will ultimately result in the two sites being turned into wetlands for future wetland mitigation needs, which refers to the replacement of wetland functions by creating or restoring wetlands, with goals of replacing wetland functions such as flood storage and protecting water quality.

“These are for future projects where we will have wetland impacts, where state and federal law will require us to mitigate for those wetland impacts, so what we’re trying to do is get ahead of the game here by hopefully creating wetland areas at these two existing gravel pits …. (and) reuse the land after we take out the gravel at these locations, make that piece of land useable as a wetland and allow us to do projects that have wetland impacts,” Jim Iwanicki, engineer manager at the Marquette County Road Commission, said.

The grants received are for preliminary engineering work on the two areas.

“They’re both similar grants, where they are grants to allow us to do some preliminary engineering to see if those two pit areas will be successful in turning into wetlands,” Iwanicki said.

Due to the approval of the grants, the board also awarded a professional service agreement for preliminary engineering work at each site during the meeting, based on proposals the board received.

The grant received for the work on the Diorite pit was $14,950, which will cover the cost the service agreement awarded to TriMedia for preliminary engineering for the project, at a cost of $13,870.

For the Republic sand pit, a grant of $19,908 was awarded, which will cover the cost of the service agreement awarded to Coleman Engineering for preliminary engineering for the project at a cost of $18,828.

“They’re going to put some ground water wells in, do some monitoring, look at the site, make recommendations based on their experience to see if that is a good site and what the requirements would be to try to turn it into a wetland,” Iwanicki said.

Iwanicki said the preliminary engineering work is likely to begin soon, but that there is no set timeframe for when the consultations are going to be completed, as engineering firms may need to assess the ground water over more than one spring to get the data they need.

If the preliminary engineering work is promising, the road commission hopes to proceed with further engineering in the future to turn the two areas into wetlands and would apply for further funding for the project.

Ultimately, Iwanicki feels wetland banking is a good way to reuse the sites and will reduce future costs of wetland mitigation.

“(We) want to make the most of the property that we own, in turning those gravel pits and sand pits that we’ve used all the material out of into wetland, (this) is the best use for the public and will allow us to reduce the cost of wetland mitigation for future,” Iwanicki said.