We need new approaches to managing water resources for our economic, environmental future

April 20, 2018 Jason Sweet

How our relationship with The Nature Conservancy has led to improving aquatic habitat, water quality, and flooding

 

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. 

Twenty years later, Earth Day went global. Now, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

So, what if we did something good for the Earth on more than just Earth Day? Stantec has similar goals to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) regarding freshwater work in North America. In July 2015, we signed a collaborative agreement with TNC to work toward improving aquatic habitat, water quality, and flooding in both urban and rural environments across the continent.

 

Stantec team members begin work on the Ozark watershed and stream restoration plan in Missouri.

 

_q_tweetable:Building on these successes with The Nature Conservancy is an important and valuable method to improve, restore, conserve, and sustain the natural resources our communities value so much._q_Our relationship with TNC is important because, as TNC states, “Our lakes, rivers, wetlands, and aquifers are vital to the health of our society and economy, and the traditional approaches of funding and managing our water resources are not economically or environmentally sustainable.” I completely agree with this statement and know that the work we are doing is important to sustain high quality water resources for future generations. Below are a few of the collaborative efforts that look at managing water resources in a more sustainable way.

Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund: The Trust Fund is a mitigation program that acquires stream and wetland conservation projects throughout Virginia to compensate for impacts to streams and wetlands permitted by state and federal regulatory agencies. Our team assisted TNC with the implementation of the Goose Creek (Bluewildlife) project, which is one of the largest Trust Fund projects completed to date. The Trust Fund is dedicated to replacing the greatest value in terms of acreage and function, while providing a specific emphasis on protecting Virginia’s rare plants, animals, and natural communities—goals that are well aligned with our collaborative agreement.

 

The Goose Creek project in Virginia is one of the largest Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund projects completed to date.

 

Upper Midwest prairie restoration: Stantec ecologists are restoring globally-imperiled oak savanna ecosystems at the Newell and Ann Meyer Nature Preserve in far southeast Wisconsin for TNC. The preserve is home to the headwaters of the Mukwonago River, one of the most pristine river systems in the region. The results of this work and related studies will assist with prairie restoration elsewhere within the preserve and to share with regional practitioners. 

Kansas River Sustainable Rivers Program (SRP): SRP is a joint program between TNC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that evaluates potential reoperation of USACE dams to produce more environmentally friendly flows downstream without sacrificing the authorized purposes of the dams. We worked with TNC to add the Kansas River, also known as the Kaw, to the program. The Kaw is unique in the program as the only prairie-based project. All seven dams being evaluated are on tributaries, making it the largest and arguably most complex SRP project site.

Ozark watershed and stream restoration: Our team created a plan to restore the hydraulic, geomorphological, and ecological function of Kiefer Creek through Castlewood State Park for TNC Missouri Chapter. Kiefer Creek is a direct tributary to the Meramec River with a drainage area impacted by historic timber harvest, poor agricultural practices, and urban encroachment. We presented the findings and restoration options to a large group of project stakeholders that included members from state and federal regulatory agencies, state parks, and multiple non-profit organizations—the type of multi-agency collaboration needed for addressing the nation’s water resource needs.

 

Several stakeholders from the Ozark watershed and stream restoration project gather to review findings and restoration options.

 

We’re just getting started. Building on these successes with The Nature Conservancy is an important and valuable method to improve, restore, conserve, and sustain the natural resources our communities value so much. I look forward to showing future generations the work we’ve accomplished toward the goals specified in our collaborative agreement with The Nature Conservancy.

 

Additional contributors: Travis Crayosky, Aaron Feggestad, and Oakes Routt

About the Author

Jason Sweet

Jason Sweet is a collaborator who takes our value statement—“We are better together”—to heart. As part of Stantec’s Environmental Services team, Jason is always looking to align people and partners in the most productive way possible.

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