Duke University, NC Wetland Restoration Project
Status: Launched in 2004
An eroded and degraded portion of Sandy Creek in western Durham is being transformed into eight acres of wetlands containing areas of open lake, marshes, and bottomland hardwoods thanks to a Duke University Wetland Center project designed to improve Durham's water quality as well as provide teaching and research opportunities.
The project broke ground in the summer of 2004. Creek banks and low-lying areas have been re-contoured and planted as hardwood wetlands, which researchers believe will remove up to 70 percent of the creek's sediment and nutrients.
Next, the team will construct an earthen dam to form a four-acre retention pond which will regulate the increasingly torrential streams of stormwater running off paved surfaces.
"By restoring the natural flood plain that used to be here before the onslaught of urban development, we'll recreate a healthy wetland ecosystem that sops up pollutants and improves wildlife habitat," said Curtis Richardson, Director of the Wetland Center and Professor of Resource Ecology at the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.
Besides being an example of a rare Piedmont wetland, the eight-acre ecosystem will provide a site for research on biological diversity, hydrology, mosquito control, invasive plant species and other environmental concerns.
This project is an excellent example of the interdisciplinary collaboration Duke tries to foster. The wetland restoration project benefited immensely from ten years of work by by Dr. Miguel Medina, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Medina and his students have painstakingly modeled the flow of stormwater on campus, allowing Duke to boast one of the most comprehensive Stormwater Management Plans of any university.
Project sponsors include the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program, Duke Forest, Duke's Facilities Management Department, the EPA 319 Program, and the Wetland Center.