James Ingram, senior environmental scientist for Greenhorne & O'Mara, has managed several of the projects in the last six years, working in almost every Potomac watershed in Virginia.As project manager, Ingram identifies the potential mitigation sites, negotiates with landowners and drafts option agreements, performs technical studies and testing, and designs the project.
The technical studies include Section 106 clearance with the state historical office because of possible artifacts from Civil War battles or earlier times.
Once a site has been identified, Ingram
negotiates with landowners for either easement for the project or purchase of the site.Most of the areas were historically wetlands that have been drained by farmers.Some still are so wet most of the year that farmers use them as "summer pasture" during July, August, and September, the only months they are dry enough.One site that Ingram
recently bought flooded frequently, and stormwater had deposited woody debris.The conditions made the site difficult for the farmer to use but invaluable as wetlands.
Extensive onsite soil testing provides clues to the historical wetland properties of each site.Ingram
believes in doing minimal work to undo what human activity has done to a site over the last 200 years.If the right site is chosen, "We don't do a lot of earthwork," he
says.Minimal disturbance will push a site back to wetland status."The less push needed, the better the site is."
Farmers have often dug ditches or installed French drains on the upland side of a property to handle the seepage.Ingram
says that by choosing sites that were once wetlands, the areas can be restored easily.
One benefit of the approach, according to Ingram
, is that these areas with tall plants are not attractive to Canada geese, a nuisance species for the region.Canada geese require large open spaces, which are not found in these wetlands.The habitat is more conducive to wood ducks and other native birds. Working with Ingram on several projects was Gary Jellick of Acorn Environmental Inc.
mentions what he
calls "Jellick's 180 Rule",you face the stream and then turn around to see what the land 180 degrees away is like,adding, "We let the information confirm the design, not drive the design."