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College wetland expansion project to benefit local community, environment

Detention pond workers

More than 30 workers contributing over 2,200 hours of labor began work in mid-September to restore portions of the Green River forest as part of a long-awaited project to enhance the natural water detention capacity of the area. The project's goal is to increase wetland capacity, which will improve the ability for rainwater to move through the ground. That water, coming from rooftops, parking lots and other developed surfaces, eventually drains to the Green River.

"This has significant positive implications for the college and city in terms of future development of the campus," Sam Ball, Green River's capital projects manager, said. "We're able to do this because we have highly skilled students and faculty in a solid Natural Resources program who can monitor the site and address any issues that may arise. That makes us and this project very unique."

The project will save future construction costs by avoiding the need to install large, expensive drainage systems. Workers recently completed construction of three water filtration mounds, each made of numerous 90-pound bags of composite sand, soil and clay mixture, which will serve as collection points for the additional water flow.  Native vegetation added to these areas over the next several months will eventually blend with naturally occurring species to make the filtration areas imperceptible. The workgroup is made up of 18 members of the Washington Conservation Corps, over 10 student interns and volunteers from the college's natural resources program and Facilities staff members.

Detention pond workers

The team is supervised by former Green River Natural Resources student Philip Hansen and Natural Resources intern Mary Starr. Hansen serves as a crew supervisor for the WCC. Starr has monitored surface water flow in the area for over a year, and now coordinates all student workers for the project. Future interns will monitor water flow over the next 10 years.

"The great thing about the project has been seeing the cooperation in working with the school and how excited everyone is to have the project here," Hansen said. "Everyone is so eager to participate and help."

The project represents seven years of preparation, negotiation and permit gathering that began in 2005.  Permitting for projects that affect protected wetlands is rare. Ball attributes the permit award to Green River's strong Natural Resources program, and the college's commitment to undergo a labor-intensive process with the result of benefiting the environment.