DE’s Largest Stream Restoration Project Gets Under Way

Thu April 07, 2005 - Northeast Edition

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner joined Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary John A. Hughes March 23, at the ceremonial groundbreaking for Delaware’s largest stream restoration project.

Hughes officially “cut the ribbon” on this project by climbing in an excavator and scooping up a clawful of dirt along Pike Creek near the Three Little Baker’s golf course in Wilmington, DE. The governor and Hughes were joined at the symbolic groundbreaking by all the major partners in the landmark project, which will stabilize the severely eroded banks and restore health to a 4,000-ft. section of a major creek in the Christina watershed.

The project partners and guests got a first hand look at the work, which is now actually in progress. (The originally scheduled groundbreaking on March 8 was postponed due to high winds and snow.)

Gov. Minner expressed her pleasure with the project’s goal. “I applaud the Three Little Bakers, a private landowner, for setting a very important example of voluntary environmental stewardship,” she said. “They have committed funding and enthusiasm along with their land, to an ecological restoration project that improves our state’s green infrastructure.”

The governor emphasized that “voluntary environmental stewardship on private lands is extremely important in Delaware because 80 percent of the state’s land base is privately owned.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the primary funding partner for the project was represented by Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator of EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

“I am extremely gratified to see EPA’s grant dollars at work just as we intended them, in a project that will use exemplary state-of-the-art techniques to breathe new life into the stream, its aquatic inhabitants, its shoreline habitat and improve water quality in the White Clay Creek Watershed, which is a source of drinking water for thousands of families in Delaware,” Welsh said.

Hughes thanked EPA and the many other funding partners — Three Little Bakers, owners of the property; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service; Delaware Department of Transportation and the New Castle Conservation District.

According to Hughes, “The only way we can be successful in environmental improvement projects like this is to have generous and cooperative partners who are firmly committed to the goals of the Governor’s Livable Delaware and Green Infrastructure initiatives.”

Stephen N. Williams, DNREC’s Ecological Restoration coordinator, who spearheaded this project, pointed to the erosion and said, “These eroded stream banks are palpable and visible evidence of Pike Creek’s degradation, but there is a less visible problem — excessive amounts of sediment in the streambed and water column — which destroys habitat and challenges the survivability of macro-invertebrates and fish species like trout.”

Williams went on to list several unique environmental features of Pike Creek that put it on a priority list for restoration: Pike Creek is part of the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River system; it serves as a source-water stream for public drinking water supplies in New Castle County; it is one of only a few trout put-and-take stocked streams in Delaware; it is capable of providing a habitat corridor in an area of dense development; and it is a potential migration corridor for endangered bog turtles.

About the Project

The Pike Creek Restoration Project will re-establish a natural pattern and geometry to the channel, which will eliminate the excessive erosion. Native trees and shrubs will be planted on the stream banks and in the floodplain to shade the stream and help stabilize the channel. Forested wetlands will be created in the floodplain to slow floodwaters and increase the diversity of the aquatic ecosystem. All of these “fixes” will help to make Pike Creek more ecologically friendly.

Three contractors have been employed in this project. Biohabitats Inc. prepared the design plans and will provide guidance and oversight, Meadville Land Services Inc. is the construction contractor and Ecological Restoration and Management, Inc. will do the landscaping and plantings. Total cost of the project is $781,000. The project is expected to be completed by this summer.

For its portion of the project, Meadville Land Service Inc., based in Meadville, PA, will restore approximately 4,000 ft. of the stream channel and adjacent banks by employing a method that measures the watershed inputs and valley type and provides a means to change the stream’s pattern, profile and dimension to accommodate input changes (such as inputs from urbanization) and restore stability, sediment transport and biological function.

The restoration project also will result in the planting of streamside vegetation, which will further protect the banks, improve and maintain water quality and provide a wildlife habitat.

Meadville Land Service will be introducing a series of meandering bends in the stream to reduce flow velocity. The company also will be adding a number of features to stabilize the banks.

Meadville Land Service was founded in 1998 and its areas of expertise include wetland construction and vegetation, stream bank relocation and restoration employing natural stream channel design, installation of soil bioengineering material and site specific vegetation. Since its founding, Meadville Land Service has worked on several steam restoration and erosion control projects in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Ohio.