Fish, frogs, birds and bugs will benefit from two stream buffer and wetlands projects the city plans to complete along two sections of Hinkson Creek.
The projects are planned for land along the creek near the city landfill and near the Hinkson's confluence with Perche Creek near Brushwood Lake. They would not only enhance wildlife habitat but also improve water quality, the Columbia City Council learned during a Monday evening work session.
Erin Keys, engineering and operations manager for the city’s sewer and stormwater utilities, shared plans for two riparian and wetlands enhancement projects with the council. Combined, the projects would comprise about 110 acres and cost about $387,000. The city could finance the work through the sale of stream and wetlands credits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would grant them for doing the projects.
The Hinkson Creek site near the landfill in northeast Columbia would involve the restoration of 20 acres of riparian habitat, the vegetated area along the stream. The project would cost about $50,000 to complete and $2,000 per year to maintain. It would likely involve some tree planting and perhaps the creation of a small wetland area, according to a report on the projects.
The Perche Creek project has two components. One would restore about 55 acres of riparian habitat and the other a wetland area of about 100 acres. Those projects would cost about $137,500 and $200,000, respectively, plus about $16,000 per year to maintain.
Much of the Perche Creek property now is a mix of row crop and hay fields, as well as scour and oxbow features in the floodplain, according to the report. The land is part of a 420-acre tract the city owns near Brushwood Lake.
The sites would help retain storm and flood water and filter sediment and nutrients from storm runoff before it enters the creek. They also will provide “a broad range of fish and wildlife habitat,” according to the report.
The Perche site would see construction of several wetland pools in the floodplain in addition to the wetlands that already are there. The pools should remain fishless and offer prime breeding habitat for local amphibians, the report said, as well as “vital breeding and feeding habitat for a variety of mammals, insects, and birds, including shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds and raptors.”
The new “perched pools” would provide good breeding habitat for indigenous amphibians and reptiles. Those could include the Northern crawfish frog, which is listed as a species of conservation concern, the report said.
The wetlands and stream riparian areas would become part of what is known as a mitigation bank, which means they have high-quality habitat that is preserved and maintained, according to the presentation.
The Corps of Engineers assigns a certain number of credits to the mitigation bank, which the city could then sell to cover the cost of the enhancements. Those credits are then sold to entities such as the Missouri Department of Transportation, whose infrastructure projects “have unavoidable impacts to wetland and/or streams,” according to Keys’ presentation.
“We have the potential to get a return on our investment by selling these credits,” Keys said.
The projects could take as long as two years to complete, Keys said.