Opportunity Ponds Wetland Featured in ‘Reclamation Matters’

Pages from Reclamation Matters ArticleThe Fall 2013 issue of ‘Reclamation Matters’, features an article on the Opportunity Ponds Wetland project in Southwest Montana.  Penned by Len Ballek, Senior Ecologist  and Sue Wall, Staff Scientist from the Missoula, Montana office of Herrera, this feature delves into the immense scope and challenges of this large scale restoration effort.   The project is located in a former borrow pit, so the site had to be filled and sculpted to create “the proper surface water and shallow groundwater for supporting wetland vegetation.”   After grading, the resulting mitigation wetland was planned to “mimic nearby wetland reference sites, and planting was designed to create plant communities similar in species composition and community arrangement to native wetlands in the area.”

The Herrera team took on the challenge, with a combination of hand planting and mechanical techniques utilized in tandem depending on type of plants, site access, and other factors.    After installation, the team continued to perform monitoring and maintenance of vegetation establishment, impacts of wildlife browse and site hydrology, and constantly making adjustments over time as the site evolved.

What does it take to create a wetland out of a borrow pit in the Rocky Mountains of Montana?  Planting over two million wetland plants in three years provided many lessons on establishing native wetland vegetation with a short growing season, poor soils, and lots of local wildlife eager to gobble up the plants as soon as they were in the ground.  With so many factors challenging our efforts, we quickly learned how critical it is to control the factors we could control…”

The following photos show the transition from before revegetation to the site after the initial vegetation had been established in 2011.  The cover image, above, shows the site being used by some of the resident Moose population.

Before revegetation    EBA overview 2011

Link to a full article here to read the entire story. (4.4 MB PDF)