Cape Gazette
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Envirotech offers management of ecologically sensitive areas

Jul 25, 2014
Source: Submitted Ecologically sensitive areas require short- and long-term management planning by a qualified professional.

Many of the well-designed and professionally engineered communities in the Cape Region possess multitudes of ecologically sensitive areas that require short- and long-term management planning. These communities are often governed by homeowner associations, condo associations, or commercial associations.

In order to prevent degradation of community infrastructure, dwelling units, and/or aesthetics, proactive planning may be essential, as these issues are typically not considered in the pre-construction phases of development and community build-out.

Various open space areas in the community setting are referred to as management units by the environmental planner. The best management practices, and the underlying principles and processes that may be required to restore, improve, and maintain ecosensitive MUs in communities may apply to:

• Stormwater management systems (including but not limited to ponds, bio-swales, retention basins, and the associated conveyances)

• Coastlines and riparian zones (the transitional land area between open water and upland)

• Forested areas

• Wetlands and poorly drained areas

• Large or small community open space (typically consisting of extensive mowed turf zones).

Community environmental MUs, BMPs and implementation procedures may be recommended and advised by the environmental planner; however, the concluding goal(s) and objectives should be determined between property managers, community association representatives and the environmental professional by way of a collaborative and interactive process. Before the collaborative process begins between the stakeholders involved, the environmental planner conducts site assessments and reviews site approved plan(s). This is essential to determining existing deficiencies and/or the potential for future deficiencies.

The initial assessment and reporting process is followed by a comprehensive enhancement and/or management plan specific for the MUs of concern. The plan design utilizes the BMPs and technologies that meet user goals and objectives with the least amount of negative impact to the environmental conditions such as water quality, soil structure, native beneficial vegetation, habitat, and aesthetics. It is imperative that all local, state, and federal environmental regulations applicable to the site be considered and inclusive to the plan. Pre-existing or required permits and stipulations should be heavily considered during design stages. Grant funding assistance from environmental regulatory agencies or private sources should also be researched and reported for consideration.

Next, the environmental professional presents the plan to the stakeholders in a formal educational setting (community clubhouse or conference rooms work well), complete with text narration and a verbal explanation of the principles and processes recommended. Modeling of the existing conditions and comparisons to the anticipated final product expectation are beneficial. These steps of the process are significant to address all learning styles and ensure holistic understanding. The collaborative stage is also an important time for all stakeholders to pool resources and become involved if desired.

The environmental planner will also describe any and all products and tools required to meet the project expectations. It may be at this point of the process that the community representatives provide input as to the specific user wants and needs. This is where the stakeholders establish project ownership and commitment to success. The obtained information is then refined and incorporated into the final plan product and presented to the stakeholders (typically the community board, property manager or owner/developer) for final review and approval.

A Comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan is completed once all relative data and information is collected. The plan and its underlying processes and product requirements should be incorporated into a manual form to serve as an implementation guideline and community reference. Final plans should emphasize, but not be limited to:

• Aquatic bacteria and algae control

• Aquatic vegetation control

• Fish and wildlife management (goose and muskrat control)

• Human impact and restrictive use

• Integrated vegetative management for invasive species

• Aeration (if applicable)

• Structural monitoring and deficiency reporting

• Due diligence requirements

• Products required (herbicides/pesticides)

• Licenses and certifications.

When considering environmental management services planning for community coastal areas (riparian zones), forested areas and wetlands, it is important to initiate collaboration regarding integrated vegetation management programming. Emphasis is required on BMPs to control vegetative types that are native nuisance and/or exotic invasive species. The control and/or eradication of viney material, Phragmites australis and other species that reduce biological diversity, degrade natural beauty, reduce soil stability or create fire hazards are important considerations in the plan.

This typically includes use of the most appropriate form of environmentally friendly herbicide (typically systemic salts) and then, over time, conventional removal and composting practices. The removal of undesirable vegetation, as well as the management and propagation of native vegetation may improve view corridors out to wetlands and open water, which may in turn improve property values. Controlling coastal invaders such as Phragmites australis protects dwelling units and community infrastructure from rhizome (later root) intrusion and an undesirable source of fuel for wildfire.

Like any environmental management plan, this requires a site assessment, an existing conditions study and reporting to the stakeholders involved during the collaboration process. User goals may include any habitat enhancement that may be desired, such as nesting platform installation for ospreys and other migratory birds, large or small. The vegetative types selected in the plan and canopy elevations may also be determined during the collaborative process.

Environmental management services and the application of these services to the homeowner-governed subdivisions, condominiums, and commercial properties may be necessary for short- and long-term community sustainability, improved quality of life and most importantly, reducing long-term capital expenditure from reserves. Leading a community toward environmental stewardship may prove to be most rewarding and value-driven.

Therefore, selecting a qualified environmental planner with experience in community environmental management services planning will prove to be an asset by simplifying a multivariable and complex process based on science, regulation and innovation.

For more information, a complimentary educational presentation or an on-site consultation, call 302-684-5201 or contact Todd Fritchman, Envirotech president/aquatic biologist, at todd@envirotechecinc.com.

Envirotech’s mission is to provide comprehensive environmental management services for achieving environmentally sound and aesthetically pleasing results that meet environmental regulatory policy and ecological needs. Learn more about Envirotech and purchase environmental products at www.envirotechecinc.com.

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