UPPER SOUTH EAST COMMUNITIES COALITION, INC - Environmental Preservation Group in Washoe County
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A rebuttal to a recent "Ask Joe" artical from News4

Mr. Hart:
 
I recently read a segment that you did relating to the Southeast Connector (SEC) and the disturbance of wetlands in the construction of this roadway.   I have included your segment (italicized) my note (bolded and italicized) and an article which addresses only one (wetlands) of the many negative impacts of the proposed SEC.  I apologize for the length of my attachments but recognizing the financial ($250 million) and environmental impacts of this project, it is essential that you have an opportunity to review some of the concerns of many Reno citizens.  
 
Unfortunately, the answer you received from the RTC is largely "BS".  Please refer to the e-mail below that I sent to Kristine Hansen, US Army Corps. of Engineers.  She will be the principal federal employee that will review the RTC proposal and mitigation measures.  You were really "handed a line" designed to deflect any serious review of this proposal by the media.  If you wish to get a more detailed explanation of the unmitigated damage that this road will do, I would like to offer the expertise of the Board of Directors of the Upper Southeast Coalition which has studied this project in great detail for a number of years.  I can provide you with the relevant contact information as well as my expertise in this matter. 
 
Question:
From the Ask Joe File, work continues on the Southeast Connector Project and tonight one of our viewers has a question about that road construction.
  Kathryn Moser wrote in asking how can a six lane highway be built through a protected marsh area ?
Kathryn even sent in a photo showing one of the signs that is posted out near the construction area. It clearly states that this is a protected area, and ironically, that no vehicles are allowed there .

Answer:
Good question Kathryn. I checked with Michael Moreno over at the Regional Transportation Commission, they are the ones in charge of building the Southeast Connector.
  Moreno says those protected areas are under the jurisdiction of the U-S Army Corps of Engineers. 
  So I checked with the Corps of Engineers. They say the goal is to avoid protected areas but if its the only option the builder has to create new wetlands or protected areas to offset any that are wiped out during construction.  And in fact the RTC says they plan to improve upon the existing wetlands.
The corps says they monitor that closely after construction starts to make sure the builder follows the order. 
  Bottom line, any protected areas that are disturbed will be replaced.
 
My Comments to Kristine Hansen of the Army Corps of Engineers:
 
  As a graduate of the University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources, and with 30 years of ecosystem management experience with the BLM, I know this answer is not true.  Anyone who has worked with wetlands knows they are the most productive and complex ecosystems found in the western US.  You simply cannot add water to a depression that you have created and call it a wetland.  As the article below points out, a restored wetland will seldom approach the biol-diversity or productivity of a natural undisturbed wetland.  A created wetland, which appears to be what the RTC is suggesting in some places will never reach this level of productivity in our lifetime.  I think the article below is as definitive on this issue as any I have run across in my work and retirement.  It is clear about disturbance to wetlands and pretty well lays out what we can expect when wetlands are disturbed.  From my perspective, because wetlands are relatively rare in Nevada, the loss or degradation of any wetland in our State is magnified in its importance and must not be allowed.   
 
     Sometime in the next months you will receive a Permit Request from the RTC which will purport to lay out their plan for the SEC and the various mitigation measure they wish to implement to offset the environmental degradation caused by the roadway and associated structures.  I know you will review these with a "fine toothed comb" and your environmental background.  I am confident, not withstanding all of the proposals for mitigation, that many of the disturbed resources cannot be fully mitigated.  In addition, there are a number of impacts that are not addressed by the RTC that will have a lasting negative effect on the human and natural environment.  Sadly, this project is not needed in the near future due to a number of factors, it is largely a process of political horse-trading among the affected communities and their governing bodies, and is a high cost proposal attempting to solve a problem that can be addressed more cheaply and with less environmental impact than the SEC. 
 
      Science News... from universities, journals, and other research organizations
 
    Restored Wetlands Rarely Equal Condition of Original Wetlands
 
Jan. 25, 2012 - Wetland restoration is a billion-dollar-a-year industry in the United States that aims to create ecosystems similar to those that disappeared over the past century. But a new analysis of restoration projects shows that restored wetlands seldom reach the quality of a natural wetland
   ."Once you degrade a wetland, it doesn't recover its normal assemblage of plants or its rich stores of organic soil carbon, which both affect natural cycles of water and nutrients, for many years," said David Moreno-Machos, a University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow. "Even after 100 years, the restored wetland is still different from what was there before, and it may never recover."
    Moreno-Mateo's analysis calls into question a common mitigation strategy exploited by land developers: create a new wetland to replace a wetland that will be destroyed and the land put to other uses. At a time of accelerated climate change caused by increased carbon entering the atmosphere, carbon storage in wetlands is increasingly important, he said.
"Wetlands accumulate a lot of carbon, so when you dry up a wetland for agricultural use or to build houses, you are just pouring this carbon into the atmosphere," he said. "If we keep degrading or destroying wetlands, for example through the use of mitigation banks, it is going to take centuries to recover the carbon we are losing."
     The study showed that wetlands tend to recover most slowly if they are in cold regions, if they are small -- less than 100 contiguous hectares, or 250 acres, in area -- or if they are disconnected from the ebb and flood of tides or river flows.
     "These context dependencies aren't necessarily surprising, but this paper quantifies them in ways that could guide decisions about restoration, or about whether to damage wetlands in the first place," said coauthor Mary Power, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology.Moreno-Machos, Power and their colleagues will publish their analysis in the Jan. 24 issue of PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology.
      Wetlands provide many societal benefits, Moreno-Machos noted, such as biodiversity conservation, fish production, water purification, erosion control and carbon storage.He found, however, that restored wetlands contained about 23 percent less carbon than untouched wetlands, while the variety of native plants was 26 percent lower, on average, after 50 to 100 years of restoration. While restored wetlands may look superficially similar -- and the animal and insect populations may be similar, too -- the plants take much longer to return to normal and establish the carbon resources in the soil that make for a healthy ecosystem.
     Moreno-Machos noted that numerous studies have shown that specific wetlands recover slowly, but his meta-analysis "might be a proof that this is happening in most wetlands.""To prevent this, preserve the wetland, don't degrade the wetland," he said.
      Moreno-Machos, who obtained his Ph.D. while studying wetland restoration in Spain, conducted a meta-analysis of 124 wetland studies monitoring work at 621 wetlands around the world and comparing them with natural wetlands. Nearly 80 percent were in the United States and some were restored more than 100 years ago, reflecting of a long-standing American interest in restoration and a common belief that it's possible to essentially recreate destroyed wetlands. Half of all wetlands in North America, Europe, China and Australia were lost during the 20th century, he said.
     Though Moreno-Machos found that, on average, restored wetlands are 25 percent less productive than natural wetlands, there was much variation. For example, wetlands in boreal and cold temperate forests tend to recover more slowly than do warm wetlands. One review of wetland restoration projects in New York state, for example, found that "after 55 years, barely 50 percent of the organic matter had accumulated on average in all these wetlands" compared to what was there before, he said."Current thinking holds that many ecosystems just reach an alternative state that is different, and you never will recover the original," he said.In future studies, he will explore whether the slower carbon accumulation is due to a slow recovery of the native plant community or invasion by non-native plants.
     Coauthors with Moreno-Machos and Power are Francisco A. Comin of the Department of Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology in Zaragoza, Spain; and Roxana Yockteng of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France. Moreno-Machos recently accepted a position as the restoration fellow at Stanford University's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.The work was supported by the Spanish Ministry for Innovation and Science, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology and the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics of the U.S. National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.
 
 
Vern Schulze

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