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Posted: December 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.

City hall wetlands project underway

EPD funding half the cost of undertaking

 Visitors to the Covington City Hall in recent weeks have no doubt noticed a great deal of activity taking place to the left and right of the building.

Since the beginning of November, a wetlands creation project has been underway on the side of city hall that abuts Dried Indian Creek. A new bio-retention parking lot is also under construction on the other side of city hall on Emory Street.

The city is using a Georgia Environmental Protection Division grant to fund the wetlands project which encompasses 1.2 acres next to city hall. The EPD’s $158,000 grant will pay for 55 percent of the costs of the project. The city is matching EPD with $130,000 of its own from the Storm-water fund.

City Engineer Tres Thomas said he was pleased that the city received lower than expected price bids for the project. Cline Service Corporation won the construction contract with a low bid of $142,000 he said. Design schematics for the wetlands project were completed by Manhard Consulting.

To make way for the wetlands, several large pecan trees had to be cut down next to city hall. Thomas said the decision was made to remove the trees because their root systems would not have survived in a wetland environment.

Those pecan trees will be replaced with 15 river birch trees, eight green ash trees, 12 Ironwood trees, six swamp chestnut oaks and nine water oaks. All total, 107 trees and shrubs will be planted in the wetlands site.

"It’ll take them a while to reach a mature stage, but I’m hoping that it’ll turn out nice," Thomas said of the tree plantings.

The wetlands project also includes the construction of a raised boardwalk that will wind through the site allowing visitors to admire the natural splendor of the wetlands without muddying their feet. The boardwalk will hook up to the county-wide trails system once it is complete Thomas said.

"Part of our grant requires demonstration," Thomas said. "Anyone in the public is welcome to come down and see it."

The idea for the wetlands project is the result of collaboration between Manhard and the city, Thomas said. Two earlier EPD grant proposals were turned down, but the city was awarded the grant this year due to the endangered status of Indian Creek Thomas said.

"EPD likes to see projects that protect impaired streams," he said.

Grading work is already underway for the control structure that will funnel stormwater discharge from as far away as the Covington square into Indian Creek, which, depending on rain levels, should result in a permanently flooded site. Construction will also entail digging 2-3 feet down to access groundwater to flood the site.

Thomas said he expected construction on the wetlands site to be completed by April.

The bio-retention parking lot under construction will make use of stormwater management practices to funnel runoff into strategically placed soil and shrubbery plantings as opposed to a conventional asphalt parking lot where all stormwater runs into the sewage system before draining into the river system.

By seeping into the soil first, the stormwater runoff will be naturally cleaned before it eventually rejoins the river system.

"We hope to use this as an example to others in the community for development," Thomas said, adding that he hopes the shrubbery plantings in the parking lot "add an aesthetic value to city hall."

Construction on the parking lot is expected to be completed by March. The cost of the project was $16,000 for design and $135,000 for construction work.

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