Amanda Whitley, Bradley County Engineering and Water Quality Division, said the mitigation project is important because it is the first for Bradley County.
She said agriculture science students and the Earth Club from Bradley Central High School and environmental science students from Cleveland High School all participated by planting trees and shrubs.
S&ME Inc. senior scientist Kristy Smedley of Chattanooga said there are two different projects to satisfy the mitigation needs for Minnis Road and the Elrod Park softball complex.
“Today we’re planting trees and shrubs for the wetland mitigation project for the Minnis Road development. This site is also providing wetland mitigation for the Elrod Park softball complex,” Smedley said
In its simplest form, mitigation is compensating for a loss. There are four mitigation areas [DD1] which lie between Old Powerline Road to the north, Minnis Road to the west and Park View Elementary School to the south. Willbrook subdivision sits atop a ridge to the east.
“All of those (four) areas are being monitored for five years for vegetation success,” she said.
“In the Minnis Road case, it will be success of planted trees and shrubs. For Elrod Park, we’re not required to plant trees, but to ensure it meets the requirements to be a wetland.”
There are three components to a wetland: vegetation, soil and hydrology.
“We’re looking at that every year and reporting to the agencies,” Smedley said.
Vegetation includes plants that can survive in wetland conditions such as cattails and other plants known as rushes and sedges.
The second component is hydric soil, which means it is deprived of oxygen.
“It has visual and chemical changes that have occurred that are observable and unique to wetlands,” she said. “It’s more about the color. The lack of oxygen causes the iron to reduce and it changes the color of the soil. You can get different metals sometimes that will settle out. You can get different streaking. There is a wide variety of things that can occur due to the lack of oxygen.”
The third component, hydrology, simply means there is sufficient water.
“Out here we have a fairly shallow groundwater table which is providing a good amount of hydrology to sustain a wetland and that’s really what you need,” she said.
“This whole complex of wetland will be preserved, which is really great because it is a park. We’ve got the new school and in the future, students will come out and do various things with the wetland.”
The Minnis Road Realignment Project was halted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation until a wetlands mitigation plan was approved.
Work on the road began in June 2009 and was stopped a month later in July after encountering a low-grade wetland on about .35 acres. The area was not originally classified as a wetland until after work began.
Bradley County began widening Minnis Road after commissioners voted in August 2008 to build a new school on the former Elrod Farm. The elementary school shares property purchased for $910,000 with funds from the sale of Bradley Memorial Hospital to Community Health Systems.
The property was originally identified in 2006 as a park that would include a community center, softball diamonds, playground, concessions, pond, gazebos, tennis courts, picnic areas, walking trail and parking.