by Emmitt B. Feldner
for The Beacon
Wet weather – for several years in a row – has not been good for the Sheboygan Marsh.
Sheboygan County Planning and Resources Director Aaron Brault updated the County Board on several of his department’s projects at the marsh and the Amsterdam Dunes preservation area.
“We’ve had four or five of the wettest years on record the last few years,” Brault said. That has hampered efforts to conduct a drawdown at the marsh to reduce cattail growth.
The last drawdown was in 2011, according to Brault.
“We’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to draw down every year since 2017,” he continued, noting that the marsh management plan calls for a drawdown every five years.
The result has been increased costs every year to remove cattails that have dislodged and backed up at the dam.
The dam itself is still scheduled for replacement in 2023, Brault told the supervisors, meeting via teleconference.
Conservation clubs in the county have pledged to donate $100,000 toward the $2.5 million project, while the county is seeking a Department of Natural Resources grant for another $100,000.
The project to replace the nearly 100-year-old dam is included in the county’s five-year capital plan for 2023 and 2024.
Brault said the county will be looking to start design work for the project in 2021.
Elsewhere in the Broughton Sheboygan County Marsh Park, work is continuing on the $2.3 million, 4,000-square foot environmentally friendly multi-purpose educational and meeting facility, Brault reported.
Several trees harvested from the marsh park will be incorporated within the building, Brault said, including a massive ash tree that succumbed to the emerald ash borer that will serve as the main feature in the foyer of the building.
Trees are part of the county’s effort at the 333-acre Amsterdam Dunes in the town of Holland.
Since purchasing the property on the shore of Lake Michigan in 2014, the county has planted 7,000 trees or more there in non-wetland mitigation areas.
“We’re trying to repopulate and reforest the area,” Brault said.
The county is also moving forward with the creation of a wetlands mitigation bank on the property.
By creating new wetlands areas there, the county can sell credits for those acres to replace wetlands acres lost to development in the county and elsewhere.
Prior to starting work on the new wetlands, the county had to conduct several archaeological digs in the area and receive approvals from several state and federal agencies.
The last of those, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is in the final stages of approval, Brault noted.
The final result is that the acreage available for new wetlands was reduced from 33 to 31.7 acres, Brault added.
Those credits are currently selling for $80,000 to $110,000 per acre, where earlier they were around $50,000 per acre.
Even using a conservative estimate of $70,000 per credit, the county could earn around $1.5 million for improvements at the preservation area after the estimated $700,000 expense of creating the new wetlands.
That money could be used to create nature trails and other improvements and facilities at Amsterdam Dunes.
The archaeological digs and approval process delayed the hoped-for start of work on the wetlands this year, according to Brault.
“Hopefully, we will be moving dirt come 2021,” he told the board. Work would begin either in the spring or in the fall, optimal times for planting necessary vegetation.
Brault did report that there is “no beach left on the property” at Amsterdam Dunes due to high water levels in Lake Michigan.
“That’s happening up and down the lake,” he added.