Mayor Don Wesely today announced the establishment of a 189-acre wetland mitigation bank and interpretive area for the city of Lincoln at the northwest corner of North 98th Street and Cornhusker Highway. The city purchased the land for the project from the family of the late Jerome Warner, a longtime State Senator from Waverly.
The Mayor also accepted a $100,000 donation from Warnerís children, Liz and Jamie Warner, as a memorial to Jeromeís brother, Charles L. Warner, who passed away in June 1994. The donation will be used for the interpretive elements of the mitigation bank, which will be named the Charles L. Warner Interpretive Wetlands.
"The support and involvement of the Warner family has been integral to this project, and we appreciate them working with us on this investment in Lincolnís ecological future," Mayor Wesely said. "The wetland area will be part of an important entryway into the city and will play an important role in preserving a portion of the floodplain and floodway."
Charles L. Warner was a cattle rancher who was elected to the Board of Directors of the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District (NRD), on which he served for many years. "I know our uncle would be excited about the land going to this kind of use," said Liz Warner.
The city has been studying the need for a wetland mitigation bank and its possible location for several years. Allan Abbott, Director of the city Public Works and Utilities Department, said the city recognizes that some existing wetlands may be impacted as the city continues to grow and develop roads, utilities and other infrastructure.
"Any time we impact a wetland area, we need to mitigate that by creating or restoring additional wetland areas," Abbott said. "Establishing a wetland bank is a proactive solution that will allow for the creation of a single large wetland area."
Abbott said the city and Lancaster County will be able to apply "credits" from the established bank to compensate for the unavoidable loss of wetlands in the future. The bank will also prevent the temporary loss of wetlands that would otherwise occur during the mitigation process.
The city plans to create or restore up to 90 acres of saline and fresh water wetland at the site. Abbott said the ecological advantages of a wetland bank include higher quality wetlands with greater diversity, enhanced wildlife habitat and a greater likelihood of long-term success. He said a wetland bank is also more economical and cost-effective for the city.
In addition to the wetland mitigation bank, the city, the Lower Platte South NRD and the Warners are working to restore another 1.5 acres of saline wetlands in the area. Last summer, this project was awarded a $10,000 Five Star Restoration Program grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Association of Counties, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Wildlife Habitat Council and the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps.
"The interpretive park will speak to both the natural and cultural history of Lincoln and Lancaster County," Wesely said. "Wetlands are an important part of our natural history, and the eastern saline wetlands that will be restored here are some of Nebraskaís rarest natural communities."
Also located on the site are two pits excavated for the Burlington and Missouri Railroad in the late 1800s, which were used to fire clay to create ballast for the railroad. The ballast pits will be preserved and integrated into the interpretive park.
The city is working with the Corps of Engineers and the state to finalize details of the wetland mitigation bank. The Warner family is involved in developing the interpretive elements at the site, including a trail and boardwalk with educational materials about the natural and cultural history of the site. The city is working with the Lower Platte South NRD on a maintenance agreement for the wetlands.
Wesely said the development of the wetland mitigation bank is part of the cityís larger environmental initiative which includes:
The city and county will also develop a natural resources data base during the Stevenís Creek planning process and the review of the Comprehensive Plan. The data base will identify key environmental features, sensitive areas and the potential for a county-wide network of natural areas and open space.