Supporting roadway expansions through the lens of natural resources
Cardno supported the expansion of several significant roadways for a major new development in Wisconsin by performing services including wetlands delineations, sensitive species surveys and habitat assessments, and stakeholder communications.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has been working on the reconstruction of several state, village, and county roadways around the new Foxconn Development in Racine County, Wisconsin. Anyone who has followed the project or lives in the area knows the magnitude of the work being completed.
Areas of the project have seen expansions ranging from quiet two-lane country roads to six lane highways to the excavation of stormwater retention basins, some of which approach 3.5 acres in size. That’s large enough to be classified as a lake by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR)!
There are also areas of planned development that include a shared use pathway that will highlight some of the ecological restoration completed in the area, specifically the Pike River Ecosystem Restoration Area.
The Cardno team has been involved with the project shortly after the public announcement in late 2017 and completed the first environmental assessments in April 2018. This is where my involvement with the project began. Since that time – Cardno has completed eight separate field surveys – encompassing approximately 370 acres, which includes almost 7 miles of roadway, adjacent lands, and proposed pathways.
Given the extensive historic agricultural use of the surrounding landscape, the project featured unique challenges when determining wetland boundaries.
This illustrates the importance of going into the field armed with as much knowledge of an area as possible.
By examining aerial imagery, local soils, and topographic information, historic precipitation information and previous projects completed, we were able to confidently map wetlands throughout the area.
Sensitive species surveys and habitat assessments were also a key piece of this project. The southeastern portion of Wisconsin sees the influences of the Central Lake Michigan Coastal and Southeast Glacial Plains ecological landscapes and as such, has the potential for many species of concern. Forked Aster (Eurybia furcata), Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid (Platanthera leucophaea), Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens), White Lady’s-Slipper (Cypripedium candidum), and Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris blanchardi) name just a few of the over 11 different sensitive species possible to occur across these ecotypes.
This project has served as a great reminder of the importance of effective communication, staying current on changing regulations, and the power of teamwork to overcome any challenges encountered along the way.
The results of the wetland delineations and sensitive species surveys were used during the permitting processes through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). During these meetings I – along with others on the team – served as technical experts answering questions from both the USACE and WDNR and helped WisDOT move the permitting process forward.
Overall, we have been involved in the project for over 2.5 years, working with other consulting firms, multiple regulating agencies, and utilizing numerous internal teams comprised of technical experts in their fields. I’ve personally witnessed the landscape go from fallow agriculture fields to successful prairie and flood plain restorations along the Pike River.
Author: As a Staff Ecologist, Eric assists with the environmental monitoring of active construction projects and wetland delineations along with providing regulatory compliance on a variety of other projects.