Public Notice: Franklin Soil and Water issued LER and FNSI for Hellbranch Meadows WRRSP Project
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has provided a notice of issuance of limited environmental review (LER) and the final finding of no significant impact (FNSI) for the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District’s Hellbranch Meadows Stream and Wetland Restoration project, Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP) Loan Number WR3961667-0001, to be sponsored by the Werk & Westbourne Chemically Enhanced High Rate Treatment Facility project that is being implemented by the Board of County Commissioners of Hamilton County, Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF) Loan Number CS391525-0114.
Copies of the LER and FNSI can be found through the following link.
The goal of the project is to restore and preserve Hellbranch Run, its tributaries, adjacent wetland and associated uplands on 135.3 acres of the 198.8-acre property located in the Big Darby Creek watershed. The WRRSP originally allocated $2,919,820 to the project, which was only a portion of the $4 million that was originally requested. An additional $846,318 was made available to the project in July of 2016, resulting in a total project budget of $3,766,138.
For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact Kyle Wilson, Conservation Program Manger, at (614) 486-9613 ext. 128 or by email.
New vehicle access
We recently put in a new vehicle access to a back field at Hellbranch Meadows. The old access is in an area that we have planned for wetland restoration, so when the ruts got too bad even for farm equipment, rather than filling them, we moved the access point.
Previous access point
The new access is located at a higher point and caused only one tree to be lost, a locust, one of many along a wind break between fields. Hawthorn, honeysuckle and poison ivy made up the majority of the vegetation removed. This brush will become a more formal brush pile in the fall to provide wildlife cover in the old field successional area.
Vehicle access is needed as only half of the back field has been seeded in prairie grasses and forbs. Until the entire area is restored, it is being farmed to keep invasives out and to improve soil health.
This is what 30 acres of prairie seed and cover-crop seed look like. On June 16 we planted 30 acres of upland prairie habitat at Hellbranch Meadows. The Darby genome prairie seed was collected by Columbus and Franklin County MetroParks from their own Darby prairies.
The prairie seeds were mixed with an annual cover crop to protect the soil until the prairie plants are established. The prairie seeding is just one step in the long-term management plan that staff and our Board of Supervisors have developed for the property that lies along Hellbranch Run in the Big Darby watershed.
MetroParks was not our only partner in this—Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District lent us their drill. See more photos in the Facebook album.
Denizens of the tall grass prairie, Argiope aurantia, the common garden spider, finds a home in a tall planted switchgrass at the Hellbranch Meadows’ wetland restoration area. Smartweed ( Polygonum sp.) is blooming in the background
Soybeans waiting for harvest
Plants loaded with pods
The yield at Hellbranch Meadows is likely to be better than 2011 despite the droughty year. Technician Bob Sherman estimates 40 to 45 bushels per acre this year as compared to about 30 last year. Remember how wet spring of 2011 was? It was hard to get the equipment in the field so it was planted late. That wetness helped this year though – that and the late summer rain.
Do you know what this photo shows?
And lastly, isn’t this a cool picture, using the “stitch” function on the camera?
Beans look good, but need rain. They are about half the size they would be during a year with normal precipitation.
It’s been about six weeks since the beans were planted and they’re in good shape for it being so dry. The plants are starting to flower and pod (look for the tiny purple flowers in the photo below). This is a crucial stage for yield production in the plants. The rainfall over the next three weeks will make or break the crop.
Hellbranch Meadows no-till field
The field that will eventually become native prairie is planted for the second season in soybeans. The volume and hardiness of invasive weeds in this field required yet another application of herbicide before the no-till planting of soybeans. No-till planting preserves soil structure and soil organisms while minimizing soil erosion and the release of CO2 from the oxidation of soil organic material.
With the weather cooperating, the farmer was able to plant earlier this year than last. The photos show what it looks like about a month after planting.
About a month after planting
Hellbranch meadows with beans
Today,Bob Sherman, Water Quality Field Technician, and I took a trip to Hellbranch Meadows to see how harvesting was going. The beans were smaller than Bob’s own fields because this area tends to be wet and it was a very wet spring, delaying planting.
Native perennials in bloom along Murnan Rd.
David supplies us with the latest update from Hellbranch Meadows:
The wildflower planting and windbreak that was planned and planted last year is making itself apparent. Black- eyed Susan, coneflower and swamp milkweed are blooming.
Bob visited Hellbranch Meadows today and brought back photos of the field that is in soybeans now to prepare for the fall planting of native prairie species. Our farmer/ partner will probably have to spray once more because of hard-to-kill invasive weeds that will make prairie establishment difficult.