Amsterdam Dunes wetland restoration efforts moving forward

Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – The county has its first grant to begin restoring wetlands at Amsterdam Dunes and should be able to start selling wetland mitigation credits there by this time next year.

County Director of Conservation and Planning Aaron Brault updated the County Board at their Sept. 19 meeting on several topics, including the status of the 333-acre county-owned nature preserve in the town of Holland.

“We were recently awarded $200,000 from the U.S. Forestry Service,” a grant to restore areas of the preserve outside the mitigation bank area to wetland status, Brault said.

The county has received a total of $400,000 in grants for wetland restoration thus far.

The county is also in the midst of the application process for approval to begin selling wetland mitigation credits.

“Hopefully by early spring to the middle of next year we’ll be able to sell our first credit out there,” Brault said.

Acres in the mitigation area that have been restored can be used as an offset to any acres of wetland that have to be filled or destroyed for private or public projects elsewhere in the county. The county may sell any of the acreage credit to other counties across the state to offset lost wetlands there.

“The going rate per acre (for wetland mitigation credits) is $60,000 to $70,000,” Brault said.

The county purchased the undeveloped lakefront property in 2014 from American Heritage Corp. for $4.2 million. To date, the county has been reimbursed more than $3.5 million of that amount through grants, easements and other funding sources.

Brault said that when the county is able to complete the sale of two developable lots on the lakeshore that were part of the original purchase – one just under an acre-and-a-half, the other roughly 1.2 acres – all of the original purchase price will have been recouped.

The county has received offers on both parcels and is in the process of making counter-proposals, he added.

Brault told the board there are two possible projects remaining from the $25 million federal non-motorized transportation pilot program grant the county received more than a decade ago.

The first is the south side utility corridor trail in the city of Sheboygan between the Edgewater power plant and County OK.

That project was approved by the Sheboygan City Council in 2013 and is ready to move forward, Brault said. He noted that the project would be in partnership with two private sector supporters, Alliant Energy and American Transmission Co.

“If there are any remaining dollars, we will be targeting a (trail) project along County PP/Indiana Avenue,” in the city of Sheboygan, Brault concluded.

Brault and Eric Fehlhaber of the Planning and Conservation Department updated the board on efforts to reduce phosphorus and nitrate runoff in local lakes, waterways and groundwater.

The primary effort being utilized is denitrifying bioreactors, “which is a fancy word for a big pit in the ground,” Brault explained.

The pits utilize either hardwood to remove nitrates or iron slag to remove phosphorus from runoff water from farms and other sources before it enters lakes or streams.

“We have seen a 15 percent reduction in phosphorous discharge into watersheds,” with the bioreactor systems, Brault stated.

“It’s been an exciting project with more than the typical players,” Fehlhaber commented. “It was the first (such) project in the state.”

The county, he noted, has partnered with the Elkhart Lake Improvement Association to use the bioreactors to treat waste water before it enters Elkhart Lake.

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