The College Settlement Wetland Project will Help Improve Water Quality in Pennypack Creek

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Wetland in early spring 2016. Stumps and logs added for habitat diversity.

The College Settlement Wetland Project is the culmination of a stormwater control measure originally envisioned by Temple University’s Center for Sustainable Communities in their Pennypack Creek Watershed Study. By creating a stormwater treatment wetland in a strategic location, up to 2 inches of stormwater runoff from 40 acres of upgradient development will be captured, infiltrated, and cleaned. Despite facing unexpected funding challenges the project has substantial educational opportunity and, when completed, will reduce erosion, increase base flow in the down gradient stream and begin making strides toward improving water quality in Pennypack Creek.

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Youth at College Settlement Camp. Photo credit: collegesettlement.org

Just north of Welsh Road and across the street from Purdy Lane in Horsham Township, the project is located on The College Settlement of Philadelphia’s Kuhn Day Camp/College Settlement Camp – a nonprofit organization that provides day and overnight camps, as well as environmental education programs to economically disadvantaged children in the Philadelphia region. The project will not only enhance educational opportunities associated with improving stormwater management but will also provide opportunities for youth to observe and learn about wetlands and wildlife.

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Wetland under construction.

Beyond its strategic location as an educational resource, the site was selected because roughly 40 acres upgradient of the project site are developed with early 1960s half-acre residential lots lacking stormwater runoff controls. Runoff from these lots and Welsh Road threatens Pennypack Creek, with erosion during large storm events and reduced base flow during dryer weather. Originally envisioned as a half-acre stormwater treatment wetland, site soil conditions permitted an expansion of the project to ensure adequate management of more than the first two inches of runoff. The current site includes a one-acre combined stormwater infiltration and treatment wetland of roughly equal proportions.

The project is also one of three projects selected by Villanova University for intensive hydrologic monitoring. Villanova is installing instruments to measure the inflow and outflow of water from the site, focusing on how stormwater runoff is slowed, infiltrated, and cleaned. The instrumentation includes a full weather station and a camera for remote visual monitoring during runoff events, which will be accessible via the internet. The goal is to show the incremental improvement in water quality for a stormwater control measure of this size in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Newest resident: Chelydra serpentina, common snapping turtle. Also present are swallows, tadpoles, and water boatmen bugs.

The College Settlement Wetland Project was originally funded under a Round 1 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant under the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative, with matching funds from Horsham and Upper Moreland Townships, Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust and the designers. However, unanticipated costs now require the project to seek gap funding to purchase more shrubs and trees and install a fence. The shortfall occurred because of more than anticipated Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Projection permit costs, along with the need for fencing to protect newly planted vegetation from the rampant deer population in the area. Hopefully, some additional National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant funds will be made available to cover these additional costs. In the interim, the site has been stabilized but has not been planted out to full capacity.

 

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Wetland before seeds germinated.

The team that designed and implemented the College Settlement Wetland Project include Derron L. LaBrake, a Professional Wetland Scientist and Certified Ecological Designer from Wetlands & Ecology, Inc. and M. Richard Nalbandian, a Professional Geologist from MRNenvironmental.Inc. They worked with the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) to design, permit and construct the project.

 

 

Based on interview with Derron LaBrake, PWS, CED. Photos credited to Derron LaBrake.

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