My job at a state Department of Transportation was to review landscape plans, provide technical advice for anything related to landscapes, write contract specifications for planting and grassing, write maintenance specifications and work plans, and create statewide policies for roadside projects and permits. The Department had about 4500-personnel statewide, including many civil engineers and ecologists as well as external consultant designers. I reviewed about three hundred projects a year.
I was also on the state Soil and Water Conservation Commission’s technical advisory committee for several years, working on changes to the GREEN BOOK—the erosion control manual for the state. Several new stream and wetland laws were in their infancy during this time.
My background is in landscape architecture with a strong emphasis on horticulture. I did a lot of industrial campus plans and municipal work before coming to the Department, and I worked, early in my career, on large-scale planting and irrigation plans. I did some residential work, too. I got to know the green industry and gained practical experience in how to keep plants alive and maintain them. You get to know plant species after specifying several hundred of them on a single site!
During my time at the DOT I reviewed over eighty riparian mitigation projects. My review process evolved with each experience. Our section, Maintenance, was called into roadside restoration work initially during a crisis. There were active consent orders on nineteen stream disturbance violations in north, south, and central Georgia—just as budgets had been slashed and all the environmental consultant contracts were closed. Our section was asked to write the specs, rework the plans, procure the plant material, train the asphalt/pothole crews, layout the sites, accept the plant material, supervise the installation crews, monitor the results, and write the maintenance instructions for the restoration planting—all within about a month and a half—all nineteen sites. A lot of things had gone wrong, and we were asked to come in and fix them quickly.
We learned a lot in the process. We rewrote our standard planting specifications. We learned how important is was to connect with the district and area field inspection engineers and provided plain-language instruction to help in monitor contract installation and maintenance requirements.
The department-wide plan development process was eventually adapted to include landscape architectural review of mitigation proposals early in the design phase. A single project manager was assigned to each road project. The Environmental Services division amended their protocol to include the landscape architecture section’s input and review of landscape mitigation plans. Later, I provided internal and external training classes based on common issues encountered in the plan reviews. As a result, our new stream relocation and disturbed buffer restoration process helped expedite road projects and save a lot of money. The consent orders were lifted and we didn’t have any new EPD violations.
What do I want to tell you about restoration planting?
It’s simple to do a restoration/planting/mitigation plan for roadside stream relocation projects. All you do is seed a native riparian seed mix over the disturbed area and then, during the dormant season, plant native bare root seedlings eight feet on center. This is the least expensive, most self-sustaining way to establish a welcome mat for natural succession.
The devil is in the details, though!
I want to share as much as I can with you about what I learned, but you can find more detailed information in my Advanced Guide to Environmental Mitigation eBook. I would love to hear your comments and about your restoration stories and experiences, too.