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DOT plans wetland project

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In a reciprocal relationship with the lands of North Dakota, the North Dakota Department of Transportation proposes restoring a wetland site north of Richardton.

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"With all of our projects, we impact wetlands and under federal law we have to mitigate those wetlands," said Sheri Lares, NDDOT environmental services section leader. "What we are proposing is to restore some wetlands so we can use those credits for future roadway projects."

Lares said the NDDOT would be installing plugs across ditch drains to restore hydrology back to wetlands.

The NDDOT receives credits for each acre that is mitigated. The type of creation, restoration or enhancement will determine the amount of credits the NDDOT receives.

"Those accumulate in quantity and in order for us to build our road projects we have to have the wetlands mitigated," Lares said.

North Dakota is broken into six areas, Lares said. Dickinson and surrounding areas, including the site near Richardton, belong to the Southwest Slope regional service area.

"Any road project that incurs wetland impacts within this regional service area, we can use this mitigation site for credit," Lares said.

The boundaries of this area are the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea.

This will be the first mitigation site in the Southwest Slope area, Lares said. Construction most likely will not begin until next construction season, she added.

Projects are governed by the North Dakota Inner Agency Review Team comprised of individuals from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, North Dakota Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Bruce Kreft, a North Dakota Game and Fish resource biologist said part of his department's role is to develop areas and find the best candidates for these wetland mitigation banks.

"Most of the time we get better credit and better restoration efforts if it is an actual drained wetland," Kreft said. "The soils are there, the hydrology is there and the vegetation will come back."

Wayde Schafer, Sierra Club spokesperson, said mitigation projects can have positive effects.

"Manmade wetlands are not as productive as far as from a wildlife standpoint as a natural one. They just can't restore all the species," Schafer said. "We aren't able to do as good as God, I guess."

Kreft said most wetlands are drained for farm production.

"Restoring one that has been previously drained is pretty good too because they (species) will come back," Schafer said.

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