A very special thanks to Howard County, MD, JMT’s Jeremy Koser and Steve Pawlak and EQR’s Luke Feight and crews, the following blog post was written by John Minicozzi, with a postscript by Luke Feight, our site superintendent.
Completing the stream restoration project of Font Hill was no easy task. From our narrow access road and limited stockpile area to the existing flood plains that were solely ankle-deep mud, we knew when we arrived at this project that we were in for a challenge. However, the view from the entrance overlooking the completed site as we departed on our last day was the perfect reassurance that our work, and the work of many other EQR staff members, was worth it. Where there was once eroded bank now lies a stable, functioning channel and, where there were disfigured flood plains now lies a lush habitat for newly planted flora that will drive this thriving ecosystem. In just the short time we were onsite after the completion of the stream and floodplain construction, we were able to see many species of birds, insects and aquatic life thriving as this mild winter moved slowly into spring. Newly planted tree species will provide homes for many migratory birds and small mammals while emerging grasses and flowers will supply an excess of food and habitat for necessary insects.
While there are numerous ecological benefits to restoring this nearly 1.5-mile section of stream, another reason for our work in this area was to help manage storm water for the neighboring town of Ellicott City. The town of Ellicott City has experienced devastating floods in recent years, mostly due to improper drainage systems and streams that cannot handle the excess water volume of significant rain events. This project is a small part of the effort to create a stream ecosystem that can contain any level of flow. Thousands of tons of dirt left our job site every week so that we could create room for excess flow and floodplain structures, soil stabilization matting and newly planted foliage will protect our work from being eroded and washed out over many years. Even residents of the neighborhood were not shy about commenting on how our work has reduced flooding that damaged their properties for years prior. Their praise was much appreciated and a reflection of the work of many people who made this project possible.
One of the greatest challenges that we face in completing this project was having two crews working simultaneously with little to no room in our stockpile. At one point during this project we had 4 excavators, 3 track trucks, and a full-sized loader operating within a quarter mile stretch of one-way path. We however made it work and found ways to become more efficient as days went on. Every day we moved thousands of pounds of materials on and off site with ease and worked together to make up for lost time and complete the project by our deadline. The work we do at EQR is rarely easy and completing the restoration at Font Hill was no exception. We battled the elements and ultimately completed a project that we can surly be proud of. I hope this is just the beginning of our work to make the waterways of Ellicott City the beautiful and functional tributaries that they once were.
Font Hill was a challenging project with quite a bit of dirt moved. In conjunction with Howard County and JMT we were able to repair a stream system by eliminating the incised channel and creating a wide floodplain with a meandering base flow channel. We installed riffles, live fascines, floodplain sills, clay plugs and cross vanes throughout the extensive stretch of stream. The final product turned out to be a much more enjoyable aesthetic than what had currently inhabited the area, but furthermore restored the stretch of stream to a more functional and healthy system. We encountered large rocks of unprecedented size, as well as other obstacles, and were able to work with our partners at JMT and the Howard County to incorporate them into the design effectively and move things forward. Now that the project is finished and the site has time to grow vegetation and heal itself, the future looks promising for the Font Hill site and the stream’s functionality, as well as aesthetic, will only improve from here on. This project was appealing because the Emerald Ash Borer had destroyed a large forest of ash trees and the stream was impaired.