Dredging won't fix storm water issue -- Steve Glass

Dredging won't fix storm water issue -- Steve Glass

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Thanks to Chris Hubbuch for his March 9 story, "Final phase of work begins," about the Curtis Prairie storm water management project.

As a former Arboretum employee in the position of land care manager until my retirement in 2012, I was delighted to learn that city and university administrators have agreed -- finally -- to undertake repairs of the broken storm water infrastructure that has intruded on, and damaged, Curtis Prairie.

I was not delighted, however, to learn that the project designers and engineers will rely on dredging the pond as part of the solution to fix the upstream storm water problem. Dredging is a crude, primitive and brute-force technique -- something Also Leopold said derives from the “iron-heel” mentality. Because dredging is part of the tool kit that led to the original failure, it is folly to then turn around and use the same approach to fix the problem it created in the first place.

What is needed is a large dose of humility and an inquisitive and sensitive approach that tolerates uncertainty. This is the essence of Leopold’s “ecological conscience.” An ecological restoration frame of mind works with the land, rather than against it.

My colleagues at the Arboretum have advocated for inclusion of an ecological restoration approach. I hope that the project managers have listened and learned and have thus included many ecological restoration attributes, values and measures in this project. Time will tell.

Steve Glass, Madison, land care manager, emeritus, UW-Madison Arboretum

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