September 22, 2014

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Brunswick wetlands project falls short

BRUNSWICK — Brunswick City Council has agreed to spend $42,500 to help support 1.7 acres of regional wetlands in exchange for wetlands the city has been unable to create at Brunswick Lake.

At its meeting Monday night, Council voted 6-1 to approve spending $42,500 for wetland mitigation credits.

By approving the credits, the city will no longer have to pay $9,000 annually for monitoring of wetlands by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

When the city developed the Brunswick Lake area, it agreed to maintain 2.8 acres of wetlands around the fringe of Brunswick Lake.

So far, the city has only been able to maintain about 1.2 acres, falling short by about 1.7 acres, City Engineer Ryan Cummins said. Over the past seven years the city has followed recommendations from the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA in trying to grow the wetland areas.

The city has altered the lake levels to try to flood wetland areas, but has been unsuccessful in creating more wetlands.

“We’re in our seventh year and our goal was to meet (2.8 acres) in five years,” Cummins said.

He said an overabundance of carp, who eat the vegetation in areas where the city is trying to foster wetlands, has made it difficult to create more than the 1.2 acres of wetland already in existence.

In addition, Cummins said the city pays $9,000 in monitoring fees, and has spent about $10,000 annually in efforts to control the carp population that have been unsuccessful.

“It’s our recommendation that this is the most economical solution,” Cummins said.

City leaders agreed to his proposal and the money will go toward the North Coast Regional Council of Parks Districts, which was established to restore wetlands and streams with money from cities like Brunswick who purchase mitigation credits. According to its website, the agency has preserved more than 3,200 acres of wetlands and streams.

At the meeting Monday, Councilman Brian Ousley, at-large voted against the measure saying he wanted more time to consider other options. He also worried that buying mitigation credits wouldn’t fix the high carp population.

“They’re a bottom-feeder and they’re killing vegetation,” Ousley said. “This doesn’t address that.”

But Vice-Mayor Vince Carl, Ward 2, said the legislation isn’t intended to address the carp population but to put an end to unsuccessful and costly efforts to expand the wetland at Brunswick Lake.

“I agree we have to address the issue with the carp, but it’s a separate issue,” Carl said.

He also said that he would prefer to recreate the wetland in Brunswick, but felt that spending $19,000 on monitoring fees and efforts to create wetlands has proven unsuccessful. In two years time, he said the mitigation credits will pay for themselves.

“I don’t want to throw good money after bad,” Carl said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at lgenson@medina-gazette.com.