Case Study: Preserving and Relocating an Entire Ecosystem
A major retailer had a 5 acre cypress wetland dome sitting in the middle of their potential site. This property was the last piece of land in this demographic and county that was suitable for the client to build on. To mitigate the wetland in ‘normal’ fashion would mean to pull a permit allowing the client to destroy the wetland and rebuild another one in the same watershed. The problem was in this particular jurisdiction the mitigation land had to be contiguous and at a ratio of 4.5 to 1. So the client would have had to buy 22.5 acres that would have cost them roughly $30 million. This concept would cause the client to go and destroy an existing ecosystem and build another one that was not meant to be there in the first place. This did not sit well with us.
After other consultants trying to get the job permitted for several years, SCA was asked to go take to the State, Local, Regional, City, and Federal authorities who had jurisdiction over this watershed. Then we proposed something radical- Something we found out, after calling all over the world, had never been done. We told them we could move it. We brought letters from the Hundreds of projects we had done in Florida and surrounding states successfully and our 98% livability rate. We told them we proposed to move it piece by piece, layer by layer, tree by tree and plant by plant and that we had never done it before but we had the guts to do it if they did. We had our permits in ten minutes.
SCA with a team of over 50 engineers, arborists, wetland experts, contractors, soils scientists, fluvial geomorphologist (yes they exist), herpetologist, ornithologists, etal… we designed a plan to 75%. Then we went to work. We dug a trench during the fall when everything was going dormant and drained it. We dug layers down to clay about 5 feet deep and stock piled them and began to build the new wedge in the new wetland. Then literally one tree at a time, one plant at a time one shrub, one understory tree, we started to but it back together. We moved cypress trees over a 100 feet tall and we had to lay them on their sides because we had an electrical transmission line running through the site – it’s always something. We had a cotton mouth bite one of the construction workers and the snake died; that’s the kind of grit it took on this project. We finished the job for just over $3 million saving the client $27 million. The wetland is alive and well today. The water that runs through it and a series of other ponds and littoral shelves has the water leaving the site cleaner than it enters. The jurisdictions had a 5 year oversite permit on this project just to be sure it would work because they had never approved anything like it. They all signed off a year early. This is unheard of for 5 governing agencies to sign off early. This was truly a project that embodied the notion of genius loci.