Phase 1 of the Exploration Green project. The multi-phase project is slated for completion in 2022. (Joe Bibby)
According to the Clear Lake City Water Authority, the project’s five detention ponds are expected to help keep potentially 2,000 area homes from flooding through a collective water-holding capacity of a half-billion gallons, providing protection against a significant amount of rainfall and runoff.
Edwards also has been promoting the incorporation of constructed stormwater wetlands into urban drainage systems elsewhere along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Stormwater wetlands clean the stormwater that flows through them, including removing 99.99 percent of the nitrates that make their way into the runoff.
“Properly designed stormwater wetlands are beautiful and also attract a diversity of wildlife, including water and song birds,” she said.
For Exploration Green, Edwards develops planting plans and educational materials, leads a Texas Master Naturalist-based volunteer program, manages the wetland plant nursery and coordinates stormwater wetlands design and implementation with the Exploration Green Conservancy and other agencies involved in creating the park.
Gaining national interest
“Planting of the trees and wetlands in Phase 1 began in 2016, even while the detention pond was under construction,” she said. “As a result, about an acre of wetland is already approaching maturity and delighting visitors with displays of native water lilies and irises, and attracting wading birds and turtles.”
Edwards said an on-site wetland nursery supplies the aquatic plants for Exploration Green. The nursery has an approximately 30,000-plant capacity — enough to plant 5 acres at a time.
“During weekly workdays, plus special workdays for students, native plants are collected and propagated in the nursery,” she explained. “Over 300 volunteers assisted in the 2018 spring wetland planting events, which created 1.25 acres of new wetland. Over a dozen organizations, from the Girl Scouts of America to the NASA Sustainability group, have participated in this effort.”
A 1.1 mile concrete hike-and-bike trail loops the lake in Phase 1 and is proving to be popular with area residents, Edwards said. Each of the five phases will be connected by trails, providing approximately 6 miles of off-road recreational trails through a natural environment.
Water quality studies, funded by a grant from the Texas General Land Office Coastal Management Program, will begin in October 2018 to monitor and document water quality changes provided by the stormwater wetlands. A groundbreaking for Phase 2 of the stormwater wetlands portion of the project is slated for May 2018. All phases of the project are expected to be completed in 2022.
“This is a great example of residents, water management agencies, and others working together to save an important green space for recreation and to do so in such a way that it serves a vital environmental purpose that also helps improve the quality of life within that community,” Jacob said. “Other flood-prone communities in the metropolitan Houston area have shown interest in implementing this type of project, and we have also had inquiries from other states.”
This story by Paul Schattenberg originally appeared in AgriLife Today.