Creating Wetlands as Part of Substation Project
The Mt. Zion substation presented an opportunity to improve upon existing farmland.
The Back Story
Choptank Electric often works with other utility companies to ensure reliable power distribution and typically we aim to reduce our dependence on external electrical distribution sources and build new transmission infrastructures, which allow us to be more in control of our grid.
One such project is in progress at the future Mt. Zion site in Caroline County. This required replacing the transmission lines from Oil City to Hobbs that currently feeds our Williston substation. “We try to move as much load as we can from distribution to transmission lines because they are more reliable and have less downtime,” said Dave Robinson, Substation, and Relay Engineer for Choptank Electric Cooperative. Robinson’s role is to guide the project from Choptank Electric’s side while leading our Chestertown crew to work in collaboration with RK&K Engineering.
Part of the reason for choosing the Mt. Zion site was due to its proximity to a pond. This simplified the creation of wetlands that was required by state environmental authorities because of the damage caused to existing wooded areas during the construction of the new transmission line.
“Often when people try to compensate wetlands, they normally restore or expand an existing wetland. In this case, the site was essentially farmland,” said Jim Eisenhardt, Senior Manager for Water and Natural Resources with RK&K Engineering. Choptank Electric partnered with RK&K Engineering to design the wetland, oversee its construction, and to coordinate with local, state, and federal agencies to get approval for the wetland. The company has monitored the area for the last five years to ensure the wetlands are thriving.
During this time, RK&K Engineering has been conducting a type of maintenance called “adaptive management,” which Eisenhardt explained as adjusting the wetland to enhance its success. These adjustments include adding more plants to modifying the water levels in the wetlands to speed or slow the growth rate of the plants.
Building wetlands out of farmlands brought its own set of issues that included digging to reach the pond, rain delays, and added rain drainage that was difficult due to the water tables. Some of the vegetation was initially washed out, but we prevailed and succeeded in planting over 1,000 different native trees and shrubs with a good mix of wetland species. It encourages all types of wildlife like deer, herons, and bullfrogs just to name a few.
Many of the plants that were introduced to the area specifically attract some of the birds, reptiles, fish, and other animals that you would normally find in wetlands. While state or federal regulations did not require the introduction of any animals to the area, the wetland was built to accommodate a variety of species. “You might be up to your waist if you try to find them, but the pond includes many areas and crevices to accommodate anything from native frogs to fish,” added Robinson.
“Wetlands are unique habitats for birds, amphibians, and reptiles. They also help filter stormwater, help to deter flooding, and there are specific plants that only grow in this kind of environment. From herons to egrets, local species of deer, birds, and more, wetlands are important for a variety of reasons, and thus heavily regulated by state and federal laws,” concluded Eisenhardt.
The project is expected to reach completion this fall, pending approval from the Maryland Department of Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency.