Wetland helps keep Hinkson Creek clean

Dec 6, 2013

Credit Kyle Winker / KBIA

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is continuing to check the progress of a wetland constructed in Columbia this past summer. The city funded part of the 3M Flat Branch-Hinkson Creek Wetlands, which is located off of the MKT trail behind Katy Place Apartments, with $45,000 from the city’s park sales tax. 3M Company provided the initial seed money of $40,000.

The city constructed the wetland with two main goals in mind:  to help control and filter stormwater runoff, and to create habitat for wetland plants and animals.

Chris Woodson, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was involved with the project from the beginning and has returned to the wetland multiple times since completion to check if it’s achieving the goals the city had for the site.

“When I come here I like to see, alright, is it maintaining a wetland pool?” Woodson says.  “Is it functioning like a wetland?  When I say functioning like a wetland, are we starting to get a wetland response as far as wetland plants responding to it?”

Woodson’s answers to these questions: all resounding yeses.

Many ducks and wading birds are already starting to call the wetland home as well. Tom Wellman, who helped design the wetland as an engineering specialist for Columbia Public Works, says there was a second and equally important goal.

“The other part was to provide some treatment of the stormwater that was flowing down from commercial areas above this, up stream of this site, providing some treatment for that water, slowing it down,” Wellman says.

Before the wetland, the more than 140 acres of watershed that flowed down to the site went directly into the Hinkson Creek with no treatment. Now the stormwater flows to the site and channels into the wetland pools where the chemicals and substances in the water get leached out on its way to the Hinkson. Wellman says the wetland has also helped solve the flooding problem on the MKT trail. The site added a detour trail around the wetland, which allows MKT trail users to get a better view of the wetland and provides a way to get around the trail if it ever were to flood again.

Wellman says the best way they can tell the wetland has been effective is by seeing the main wetland pool has stayed full.  Former Engineering Aide for the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department Richard Perkins says the public could benefit to the public as well.

“It’s a place to come out and get exercise in a natural setting,” Perkins says.  “They will also be installing signs, educational signage, around the site so it will be an educational site.”

Mike Heimos, the city's stormwater educator, says the city hopes to use this as an education and outreach tool.

“The wetland will never be completed; it is always evolving, so to have people come back and continue to learn how this site is helping the environment would be awesome."

This story originally aired as part of Under the Microscope, a weekly program about science, health, and technology in mid-Missouri.