Over the last few months, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District partnered with Indiana Silver Jackets and other Indiana state and federal agencies to host several educational outreach workshops for Indiana wetlands throughout the state.
The intent of these workshops was to deliver an educational outreach program for Indiana communities focusing on the importance of wetlands and how they impact water quality and reduce flood risk.
“We worked in partnership with several agencies - the team’s level of collaboration really built these workshops and ArcGIS Story Map from the ground up,” said Jenny Stromberg, Louisville District Project Manager. “By contributing and combining everyone’s different areas of wetland expertise, we ensured we were providing the best and most helpful information to the public.”
Presentations were given by USACE, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, Indiana Department for Environmental Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
“The goal of these workshops and accompanying ArcGIS Story Map was to educate and communicate the significance of wetlands to communities across the state of Indiana,” Stromberg said. “Especially since wetlands have such positive impacts on water quality and flood risk management, it’s important to engage communities and raise awareness.”
Studies completed by Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis have shown that streams without functioning wetlands in the watershed have peak discharges up to 24 percent higher than those with functioning wetlands.
In addition, pilot studies in Canada have shown that natural wetlands reduce flood damage costs to buildings by 29 percent in rural locations and up to 38 percent in urban locations. Increased understanding of wetlands and their importance could lead to similar savings in Indiana, according to Indiana Silver Jackets.
Four educational workshops were conducted between June and September, hosting an average of 20 attendees per session. Locations included Seymour, West Lafayette, Fort Wayne and Bloomfield, Indiana. As part of the workshops, participants also were able to attend guided tours of nearby wetlands.
During the workshop in Fort Wayne, Louisville District Hydraulics and Hydrology Engineer Abbey Just conducted demonstrations on the effectiveness of wetlands for the public using a physical model. Attendees also took a tour of Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve to learn about the significance of the wetlands in Fort Wayne.
“It was such a great experience interacting with the attendees and teaching them about the hydrologic significance of wetlands and how they play a role in the improvement of water quality and flood risk management,” Just said. “The model was used to visually demonstrate how impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, contribute to higher velocities and volumes of runoff, which can exacerbate flooding downstream, while wetland areas reduce flooding by reducing the velocity of flows moving across the ground surface and by absorbing water into the ground.”
It is important to understand that wetlands improve water quality, provide habitat for numerous species, and combat climate change by storing carbon, according to the team.
“It was very rewarding being part of such a successful interagency team,” Stromberg said. “Everyone brought so much passion for wetlands, it was a proud moment getting to see these workshops come to life and connect with the public, knowing how much collaboration and teamwork went into these this past year.”