If you have driven along McKinsey Road between Ritchie Highway and Cape Arthur during the past month you may have noticed construction equipment in the woods.
The good news is the construction is part of a project to restore the eroded North Cypress Branch streambed.
In mid June, site work began encompassing the area from Ritchie Highway behind the Shell to the headwaters of the North Branch of Cypress Creek. During the past 50 years, stormwater runoff from commercial and residential development in the areas surrounding McKinsey and Cypress Creek roads had caused large portions of this stream bed to become severely eroded.
According to a 2009 press release issued by the late Carla M. Logan of the Greater Severna Park Watershed Action Group, the original goal of the project was to reduce sediment erosion into Cypress Creek and the need for future dredging of creek.
As planning progressed it became apparent that restoring the stream bed and the wetlands in the area would also benefit the water quality in the North Cypress Branch and improve habitat for wildlife.
On a recent afternoon, I had the opportunity to tour the site with Project Manager Dennis McMonigle of the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works.
McMonigle explained that a wetland-restoration area is being constructed near the beginning of the site. In addition to the wetland, a series of pools and stone weirs are being built along much of the eroded stream bed to reduce soil erosion caused by rapidly flowing stormwater runoff. The actual sediment control will occur in the center of the system.
McMonigle also showed me the remains of three, low earthen dams that had been constructed on the site about 70 to 80 years ago, portions of which are being incorporated into sediment control area of the project.
He said he thought the dams could have been built to provide holding ponds for water to be used by farmers in the area. If anyone has any information about the purpose of the dams, please email me.
In regard to improving wildlife habitat, the work at the site seems to be agreeing with some local deer. While I was touring the area, two young deer came bounding along the stream bed in our direction.
So how does a stream bed area like North Cypress Branch become so eroded?
As I stated previously, commercial and residential development are the main culprits as large areas of impervious surface such as parking lots, streets, and roofs are created during construction.
Unfortunately, for many years the best management practice was thought to be to collect stormwater from these surfaces into storm drain systems and discharge the stormwater into nearby bodies of water.
In this case the North Cypress Branch stream bed was used as part of the stormwater transport system and it was unable to handle the increased flow of water during storms.
The project, which is scheduled to be completed in April 2013, will greatly reduce the effects of sediment pollution of the North Branch of Cypress Creek. This stream bed restoration project also will be able to accommodate overflow from the Leelyn Drive storm water conveyance when it is completed.