MacDill mitigates wetlands to repair airfield drainage system

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Vernon L. Fowler Jr.
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
Since Nov. 11, 2014, the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, has been implementing a project to restore the airfield drainage system on the west and southeastern portions of the active runway.

"Over the years, the addition of access road and other modifications to the airfield have altered the drainage system around the airfield, cutting off the movement of water, and creating areas of standing water," said Jason Kirkpatrick, 6th CES contractor. "There has also been some natural settling and compaction of the soil which have exacerbated the drainage issues on the airfield."

This combination of man-made alteration and natural settling has resulted in the creation of low lying areas around the airfield which have become wetlands. These wetlands provide a habitat for numerous fish and wildlife species, filter pollutants from the water, decrease flooding, and help recharge groundwater by collecting surface water which soaks into the ground.

However, the wildlife that frequently inhabits these wetlands, particularly the birds, represent a hazard to aircraft safety.

As a result, the wetlands must be removed in order to repair the drainage system. However, Executive Order 11990 Protection of Wetlands requires that negative impacts to wetlands be avoided or at the least minimized. If impacts are unavoidable, then the loss of wetlands must be mitigated.

The 6th CES has constructed three mitigation sites, approximately two miles from the airfield, for the wetlands' relocation. MacDill secured the necessary permits to allow the filling of the wetlands around the airfield.

Approximately 9.56 acres of new wetlands were constructed and 0.63 acres were enhanced. Both freshwater and saltwater wetlands had to be created to replace the wetlands that were lost around the airfield.

The construction of the wetlands mitigation sites is now complete and will be under routine monitoring and maintenance for the next five years.

"We have to demonstrate that the new wetlands we created are developing properly and are functioning as designed," said Kirkpatrick. "The sites will be monitored twice a year, and inspected once a year by the regulatory agencies to confirm that they are developing properly."

As for the airfield drainage project, the repair work is approximately 85 percent complete and is projected to be finished January 2016.