Mooresville Tribune Jan. 2, 2008

Wetlands/wildlife project prepares for take-off

By JULIE HIGGIE

Special to the Tribune

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Lake Norman wildlife will get a helping hand in the new year, thanks to a Habitat Enhancement Fund grant obtained for the Reeds Creek Wetland Mitigation Project through the efforts of Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists.

“Hopefully this will draw more species into the area,” said Eric Peterson, LNWC’s conservation chairman, who applied for the funding last summer.

With the $1,000 grant, issued by Duke Energy through the Foundation for the Carolinas, LNWC volunteers plan to procure and erect nesting boxes for species appropriate to the area, as recommended by biologist Scott Fletcher, wildlife consultant for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. Fletcher toured the area with Peterson last fall and was impressed with its potential.

Species drawn to this type of wetland include owls, wood ducks, prothonotary warblers, great-crested flycatchers and other cavity-nesting species that require or prefer a water-side location. Nesting platforms for osprey and bald eagles also have been suggested.

The funds are designated for use in 2008. LNWC plans to have the nesting materials erected before nesting season begins in the spring.

The 14-acre Reeds Creek Wetland is located in a Lake Norman cove between U.S. and I-77. The main branch of Reeds Creek runs through Mooresville Municipal Golf Course and under U.S. 21, alongside Cypress Landing Townhomes.

The site of a former goat farm and sand-mining operation, the wetland is owned by the Mid-Atlantic Mitigation Company, whose efforts were financed by a state program called the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program.

According to Peterson, who has spent much personal time in the wetland picking up litter, discarded tires and other garbage, Mid-Atlantic received $378,000 from the state to mitigate and monitor the area with the goal of improving both water quality and wildlife habitat.

Monitoring equipment is in place to make sure the area floods when it rains.

The state program’s objective, Peterson explained, is to offset damage to streams and wetlands that occurs during home and road construction. Development is banned from the wetland acreage by state decree.

LNWC is a chapter of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. Tim Gestwicki, deputy director for NCWF Conservation Programs, said he is proud of the role LNWC members will play in this conservation effort.

“I feel that the grant will allow local volunteers to enhance this Catawba Basin wetland for migratory cavity-nesting species,” Gestwicki said, adding that it provides an especially valuable opportunity to monitor population trends of those species.