LAKE ARIEL - Looking for a natural approach to enhance water flow to Lake Wallenpaupack, members of the Hideout Property Owners Association built a wetland with the help of the Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District and Princeton Hydro.
    The wetland that is located on a 10 acre parcel, along an Ariel Creek on the Hideout Association’s property, was recently presented and the Land and Environmental Planning Manager for the Property Owners Association John Gigliotti explained that before the wetland was constructed, the system was problematic because water would go directly down a channel into the lake. This, he said, didn’t allow for wetland vegetation to soak up nutrients.
    The Director of Aquatic Programs from Princeton Hydro Dr. Fred Lubnow said the primary task the wetland will do is absorb nutrients and depending on the amount of water from storms, with the newly constructed wetland cells, the water will filtrate properly. The cells will also help filtrate pollutants from entering area waters.
    Gigliotti said the Hideout Association’s goal was to reduce the dependency on chemical treatments for the community’s lakes and watershed assets. Looking to keep and maintain nutrients, he said it was realized that since the area was once a wetland it could be recreated into a wetland habitat. The project, he said is basically a relic flood-plain that has been restored through “manmade activities.”
    Before the wetland was constructed, following a storm, Lubnow said there would be elevated phosphor concentration in the streams. That is an issue, because phosphor drives algae and plant growth. Up to 1,100 pounds of “green goo or green cotton candy,” can potentially be generated with one pound of phosphor he said. By constructing the wetland, it was a way to “preserve and protect the high water quality.”
    Gigliotti said the project is “unique,” because most of the funding came from the Hideout Association. The Association provided $250,000 with a $76,500 Growing Greener Grant from the state in 2012. Since the Hideout is not a municipality, the association reached out to the Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District to submit an application.
    Executive Director at Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District Nick Spinelli said the Association’s backing is the “most significant contribution,” he has seen from a private association and it is a “great example” for other communities.
    Working with the Hideout since 2009, Lubnow called the project “incredible.” With the size of the project, especially in this part of the United States, he said it is a “rare thing.” Lubnow applauded the Hideout and everyone for their passion for the environment. The value of one’s property, he said, is directly related to the clarity of associated lakes and the Hideout recognized this. He noted a few small problems with aquatic plants during the summer season, but overall the water quality is excellent.
    With the original design, the cost was $1 million, but following a redesign it was decided that five acres of the eight and a half would work. With the remaining acres, Lubnow said the Hideout Association approached the Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District for help with the grant so additional vegetation could be planted.
    For the installation of monitoring equipment, Lubnow said the Department of Environmental Protection provided funding so measurements of nutrients in the wetland could be made. The measurements would tell how much water is deflected. Lubnow said the monitoring is exciting because with these kinds of projects, if the budget is tight, monitoring is typically the first thing that is removed.
    Although the primary construction is complete, because of the potential for invasive species, Lubnow said in the first year monitoring will be essential. Once the wetland is well established, he said the problem with invasive species likely won’t occur. With the funding from the Growing Greener Grant, there will be hydrologic and pollutant loading sampling to collect data on how the system functions.
    In the Hideout’s lakes, Lubnow said there aren’t too many invasive aquatic plans. To handle the vegetation and feed on submerged fish, grass carp has been stocked.  
    Spinelli praised the Hideout Association for being proactive, because no other community association in the Wallenpaupack watershed is as proactive in maintaining and creating wetland enhancements. He said protecting the water quality is important because it ends up downstream in Lake Wallenpaupack, which is significant for Wayne County and the people that use the lake.
    Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Fritz said Thursday was a “celebration of teamwork and spirit of cooperation.” From the hard work of many agencies, Fritz said the wetland is the result of the “powers for good.”
    The Chairman of the Board of Directors Arnie Milidantri said the speed in which everything occurred, in a matter of five years was quick. The success he noted is largely due to the collaboration from everyone involved, as they realized the significance of the project.
    An eagle has already made residency in the wetland and jokingly, Gigliotti said it is not obeying the community’s catch and release rules. As for reptiles and amphibians, Lubnow said it is a matter of time before they are noticeable.
    With Lake Ariel upstream, Lubnow said efforts are being looked at to preserve and protect other water quality in the area. The collaboration from all agencies involved has been great and now, he added that Mother Nature just has to take its course.