Imagine a helicopter hovering over high tension power lines strung across the middle of nowhere, from tower to tower. A skilled worker is attempting what many would consider a risky maneuver. He's trying to attach what's known as bird deflectors, a form of cable, above the lines. Fortunately, the diverters were installed all along the high-power line in Beehunter March, a part of the huge wetland restoration project in Greene County.
That was only one of several exciting episodes that unfolded during the 10 years that it took to do everything needed to return land farmers once tried to drain to wetland, says Jerry Roach, Wetland Reserve Program Manger in Indiana for the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Other exciting episodes including cutting a cable that a utility hadn't fully marked. As Roach recalls, the cable was marked in great detail after that incident.
"It was just a huge project," he recalls. "The biggest one we had done in Indiana before was 2,500 acres."
Altogether, Indiana has about 60,000 acres enrolled in the wetland reserve program, he notes. Many of the same techniques that are used to restore wetlands elsewhere were used here, but in this case, it was on a much larger scale.
For example, a million feet of tile that had been installed at one time or another had to be disabled. Pumping stations, some of them crude, had also been installed and needed to be disassembled. Some of the tile dated back decades. A good portion of it was clay tile, which hasn't been used in large quantities for many years. Today, most contractors and farmers choose plastic tile because it's cheaper and easier to install.
Adding to the difficulty was the fact that part o the tile was in soil so tight that it took more than one backhoe to dig it out. The second backhoe needed to be on hand to knock the hard clay out of the bucket of the first backhoe if it got filled up with the tight clay soil that wouldn't budge.
Denise Held, NRCS project engineer on the site, notes that they installed more than 40 water control structures. Each one allows them to help manage the level of water in the various parts of the restored project. One outlet, for example, is near Black Creek. When it's appropriate, water can be diverted from the creek into the wetland through the water control structure.
"It was the project of a lifetime," Roach concludes.