Red mesh fences are up and earth-moving equipment has moved on the site of a yearlong project to create 25 acres of wetlands along Great Seneca Creek, which flows west under Woodfield Road (Route 124) in Laytonsville.
The $4.2 million project just south of Watkins Road is part of off-site mitigation required as a result of environmental destruction during the building of the Intercounty Connector highway further south in Montgomery County.
Planners say Laytonsville residents can expect to see trucks and other equipment move on and off the site near the bridge over Great Seneca Creek, but not enough to disrupt traffic along Woodfield Road.
“We’re just starting that process and it should take about a year or a year and a half,” said Rob Shreeve, who oversees the project, known as SC-19, for the State Highway Administration.
Environmental Quality Engineering [EQR] of Arbutus received a $2.7 million contract to do the work, which does not include additional money for land acquisition, engineering and 10 years of monitoring.
The plan is to create 25 acres of forested wetlands and clean up and fortify about 1,000 feet of Great Seneca Creek by planting vegetation.
“The roots of these plants is what holds the stream banks together,” Shreeve said.
“Planting sedges and rushes, and sycamores, willows and other trees also makes a very diverse habitat,” he said. “We know there’s a beaver in there, and it makes for a very rich ecosystem.”
Wetlands also filter phosphorous and nitrogen in runoff from surrounding development, helping to prevent pollution from eventually reaching the Chesapeake Bay, where it fosters algae growth and chokes fish.
The Great Seneca Creek site, which is owned by SHA and borders parkland to the west owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is publicly owned but not intended as recreational space.
There are no trails into the site and no plans to build them, Shreeve said. The project, funded in part by tolls from bridges and tunnels, primarily will benefit wildlife and help filter runoff.
A $4.5 million project along Goshen Creek, which is further south and west of Woodfield Road off Brick and Huntmaster roads, is also part of the ICC mitigation program.
That project, which created 15 acres of wetlands, is almost finished, except for the planting of additional trees and vegetation, Shreeve said.
“We’ve seeded a lot of different grasses, trees and shrubs,” he said. “We see what comes in over the first year, and then we plant other species that will supplement them.”
Facchina Construction of La Plata received $2.6 million to do the work, which included restoring the stream, grading the dried-out floodplain, and creating forested wetlands and small vernal pools, which support frogs and salamanders.
“The project is on scope and on schedule,” Shreeve said.
Local landowner Stephanie Scuderi, who owns Fox Hollow Farm, said the farm is more than a mile away and not directly affected by the projects. However, she said she supports projects that help protect and increase habitats for local wildlife.
“There’s a huge blue heron that eats on our farm and walks on our creek bed, and I’ve seen two fly together,” she said.
“And we’ve seen two bald eagles in the past year, so they must be doing something right,” she said about the nearly finished Goshen Creek project.