How do you care for a stream that has undergone a $7.7 million ecosystem restoration? That was the question posed to Nine Mile Run's stakeholders following the restoration's completion in 2006. Obviously the answer is not a simple one. While Nine Mile Run is an amenity for everyone in our region and a focus of work for NMRWA, the stream's care falls to the city's Department of Public Works (DPW) -- specifically the Eastern Parks Division. The restoration is a project of the Army Corps of Engineers, which means the long-term mainenance reverts to the property owner once the Army Corps completes the construction of the project.
Dick Wilford is the foreman of the Eastern Parks Divisions based in Frick Park not far from Nine Mile Run. In addition to his intimate knowledge of the stream both pre- and post-restoration, Dick partners with key stakeholders, including NMRWA, the Frick Environmental Center, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and the Three Rivers Invasive Species Coalition to inform the development of a maintenance and stewardship program for the stream.
Since the type of ecological restoration project undertaken on Nine Mile run is a new field, the maintenance of the stream will largely be an experimental endeavor. As mentioned before, DPW has reached out to several partners, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the restoration design firm Biohabitats, to educate itself on best management practices. Some of the focus areas for the DPW crew overseeing Nine Mile Run include invasive plant species control, plant protection, collaborating on volunteer stewardship activities, and actual physical repairs to the stream course as needed. DPW has also taken the lead in proctecting some of the wetland areas and improving access to the stream by building elevated walkways near the Commercial Avenue park entrance.
Under Dick's direction, the DPW crew has been building its capacity to care for the stream by attending conferences and classes on invasive species, and getting certified in pesticide application for invasive plant control. The Army Corps has also been very generous in providing educational opportunities to the DPW crew, specifically on stream course repairs. As we move forward in furthering restoring and protecting Nine Mile Run, we are very fortunate to have stewards like Pittsburgh's Department of Publick Works and the Army Corps of Engineers as leaders and partners.
The Nine Mile Run aquatic ecosystem restoration was completed in July 2006. The restoration includes stream channel reconfiguration, wetland reconstruction, native wildlife habitat enhancement, and native tree, shrub, and wildflower plantings. Follow the links below to see photographs by John Moyer of this amazing transformation.
The Nine Mile Run Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration is an aquatic habitat improvement project sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Pittsburgh 's Department of City Planning. This is the largest project of its kind to be undertaken in a major metropolitan area in this country by the Army Corps of Engineers and involves the restoration of approximately 2 miles of stream.
Nine Mile Run is the largest free flowing stream in the East End of Pittsburgh and is a cultural and natural resource for the region. Unfortunately, during wet weather excessive stormwater and sewage overflows from the City of Pittsburgh and the boroughs of Edgewood, Swissvale, Wilkinsburg make the stream unfit for most wildlife and human recreation. The stream restoration is a critical piece of the improvements that are happening throughout the Nine Mile Run Watershed and contributes to the watershed's becoming an example of the best in urban ecological restoration.
The stream restoration has taken several years to complete. It proceeded in 3 phases:
Click here for map of Phase 1B - Fern Hollow to Commercial Avenue
The restoration was supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh . The contractor hired to complete the construction was Meadville Land Services. Maintenance for the restored stream is the responsibility of the City of Pittsburgh 's Department of Public Works, which manages all major city parks. The Nine Mile Run Watershed Association did not manage or fund this project. Rather, NMRWA runs programs throughout the watershed municipalities that complement the physical transformation of the stream in Frick Park.
The total cost of the restoration was $7.7 million. The $5 million federal contribution to the project is being paid for through Army Corps of Engineers Section 206 funding. The non-federal match of $2.7 million came from the City of Pittsburgh and Three Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Program. The match was met through in-kind services and grants and paid for the design for the entire project, phase 1A construction, and re-vegetation and invasive plant control.
Since the project's inception, NMRWA has worked to educate community members about the importance of the restoration and the methods to be used. We lead bimonthly tours of the restoration site and are available for special group tours by request. Please contact us if you have questions and we will do our best to see these answered by the appropriate party.
Using techniques such as stream channel reconfiguration, pool and riffle sequences, and stream bank stabilization and native plantings, the stream restoration allows the stream to better respond to the high volume of water during wet weather and increases and improves habitat for invertebrates, fish, and wetland plants.
One of the major new features of the restoration will be several wetlands which will be planted with native plants that tolerate wet soil for a portion of the year. These wetlands will provide the critical functions of cleaning and slowing stormwater. They are not expected to harbor mosquito colonies because the new plants will also encourage mosquito predators, such as dragonflies, to colonize the area. If, after the wetlands are constructed, you are concerned about West Nile virus, mosquito populations or see dead crows, blue jays, or hawks you can call the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection at 1-877-PA-HEALTH.
No. The aquatic ecosystem restoration is only one piece of what is needed to fully restore the health of Nine Mile Run and its surrounding watershed. Improvements in the upper watershed's residential communities, which are the source of pollution and excessive stormwater, are critical for the long-term health of our watershed community. That is why NMRWA offers citizens the tools needed to make changes at the individual and neighborhood level.
To learn more about what you can expect from the stream restoration, join us on one of our bimonthly Restoration Tours-see Upcoming Events.