The Agricultural Conservations Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easement (ACEP-WRE) is a voluntary nationwide USDA-NRCS program to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands, contributing positively to flood control, aquifer recharge, wildlife habitat, and more.
In 2011, the NRCS state conservationist in Iowa initiated a program that engaged AES to implement Wetland Reserve Easement projects in Iowa. In the first four years of the program, AES’s Iowa staff provided construction administration and oversight on more than 200 wetland restoration sites covering more than 6,500 acres. Ongoing Iowa WRE projects have now extended into the ecologically unique and valuable Prairie Potholes Region.
In Ohio, the state NRCS staff similarly engaged AES staff to oversee Wetland Reserve Projects throughout the state, beginning in 2014. The first two years of work have restored more than 30 wetlands and more than 1,500 acres.
In both Ohio and Iowa, AES staff provides construction administration, subcontractor bid process, seed and plant material procurement, field engineering, oversight of actual construction, and reporting.
In constructing wetlands in agricultural lands, typically dikes are constructed with water control structures to control water levels, drainage tiles are disabled to re-flood former wetlands, riparian buffer zones are created or enhanced, oxbow wetlands and prairie potholes are restored, and rich wetland flora is re-established. The specialized punch-list is long and sometimes creative, to assure sustainable construction of both hydrology and vegetation.
Working closely with the Iowa and Ohio NRCS staffs, AES restoration professionals have helped establish protocols that ensure buildable projects with achievable metrics of restoration. An AES construction manager visits the site with the landowner, and evaluates restoration and implementation strategies consistent with NRCS plans, goals, and budgetary considerations. Local contractors perform the work, lowering costs and keeping money in the state.
Installing a healthy plant palette and restoring sustainable hydrology increases the likelihood of the restoration remaining free of invasive species, which ultimately saves on maintenance. These restorations are meant to take hold and stand on their own after two years of management, though after this early establishment period, AES also makes management recommendations for future years.
- Wetland Restoration
- Construction Administration
- On-Site Construction Oversight
- Wildlife Habitat Improvement
- Stormwater Management
- Agency Coordination + Reporting