Building on wetlands brings lasting issues
There has been some conversation these past months regarding Cafaro Company’s proposed medical complex, Enterprise Park, to be located on forest and wetland habitat along Mosquito Creek in Howland Township. To the dismay of environmentalists, Ohio EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have given the company a green light to proceed, ruling that there would be negligible environmental degradation.
If I might don my businessman hat instead of environmentalist cap, let me muse about business issues that might derail this lavish project. Naturally, Mercy Health must commit to the project for it to move on. In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers decision permits construction to proceed only on the hospital component, not on the other six buildings in the master project plan. Further, construction industry concerns about developing in water sensitive environs will require redress. Engineers are broadly reluctant to build on water and advise against.
Engineer Ed Perry cautions that building in a wetland can be hazardous. He warns homeowners, if you “build your house in a wetland, you’ve got a hobby for the rest of your life.” That hobby will include removing water and reinforcing the structure. Perry continues, “You will be fighting the water forever.” Sensible engineers are cautious and respectful of land development tracts that show water abundance. Engineer Michael Lipske in 1998 observed “Developers are nibbling away at the nation’s small wetlands, creating big problems in the process.”
Those problems include the following losses: wetlands purify polluted water; wetlands replenish aquifers; wetlands harbor wildlife; wetlands act like a natural sponge and assist in flood control.
For these attributes, water presents engineering challenges and long-term maintenance agonies, both costly responsibilities accepted with the inherent instability of wet land.