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Wetlands

 

Wetlands continue to be developed in the Parish, significantly modifying the hydrology. Property owners who develop wetlands are required to purchase replacement wetlands of the same size. However, compliance with this federal requirement can be achieved by purchasing wetlands anywhere else in the Parish. Often property owners mitigate wetland loss by purchasing replacement wetlands where land is less expensive, often outside of the watershed or even outside of the state. Over time, this practice results in significant degradation of the hydrology within East Baton Rouge Parish. Even development on land adjacent to wetlands often results in increases in localized flooding, as well.

Bluebonnet Swamp, near Perkins Road and Bluebonnet Boulevard, is an example of the detrimental impacts of urbanization in wetland areas. Studies by the City-Parish Planning Commission and Louisiana State University indicate substantially increased sediment levels in Bluebonnet Swamp after residential areas were constructed. High sediment loads impair the swamp’s health and productivity covering vegetation and aquatic animals with silt, reducing light penetration, oxygen content, and overall water storage capacity of the area.

Wetland Resources

What Is a Wetland?

Although wetlands are often wet, a wetland might not be wet year-round. In fact, some of the most important wetlands are only seasonally wet. Wetlands are the link between the land and the water. They are transition zones where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients, and the energy of the sun meet to produce a unique ecosystem characterized by hydrology, soils, and vegetation making these areas very important features of a watershed. Wetland area in East Baton Rouge ParishUsing a watershed-based approach to wetland protection ensures that the whole system, including land, air, and water resources, is protected.

Wetlands are divided into four general categories-marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens. They differ in terms of soil, topography, climate, hydrology, vegetation, and water chemistry. Most areas in East Baton Rouge Parish that could be considered wetlands resemble a swamp or marsh. Swamps have more wooded vegetation like bald cypress or tupelo compared to marshes which have herbaceous vegetation such as grasses.

City-Parish Wetlands Program

Recognizing the importance of wetlands and other ecosystems, the Conservation and Environmental Resource Element of the Horizon Plan identified the need to preserve and protect these environmentally sensitive lands. The City-Parish Planning Commission was named as the lead agency for assuring that these sensitive areas are identified and considered in land use planning and future development scenarios. In order to achieve this goal, a wetlands program was established through funding assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The East Baton Rouge Parish Wetlands Program employs a dual approach to wetlands protection and preservation. The prime objective is to educate. A better understanding about the value of wetlands reduces the tension between environmental concerns and economic growth issues. The second objective is to provide tools for decision-making for both the private and public sectors to facilitate the development process. See Information Bulletin 42 Wetlands. This document is in PDF format.  Download the free viewer from www.adobe.com

Potential Problems For Wetlands

The wetland areas in East Baton Rouge Parish are surrounded by rapidly increasing urban development. More roads, buildings, parking lots, and driveways mean more impervious surfaces. These surfaces do not hold moisture so water from rainfall, snow or even irrigation is transported rapidly across them and deposited in large amounts into drainage conduits and eventually surface water. It is difficult to thoroughly explain wetlands in East Baton Rouge Parish without discussing the potential problems associated with them. Nonpoint source pollution or run-off is described to give the reader a clearer idea of what can affect a wetland area so that corrective steps can be made before these important lands are destroyed.

What Can I Do To Protect Wetlands?

First, identify your watershed and find the wetlands in your neighborhood. Learn more about them and share what you learn with someone you know! Encourage neighbors, developers, and state and local governments to protect the functions and values of wetlands in your watershed.

Instead of draining or filling wetlands, find more compatible uses, such as waterfowl and wildlife habitat. When developing your landscaping plan, keep wetlands in mind. Plant native grasses or forested buffer strips along wetlands on your property to protect water quality.

Participate In A Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program!

Plan to avoid wetlands when developing or improving a site. Get technical assistance from your state environmental agency before you alter a wetland.

  • Maintain wetlands and adjacent buffer strips as open space.
  • Support your local watershed association.
  • Plan a wetland program or invite a wetland expert to speak at your school, club, youth group, or professional organization.
  • Learn how to build a wetland in your backyard by visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture External web link not maintained by City of Baton Rouge
  • *source www.EPA.gov External web link not maintained by City of Baton Rouge

Mitigating Nonpoint Source Pollution in Urban Watersheds with Spatial Modeling, Best Management Practices for Wetlands and Community Outreach

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) LayersThe Planning Commission realizes the connection between Wetlands and Nonpoint Source Pollution in East Baton Rouge Parish (EBRP). Wetlands, if used properly, can be used to store and clean stormwater. The unique climate and soils in EBRP are an ideal environments for wetland areas. This project connects the two by analyzing specific Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Nonpoint Source Pollution using wetlands when applicable. Using Spatial Modeling, BMPs for Wetlands, and Community Outreach were chosen as approaches to mitigate the nonpoint source pollution problem in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Spatial Modeling is manipulating and analyzing spatial/geographical data to generate solutions to complex problems. Graphically displaying sources and sinks for nonpoint source pollution and wetlands on a map give an important illustration of where development should be guided and what areas should be protected. Finding relationships among geographic features is necessary since the sources of nonpoint source pollution can be widespread.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are effective, practical, structural or nonstructural methods which prevent or reduce the movement of sediment, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants from the land to surface or ground water. These practices are developed to achieve a balance between water quality protection and development. See information Bulletins below:

Information Bulletin 45 Alternative Paving This document is in PDF format.  Download the free viewer from www.adobe.com
Information Bulletin 56 Stormwater Best Management Practices This document is in PDF format.  Download the free viewer from www.adobe.com

2004 Earth Day Enviroscape demonstrationCommunity Outreach is promoting and educating information regarding the water quality problem of nonpoint source pollution, importance of wetland areas, and other BMPs that can reduce the negative effect of water. The high degree of human interaction with urban waters makes community outreach and education vital.

The Wetlands Program has created a Wetlands Steering Committee to guide the project within the existing scope of services. The Committee consists of development professionals, regulatory agencies, and public works officials. All members are stakeholders in the water quality and help pass on information to their prospective professions.