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City Council set to discuss wetlands plan

September 05, 2004|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — This city could become the first in the Imperial Valley to have its own wetlands project, a pond system that would clean discharge from the city's wastewater plant before it flows into the New River.

The result could be the creation of a new city park, where residents could walk along trails and view bird life that would be drawn to the wetlands.

On Tuesday, the Brawley City Council will discuss whether to move forward with the project. The council will meet at 7 p.m. in chambers, 225 A St.

If approved, the city would accept a $200,000 grant already available from the state Department of Transportation and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that would cover the cost of purchasing the land on which the wetlands would be established.

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If not approved, the city would lose the funding.

Leon Lesicka, a Brawley resident and member of the Congressional Task Force on the New River, said the task force is pushing for the project and has played a leading role in presenting the concept to the city.

"I think this is a win-win situation for the city," Lesicka said.

The project would be similar to two other wetland developments in the Valley, both along the New River. One is west of Imperial and one is at the Imperial Valley Research Center in Brawley.

The way the two wetlands work is water feeds into them from the New River, and through a system of ponds filled with plant life, the water is filtered and fed back into the New River on its way to the Salton Sea.

The city's wetlands project would work the same. The difference would be that the water to be filtered would be wastewater effluent. The filtered effluent would flow into the New River as it makes its way to the sea.

Lesicka said Brawley is not meeting state water quality regulations for its discharge, an issue that has arisen, at least in part, from the addition of waste from the Brawley Beef plant.

He said the wetlands is a way of addressing the regulations.

The project would cost about $1.2 million. Lesicka said the city would have to pay little if anything for the construction. He said grant money beyond the $200,000 would be made available.

However, the city would have to maintain the wetlands, which means ongoing costs.

"The benefit of the wetlands will outweigh the costs," Lesicka said.

Brawley Mayor Steve Vasquez said before he votes on the project he will have to see what operation and maintenance costs the city will face.

Councilwoman Jo Shields said she supports the project. She does not think the maintenance costs will be high.

"I think it's a good addition to our plant and a good addition to the ecology of the river," she said.

Shields said she would support the idea of the wetlands serving as a park where people could fish and bird watch.

Lesicka said while Brawley would be the first city to consider such a project, it would not be the last.

Westmorland will be considering its own wetlands projects. He said the goal is to introduce similar projects throughout the Valley.

Lesicka said ultimately he would like to see 44 wetlands throughout the Valley.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be contacted at dsimon@ivpressonline.com or at 344-1221.

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