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Wetlands construction underway in Hobart

Wetlands construction at Silver Creek Pilot Project, October 3, 2017 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

HOBART (WLUK) -- A project to help keep farm runoff out of the waters of Green Bay is underway.

The plan is two-fold, by improving the wildlife habitat as well.

At the Silver Creek Pilot Watershed Project west of Green Bay, an excavator cleared the way Tuesday morning for a future 80-acre wetlands site.

"This is one tool in the tool box, that we can use to try to improve water quality. Reducing the sediments and the nutrients, phosphorus that's running off these fields and eventually into the bay," said Jeff Smudde, NEW Water Watershed Programs Manager.

The Green Bay Sewerage District, or NEW Water, manages the Silver Creek Project. Next year, NEW Water will need to reduce the overall amount of phosphorus it discharges into the waters of Green Bay by three percent. Officials say keeping phosphorus on the fields could keep costs down.

"Somewhere between $80-$200 million. So significant costs for infrastructure, where we're hoping to demonstrate that working on a watershed upstream, such as Silver Creek, could have much greater impact, positive impact on the watershed and water quality. And be far less cost to our customers," said Smudde.

Project leaders say the initiative goes beyond improving the quality of water. They say the environment around Silver Creek will be enhanced as well.

"It also will provide great habitat for wildlife. It should be a great place for song birds, frogs. There will be pollinators like butterflies, and bees using the site," said Nicole Van Helden of The Nature Conservancy.

In the coming weeks, crews will plant flowers and grasses to attract that wildlife. Officials say practices at Silver Creek can work on a larger scale.

"If we can prove that we can improve the quality of Silver Creek water with this project. We just need to do that more and more around the Bay," said Van Helden.

The wetlands construction is a partnership between federal, state, and local agencies.

The $100,000 project is being paid for by a grant from the Fund for Lake Michigan.

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