RICHLAND — Work to replant and restore vegetation removed to install a Richland sewer line through the Amon Basin preserve is under way just weeks after contractors were criticized for creating "an open, festering wound."
Work on the milelong sewer line began in December and was intended to be confined to a 20- to 30-foot strip to minimize damage to the 100-acre preserve, which includes shrub-steppe, wetland and riparian areas -- the only urban spot in the Tri-Cities that combines the three kinds of habitat.
Members of the Tapteal Greenway Association, including its president, Scott Woodward, complained in January that contractor Rotschy Inc. of Vancouver had worked outside the designated area and took their concerns to the city.
On Thursday, Richland Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky reported during a walkthrough of the preserve that the city and restoration contractor Wildlands Inc. have expanded plans for replanting to include the disturbed areas and also to improve some other areas the contractor hadn't touched.
The sewer line was built almost parallel to Leslie Road and connects the city lift station at Broadmoor Street to an existing sewer line at Rachel Road.
The project will allow hundreds of homes south and west of the preserve that now are served by septic systems to connect to city sewer system if they choose.
The line will not serve the almost 2,000-acre area south of Badger Mountain annexed by the city council in December and expected to eventually contain thousands of homes.
Construction on the $550,000 sewer project is complete, and restoration work is expected to last into early spring.
Rogalsky said the project so far has come in under budget.
The replanting will be done in three zones.
The first is a 4- to 8-foot riparian area near the water that will include plants and shrubs such as black cottonwood, peach leaf willow, Columbia hawthorn, coyote willow and nootka rose.
Next comes a transitional area that Rogalsky said is about 20 feet wide and includes woods rose, smooth sumac, western clematis, Rocky Mountain juniper, green rabbit brush, basin wild rye and basin big sage.
The area disturbed by the sewer line installation will be restored in two phases -- first by seeding native grass, then later by planting desert shrubbery, Rogalsky said.
By splitting that work into two phases and planting the shrubbery in the fall, the area can be sprayed to control noxious weeds in the first year of establishment, he said.
The second phase of planting likely will happen in November.
Woodward said it appeared the city was doing the right thing with the restoration, although he is concerned that some of the damage might be impossible to repair.
"I appreciate the effort Wildlands has made to accommodate everybody, and that the city of Richland has concerns about fixing that particular piece," Woodward said.
He said Wildlands Inc. also donated some plants to Tapteal Greenway Association that volunteers will plant in the preserve March 19.
To volunteer, call Woodward at 627-3621 or go to the preserve at 9 a.m. on March 19.
Volunteers will meet at the south trailhead off of Leslie Road, just south of Rachel Road, and are asked to bring shovels, wheelbarrows and gallon jugs or buckets for watering.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org