Arboretum enhancement begins this summer – Davis Enterprise

Frequent visitors to the UC Davis Arboretum may have noticed the signs along the waterway explaining the duckweed and algae that thrive in this largely stationary body of water. The signs also describe a multiyear improvement project. Get ready because that effort is about to get underway.

Learn about the project
When: Wednesday
Time: 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Wyatt Deck, UC Davis Arboretum
What: Learn more about this project, speak to experts involved in the planning, preview the designs and listen to brief project overviews at either 6:15 or 7 p.m.
More info: http://publicgarden.ucdavis.edu/waterway

“This is an exciting project to be a part of,” said Andrew Fulks, assistant director of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. “This waterway is iconic to the Arboretum and our campus, an amenity for our community, and an important component to how the campus manages its stormwater, but it’s not problem-free.

“It’s a large pond that is dammed on both ends, so the water is pretty stagnant. It sits in a channel that once was a natural part of Putah Creek, but it isn’t the creek anymore. In the 1870s, after frequent floods, townspeople and farmers diverted the water to Putah Creek’s current location, south of the city of Davis and the campus.”

Now, due to its being the lowest part of campus, the Arboretum Waterway is managed as a holding pond for storm runoff; as a receptacle for clean, recycled water, and as the centerpiece of the Arboretum. The last time the campus maintained the waterway to improve issues such as sediment build up — the kind which naturally occur in ponds like this — was almost 20 years ago.

This time the work will be similar, but the project also includes features that add movement to the water — decreasing heavy duckweed and algae buildup. A major pathway will be brought up to modern accessibility standards and other safety concerns will be addressed.

“To add flow to the water we will introduce small elevation changes via weirs — barriers across water that alter its current — as well as a pump to recirculate the water,” explains Fulks. “Picture a series of large, natural steps with water cascading down; once the water reaches the bottommost step, a pump will take the water back to its starting point.”

“Introducing this kind of movement will help prevent the majority of that duckweed and algae build-up we currently experience, but just in the current project area,” Fulks said. “The rest of the waterway will be addressed in future phases over the next 4 to 5 years.”

“Completing phase one of this multiyear project not only going to make the east end of the waterway safer, more accessible and lower maintenance — it’s also going to look better,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor Bob Segar, campus planner.

The campus envisions maintaining and enhancing the entire waterway in four phases, but the one that starts this summer begins at the east end of the waterway (behind Davis Commons Shopping Center) and extends to the Wyatt Deck Bridge just west of the Arboretum’s redwood grove.

It is here that a coffer dam will be constructed to separate the rest of the Arboretum Waterway from the project area. Aquatic wildlife (turtles, fish, etc.) will be moved with the assistance of wildlife experts, the area east of the dam drained, given time to dry out, then dredged to remove excess sediment.

The project also calls for strengthening the waterway’s banks, transforming them from rock and wire baskets to earth slopes that are planted with native vegetation, and more. Because the waterway is a critical part of the campus’s stormwater infrastructure, financing for this project is made possible by funding that supports campus infrastructure maintenance needs.

The public is invited to learn more about this project this Wednesday from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Wyatt Deck in the Arboretum.

There is the possibility of some odor of decaying material as the work area is drying out. Through the use of pumps to remove the water quickly, odors will be minimized by speeding the drying.

The weirs and new path are scheduled for completion by the end of this year.

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