Bringing back the green to West Campus

The Army Corps of Engineers is currently working with Oswego State to replace the wetlands on campus that were built over by The Village townhouses.

Before the wetlands were built over, they had to be examined for endangered wildlife, said Tom Simmonds, associate vice president for facilities,

"Whenever you do a project like the townhouses, you have to do an environmental impact review," Simmonds said.

The ratio of wetlands that were removed to make way for the townhouses will have to be replaced, Simmonds said. Authorities are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to "come up with a mitigation plan," he said.

A few options for replacement of the wetlands are being reviewed. Simmonds said his department is looking into either building new wetlands on campus, creating an educational plan concerning the wetlands, or acquiring existing wetlands that can then be preserved.

The bioscience department on campus is getting involved with the second option, and will use "the wetlands as a living classroom," Simmonds said. He added that with this option, a nature trail will also be created, as well as educational signs throughout the wetlands.

If Oswego State chooses to preserve existing wetlands, Simmonds said they will "look at acquiring that, so it’s forever wild instead of building something new."

If they do build something new, however, it will most likely be placed across from The Village, on the other side of the road, said Simmonds. He added that the Army Corps of Engineers has examined a few possible locations on campus, and looked at each location’s hydrology and the species present there. They feel that the area across from The Village townhouses would be the best place.

"We have submitted all of that to the Army Corps for their review," Simmonds said. "If they get back to us and say, ‘Well, that flys,’ then we build. It’s a pretty interactive, back and forth process. It’s been a pretty positive thing. We’ve had a lot of people involved in this."

The Dormitory Authority, who financed the building of the townhouses, is also involved in the negotiations with the Army Corps, Simmonds said.

"We expect [the application] to be finalized in due course," said Jack Homkow, director of environmental affairs for the Dormitory Authority of New York State. He added that a decision could be made in the next few weeks.

Discussions about a timeline for this project are ongoing, Simmonds added.

"I’m hoping that the Army Corps will say that this is a great plan in the near future," Simmonds said. He added that finding a time to build has to do with the season and ecology of the area they choose to enhance.

Homkow said that construction on the wetlands will likely not happen until after September, because during the original environmental review of the area, an endangered species was identified: the Indiana bat. They normally migrate away from Oswego in September, so Homkow said construction will have to wait until after that occurs.

Simmonds added that the reason so much of the wetlands were removed was to make The Village completely accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

"We tried to be sensitive with all that," Simmonds said, who added that he believes "we’re in pretty good shape."