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Waco Mayor Ethridge, Congressman Edwards, and Corps of Engineers Celebrate Groundbreaking of Wetland Research and Education Center

By Madeline Ostrander
October 7, 2002

Applause rang out through a gathering at the Waco wetland on Saturday, September 7, as Mayor Linda Ethridge and a group of Waco citizens and schoolchildren shoveled the first wedges of dirt from the future site of the city's Wetland Research and Education Center. "This is a place where the community can learn about and participate in water issues for years to come," said Mayor Ethridge.

Attended by Representative Chet Edwards (TX) and the US Army Corps of Engineers, the groundbreaking was a high point in the City's campaign to reduce severe upstream water pollution entering the city reservoir, Lake Waco, from the North Bosque River watershed. According to the Corps- Commander and District Engineer, Colonel Gordon Wells, the city's "unique spirit of cooperation" was what made the project work.

The Center and wetland are more than just teaching tools. Eighteen percent of the North Bosque river water that is destined for Lake Waco will pass first through the wetland. As it does, the water will drop 95 percent of its sediment load. Natural processes in the wetland will remove an estimated 70 percent of the water's phosphorous load and 80 percent of its nitrogen, both contributors to water quality problems. The Center will collect data on the wetland and the river to be made available to researchers, educators, and local decision-makers.

"I applaud and salute the City of Waco's leadership," said Representative Edwards. "Thousands of students will come here to learn how to use the miracles of nature to clean our central Texas waters." This year, the Waco Independent School District plans to send 1150 students to the wetland, and other local schools are working wetland visits into their science curricula.