Salem's Public Works Department won an award for its work on the Mill Creek Corporate Center wetland. (Courtesy/Diego G Díaz at Otak)

For years, Salem Public Works Department has worked to create new wetlands on land being developed for commercial use.

The Mill Creek Corporate Center in southeast Salem now has two wetlands created after years of work and planning.

Salem’s Public Works Department was recently awarded the “Public Works Project of the Year Award in the Environmental Division” for projects between $5 million and $25 million by the American Public Works Association’s Oregon Chapter for its work on the wetlands.

“It’s a project that’s been a long time coming,” said Aaron Kimsey, engineering program manager.

In the early 2000s, the Oregon Legislature directed the Department of Administrative Services, which owns the land, to get the property ready for development. In 2004, Salem and the state formed a partnership to make the land, 600 acres total, ready for development.

“The main goal of the project is to enhance wetlands by converting mostly agricultural land into a mosaic of diverse habitat dominated by native species. The wetlands exist on land that in the past was drained artificially to create agricultural fields. The resulting drier soil was more vulnerable to invasion by non-native species,” a city description of the project reads.

Part of that required creating a new wetland, so they could develop the corporate center located near Aumsville Highway Southeast and Kuebler Road Southeast.

In the years since, businesses like Home Depot, the Amazon fulfillment center and PacTrust have filled in the commercial space.

Now, nearly 42 of the 100 acres of open space are wetland, designed to provide habitat for local wildlife and stormwater runoff during the rainy season.

Kimsey said a wetland of that size is unique, and it’s rare to have a project solely for the purpose of creating a wetland.

He said they had to create a low spot through the site that would naturally want to become a wetland. They accomplished that through “a massive amount of grading” to lower the contours of the ground.

Then the area was planted with species like Oregon white oak, pacific willow, hardstem bulrush and Nelson’s checkermallow.

The first project they completed was the Central Compensatory Wetland Mitigation project in 2013.

Another wetland on the southern portion of the property was completed this year.

The city will have to monitor the new wetland site for five years to make sure the plants grow. 

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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