Greenhouse program to slow erosion along Bayou Vermilion
By RICHARD BURGESS
July 07, 2012
LAFAYETTE — Irises, bald cypress and other wetland plants are taking root at a greenhouse along the Bayou Vermilion as part of a program to help clean the waterway that runs through the heart of the city.
The Lafayette Parish Bayou Vermilion District plans to begin distributing the wetland plants for free this year to parish residents who want to do their part in reducing erosion and storm water runoff.
The greenhouse is the final project in an initiative to heighten awareness about the impact of fertilizers, pesticides, oil and other pollutants that are flushed into the Bayou Vermilion each time it rains.
Covering barren bayou banks with vegetation could also help bring back fish and other aquatic animals to a waterway that still has trouble supporting wildlife, despite the progress that has been made in recent years to clean up the bayou, said Clair Coussan, a native plant specialist with the Bayou Vermilion District.
“The only place fish can propagate is in shallow protected areas,” she said.
The greenhouse comes after a series of other water-quality projects that began in 2009 as part of a $326,000 initiative funded in part by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The district has distributed rain barrels that allow residents to capture rain water draining from rooftops for watering gardens during dry spells, and has restored ponds around the Vermilionville living history museum, which is operated by the Bayou Vermilion District.
The district has also built demonstration projects to show residents how permeable paving materials and rain gardens can help reduce erosion and soak up storm runoff that might otherwise flow into the bayou.
The 10,000-square-foot rain garden is filled with wetland plants that quickly soak up the sometimes-oily water washing off one of Vermilionville’s parking lots, Coussan said.
“It’s just amazing how fast it can take that water on,” Coussan said.
She said the rain garden will serve as a seed source for some of the plants to be propagated in the new greenhouse.
The greenhouse is nearly complete, with the exception of the trim, and the district is expected to begin distributing plants this fall, said Paul LaHaye, operations coordinator at the Bayou Vermilion District.
The greenhouse stock includes a mix of wildflowers, a variety of irises, swamp maple, turks cap and Texas star hibiscus.
LaHaye said the irises will surely be popular, but it might take a few seasons to discover which stock is the best fit for Lafayette residents.
“It’s going to be a learning process,” he said.
Coussan said that while the greenhouse program gets established the first few years, the distribution program will likely focus on areas where the plants will have the most impact because there might not be enough plants for everyone who wants them.
For more information, visit www.bayouvermilion.org.
The Bayou Vermilion District is a tax-supported agency that maintains and cleans the bayou in Lafayette Parish and operates Vermilionville, a living history museum and folklife park on Fisher Road.