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Forestry Consultant Report- Harbour Watch

Harbour Watch

Alternative Plan for Re-vegetation of Disturbed Areas

Lake Murray, SC

Proposed by James D. Walters, Jr.

SC Registered Forester No. 601

ISA Certified Arborist No. SO-1281A

Prepared for Lake Murray Watch

April, 2022

I. Critique of the implementation of the Buffer Zone and Riparian Management Plan at Harbour Watch

The original management plan (1984) for FERC Project No. 516, developed by SCE&G for the Lake Murray shoreline and adjacent areas was revised a number of times in consultation with various agencies and authorities. The 2007 update was not implemented until recently. Some of the requirements in the plan are vague, subjective, or not consistent with accepted Best Management Practices for the Management of Trees and Woody Landscape Plants (ANSI A-300) or the SC Forestry Best Management Practices.

Some of the flaws in the 2007 plan are as follows:

· Excessive mulch is required. The standard depth for mulching trees is 2 to 4 inches, whereas the plan requires a minimum depth of 4 inches. No specifications are given for type of mulch or frequency of application. Mulching the entire area is impractical and unnecessary.

· No specifications are included for plant quality or planting procedures, and no provisions are included for maintenance of newly planted trees until established (at least two full growing seasons).

· The list of recommended plants includes some trees that are now not recommended for planting.

· Vague or poorly defined terms include “diseased,” “weakened by disease or insects” or “undesirable trees.” Some sort of disease can be found on almost any tree, and the degree to which a tree is weakened depends on many factors in addition to the presence of a pathogen or insect pest. No expert evaluation (by a professional forester, Certified Arborist, professional horticulturist, entomologist, etc.) of trees is required in the plan before removal. Undesirable tree species should be described by species or characteristics, such as unacceptable risk.

· No provision is made to allow removal of trees that might be otherwise healthy but structurally unsound and at high risk for damaging property or causing personal injury.

Current Conditions

Currently, some property owners are allowed to maintain a landscape lawn all the way to the water line. Most of these properties are mowed regularly, which prevents any succession of natural vegetation. An overstory of mature trees occurs on most properties, mostly mature loblolly pines (figures 1 and 2). The pines are mature and are gradually dying out from lightning strikes or infestation by bark beetles (Ips species). A few wet areas and undeveloped areas support natural vegetation, including hardwood species. Few of the small trees planted under the original restoration plan have survived, and these are not thriving.

The residential lawns, which provide benefits against soil erosion, provide little other environmental benefit. Runoff from lawns allows fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides to be washed into the lake. A natural tree canopy with a natural ground cover of accumulated leaves, etc. from the trees would more effectively prevent significant runoff into the lake and would intercept and filter any runoff from lawns. A forest floor permits infiltration of rainwater into the soil rather than runoff. A few undeveloped areas along the shore are typical of a natural forest cover that would eventually develop through natural succession (figure 5).

For recreational users of the lake, the view from the water is currently of residential back yards with a sparse overstory of trees. The maintenance of landscaped yards also prevents the accumulation of woody debris in the edge of the lake which would enhance fishing. A natural forest cover would also encourage wildlife, especially songbirds, and provide the natural beauty of wild flowering plants and trees. Presently, there is little midstory vegetation along the shoreline except on undeveloped areas.

Proposed Plan: Natural Succession with Enrichment Planting

Vegetative buffer areas provide essential habitat for many species of wildlife. Much of South Carolina’s native wildlife depends on aquatic and wetland habitats. Birds, mammals, fish, frogs, and turtles spend some or all of their life cycle in or around the water. Fallen tree branches and logs provide habitat for fish, turtles and other aquatic wildlife. Aquatic plants and fallen debris also provide a refuge and a food source for insects, snails and other small creatures critical in the aquatic food chain. Plants along the water’s edge help moderate water temperatures by shading shallow water. This provides relief for aquatic organisms during the hot summer months.

Buffer areas along the shoreline contain important nesting, hunting, feeding and perching areas for songbirds. Standing dead trees (or snags) provide nesting cavities for woodpeckers, Carolina chickadees, nuthatches, wood ducks and other wildlife. Trees, shrubs, vines, and other plants produce a variety of nuts, berries and seed buds for birds and mammals. Plants along the shoreline attract insects that serve as food for many other species.

Buffers can serve as links between shoreline properties, providing a migration corridor for a wide variety of animals. On the other hand, one benefit of vegetative buffers is that Canada geese don’t like to move through brushy areas where they feel more vulnerable to predators. They will rarely cross a buffer to reach lawns, where their droppings are unsanitary and objectionable.

Vegetative buffers add aesthetic value. Branches of trees and shrubs can be used to frame a view. Selective removal of a few low branches can provide openings for views to the water from houses without significantly decreasing privacy. Vegetative buffers can help protect water quality, protect and provide habitat for wildlife, reduce noise, help stabilize the shoreline, reduce flood waters, moderate water temperatures and filter pollutants, nutrients and sediment. Buffers can do some or all of these things while maintaining aesthetic and recreational values.

The first step in restoring a natural shoreline is to stop all mowing and removal of live plants from the 75-foot buffer zone. This will allow succession of natural vegetation to begin. Removal of exotic invasive plant species should be allowed within the area, and allowance should be made for removal of pines for control of bark beetle outbreaks (Dendroctonus and Ips beetles). In the event of a pine beetle infestation, it would be necessary to remove infested trees as well as a buffer of uninfested trees in the area. Dead trees, however, can be left to provide habitat for woodpeckers and cavity-nesting birds and mammals. Details of pine beetle control methods are available from the SC Forestry Commission. Removal of high-risk trees that threaten docks or other property should also be permitted. A professional risk assessment should be required of such trees.

Natural succession is a slow process, but it can be accelerated with the wise addition of vegetation that might otherwise take many years to appear. Planting native trees and shrubs that occur in later successional stages can speed the process significantly. Use tree planting stock approximately four to six feet tall, planting on a 20-foot maximum spacing. The smaller trees are much less expensive to purchase and to plant and have a much higher likelihood to survive with minimal maintenance. Proper planting technique and follow-up care will ensure establishment of a hardwood stand. The trees should be planted during the dormant season, which for this area would be early December through February. Control of competing vegetation will be necessary for the first two years. A licensed pesticide applicator should use an approved herbicide, applied according to label directions, to keep competing vegetation (including grass) from a 2-foot radius around the newly planted trees for the first two growing seasons. This will allow the root systems to capture the site and successfully compete against the wild pine seedlings that will come in.

According to the ANSI Z60.1 American Standard for Nursery Stock, four foot tall trees require at least a #5 (“five gallon”) container. Six-foot trees require at least a #7 (“seven gallon”) container.

This plan will greatly speed up the shoreline restoration through succession of a hardwood canopy. If done properly, this will shade out much of the pine reproduction and residual turfgrass. As the hardwoods and shrubs get established, the area will be much more pleasing aesthetically for recreational boaters and anglers than the landscaped lawns. The steps to this approach are as follows:

· Stop all mowing, blowing, raking and removal of live plants (other than poison oak/ivy and invasive exotics) within 75 feet of the 360 contour. This will allow natural mulch to accumulate.

· Plant desirable native trees and shrubs in the zone above the 360 contour and extending inland for 75 feet, using 4 to 6 foot tall nursery stock for trees, and shrubs no larger than “2 gallon” containers, on a 20-foot spacing between trees. Plant shrubs, grasses and forbs from the recommended list between the trees where no natural vegetation exists to achieve the desired density in the 2007 plan. Bare-root seedlings, available from the SC Forestry Commission nursery, can be used for some species, provided they are properly cared for to prevent drying or freezing of roots, and are promptly planted. Competition control is crucial for these seedlings. Below the 360 contour, plant only trees that can tolerate extended immersion of the roots.

· Native, desirable trees occurring on the site may be retained in lieu of planting. Wild pines should be thinned to a spacing of 10 feet from other pines or planted trees.

· Trees should be selected for shade tolerance where a closed or nearly-closed canopy exists.

· Tree planting should be done in December through February.

· Competing vegetation must be controlled around newly-planted trees and shrubs to allow them to capture the site and compete against wild pines. Approved herbicides, used according to label, should be applied by an experienced, licensed pesticide applicator to control vegetation within a 3-foot radius of planted trees for the first two growing seasons.

· Monitor survival of trees for three years and replace trees that are dead or not thriving.

· Allow maintenance of a 10-foot wide, meandering path for access to docks or waterfront from the maintained lawn.

· Allow landscaping above 75 feet inland from the 360 contour with traditional lawn species of trees, vines and shrubs.

Supervision and Monitoring of Project

An independent third-party Certified Arborist should be engaged to monitor and approve tree species and any substitutions to specified plants, quality of plant materials, and proper planting procedures before payment is made to contractors. Specifications for plant quality and planting procedures should be based on industry standards (ANSI Z60.1 for plant quality and container size, and ANSI A300 Part 6 for planting).

Recommended Plant Species

Species listed below should be available commercially. Other suitable tree species may be available also, but should be approved by a Certified Arborist before purchase.

Zone I (below 360’ elevation)

Trees Shrubs Grasses and Forbs

Black Willow Buttonbush* Maidencane

Baldcypress* Silky Dogwood Switchgrass

Pondcypress Swamp Azalea Bushy Bluestem

River Birch Waxmytle Switchcane

Swamp Tupelo Alder Hibiscus

Water Willow

*May be available as Forestry Commission seedlings

Zones II and III

American Holly** American Strawberry Bush Big Bluestem

Blackgum American Beautyberry Broomsedge

Crabapple (native Southern)* Carolina Rose Eastern Gamagrass

Dogwood **(native flowering)* Chickasaw Plum* Little Bluestem

Eastern Redbud** Native Azaleas Indiangrass

Eastern Redcedar* Waxmyrtle Purpletop

Overcup Oak Yaupon Switchgrass

Paw Paw** Inkberry Illinois Bundleflower

Persimmon (native)* Possumhaw Milkweed (butterfly)

Red Maple Sparkleberry Partridge Pea

Sycamore* Purple Coneflower

Willow Oak

Shumard Oak*

Cherrybark Oak*

Swamp Chestnut Oak*

White Oak

Southern Sugar Maple**

Chalk Maple**


*May be available as Forestry Commission seedlings*

**Shade tolerant species

Species listed in Zone I are more flood tolerant.

Relevant tables from ANSI Z60.1 are attached.

Sample Plant Material Specifications

• Plant materials shall comply with the recommendations and requirements of the newest version of ANSI Z60.1-2014 "American Standard for Nursery Stock," with regard to minimum root ball or container size, caliper and branching height, height/caliper relationship, root quality and overall quality. Plants not meeting this standard will be rejected. The ANSI Z60.1 Standard can be downloaded at:

• Trees will not have kinked, circling or girdling roots within the root ball. The trunk flare will be visible at the surface of the root ball. The top of the trunk flare is considered to be the top of the first primary root, and does not include adventitious root caused by deep planting.

· All container grown nursery stock shall be healthy, well rooted and established in the container in which it is growing. Container grown nursery stock shall have a well-established root system reaching the sides of the container to maintain a firm ball when the container is removed, but shall not have excessive root growth encircling the inside of the container. Plants shall be free of disease, insects, eggs, larvae, injury and defects such as abrasions or disfigurement.

· Trees will have a single stem, without fork or co-dominant top. Trees with flush pruning cuts will be rejected. Small-maturing, decurrent trees will have a single, well-defined trunk up to the first major branch.

• Dominion Energy reserves the right to inspect all trees at place of growth or point of purchase for compliance with requirements for name, size, quality and quantity. A minimum of 72 hours will be given for the scheduling of this inspection of proposed nursery stock.

• All trees will be delivered to the planting site in closed or covered vehicle. Plants must be protected at all times from sun and drying winds.

· Bare root planting stock will be protected from drying or freezing and will be planted within 10 days of delivery.

• The vendor will maintain all plant material in a first-class condition until product is planted and final acceptance is granted.

• Plant materials will be true to name and variety established by the American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature "Standardized Plant Names."

• Trees will be free of cold injury and sun scald.

• Pest or mechanical destruction will not exceed approximately 1/4 of individual leaves nor affect more than 5% of the total foliage.

• Rooting medium will be weed-free.

• The contractor will guarantee all plant material to be in healthy and flourishing condition at the time of acceptance.

Sample Tree Planting Specifications

  • Planting excavations will be at least three times the diameter of the root ball.

  • Depth of the planting hole shall be two inches less than the depth of the root ball, measured from the root flare (top of the first primary, or structural, root) to the bottom of the root ball (live roots)

  • Augers are not permissible unless the sides of the augered holes are sloped with a spade.

  • Burlap, wire, twine, handling straps and all other artificial materials shall be removed from at least the top half of the root ball before backfilling. It is preferred that all such materials be completely removed.

  • Nursery stakes, trunk wrap and tags shall be removed, with the exception of labels (if present).

  • Any circling roots or kinked roots will be cut smoothly by shaving (not slicing) the outer portion of the root ball of containerized trees. If significant root pruning must be done to correct such problems, the tree shall be rejected.

  • Final planting depth shall be one to two inches above grade. The root flare shall be at least one inch above grade.

  • Backfill shall consist of the native soil, excavated from the planting pit. Any amendments used shall be restricted to the top third of the backfill.

  • The backfill should be lightly tamped to remove major air pockets and stabilize the tree if necessary but not compacted.

  • Organic mulch shall be applied to a depth of no more than four inches, evenly spread over the excavated area, except that it shall not be applied within eight inches of the tree trunk.

  • The root ball of the tree shall be watered thoroughly at the time of planting.

  • A firmly compacted water ring or berm will be constructed of soil only the tree is to be watered by hose or bucket. The water ring shall encompass the outer circumference of the root ball, with a height of no more than four inches. The water ring will be protected with mulch. If irrigation, Tree Gators, or similar watering devices are to be used, water rings will not be constructed.

  • Trees will be staked only if needed to prevent blow-over. If staked, a soft strapping material such as ArborTieÒ shall be used. Wire in hose is not allowed. Staking systems shall contain enough slack to allow the tree to sway in the wind.

  • Trees will not be pruned at planting unless necessary to remove minor broken or conflicting branches.

The attached tree species list is modified from the SCE&G 2007 list to delete unsuitable trees and add a small number of trees and shrubs.

Figure 1 Other than trees, there is no buffer on this lot. Manicured lawn extends all the way to the lake’s edge. Raking and mowing prevent the establishment of natural vegetation that would protect the soil and prevent runoff of chemicals fertilizer fertilizers.

Figure 2 Pine straw rather than turfgrass is maintained in this buffer area, but no natural vegetation is allowed to become established.

Figure 3 This buffer area has some shrubs established, but no native grasses or forbs are present to help stabilize the soil, and dead wood is not being allowed to accumulate and decompose.

Figure 4 Some natural succession is taking place on this lot’s buffer zone area, with shrubs and grasses. Turfgrass is present, inhibiting further succession of natural vegetation to better stabilize the shoreline and restore natural conditions.

Figure 5 This undeveloped area shows the natural state of the lake shore without development or landscaping. Native trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs form a canopy and healthy understory. Annual leaf fall and accumulated dead wood are allowed to decompose and nurture the soil biota, increasing soil porosity and improving infiltration of rain water.

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