Protecting and Enhancing the New River and Fivemile Creek Corridors
Not only will HPS restore the land disturbed by mining, it has also pledged to conserve and enhance those areas that will not be mined. That is, large, contiguous, mixed-value habitats on the property along the New River and Fivemile Creek will not be mined and will be largely undisturbed by mining operations. The HPS families that own the land will record conservation easements over this more-than-3,000-acre area. The conservation easements would mandate preservation of this valuable riparian corridor. Further, since conservation easements are permanent, this area will remain preserved in perpetuity.
The New River and Fivemile Creek areas are important riparian corridors for the protection of wildlife habitat and water quality. HPS will not only preserve, but take additional steps to enhance this area, thereby increasing ecological value to the community.
As part of the enhancement, invasive plant species will be reduced or eliminated. Invasive species tend to adapt quickly to new environments and spread aggressively. They can out-compete native species, upset ecological balance, and deprive other species of necessary habitat. Invasive plant species that have been observed throughout the project area include Alligator weed, tropical soda apple, Chinese tallow, and water lettuce. HPS will combat these species by periodic application of approved, appropriate herbicides to ensure the continued ecological viability of the habitat.
HPS will also protect water quality in these conservation areas by constructing a reverse swale along their perimeter. This reverse swale, a small earthen berm covered in native vegetation, will slow sheet flow from agricultural areas into the New River and Fivemile Creek. By slowing the water’s rush to these drainage basins, erosion will be reduced and more water will percolate to the ground, taking advantage of natural filtration that will enhance water quality. Upland portions of the conservation area will also be planted with native hardwood trees, converting these areas previously used for agriculture to upland forests which will provide additional habitat, prevent erosion, and improve water quality.
The conservation areas will also be fenced to prevent disturbance by cattle. Keeping the cattle out will protect vegetation from trampling and overgrazing, and protect water quality by minimizing fecal matter.
All of these actions to preserve and enhance the New River and Fivemile Creek areas on the HPS property will result in a net gain in ecological function of the area, which far exceeds the state and federal requirements.
 See “Minimizing Impacts and Preserving High-Value Communities,” posted on April 29.