Local businessman constructs wetlands, gets "tax break" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Local businessman constructs wetlands, gets "tax break"

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - For the past five years, local businessman Bill Raines has transformed a portion of his parking lot into official wetlands. The one-acre area sits behind his Four Squares Business Center off Mountain Creek Road.

"It took engineers, landscape architects, city staff, city engineers," explains Raines.

He also shelled out a little more than $100,000 of his own money.

The incentive for commercial and industrial land owners to construct wetlands now comes with a reduction in storm water fees--85% per year for 25 years in Ranies' case. Discount amounts usually depend on the size of the entire property. Raines says it's worth waiting for the investment to pay off.

"It's going to take me about nine years to get an economic payback, but the water quality began on day one, as well as the educational component with Skyuka Hall students," says Raines.

They use the wetlands as an outdoor science lab.

Not long before Raines started building, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told Chattanooga leaders they needed to clean up their act and improve some of the storm water runoff infrastructure. The result was a dramatic increase in storm water fees to support city projects. Now the city offers a reduction in those fees for private wetlands construction.

Lee Norris of the Chattanooga Public Works Department says silt from runoff is the number one pollutant in Tennessee waterways. Wetlands help capture runoff and ease some of the city's load in handling water quality while meeting EPA standards.

"The more storm water we can catch and clean before it enters the streams, lakes, and rivers, the better off we are," says Norris.

Plus, the small area at Four Square is now teeming with wildlife.

"We have mallard ducks. We have Purple Marlins. We have Bluebirds. We have butterflies," says Raines. "We have tadpoles, and even algae."

There's also a walking trail around the perimeter of the wetlands and a picnic area next door.

Raines wants to create big ripples down the road in keeping the city sustainable through environmental conservation.

"I hope that this might inspire other people to look at ways to apply different techniques for water quality," adds Raines.

Raines is the first land owner in the Chattanooga to construct a wetlands. The program is not yet open to residential land, but Norris says this is a future possibility. If you are a commercial or industrial land owner and are interested in building a wetlands area, contact the Chattanooga Public Works Department for more information.
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