Steamboat Springs In theory, the plants growing in the wetlands surrounding the new Routt County Justice Center should return twofold during the next several years.
As part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that was issued to Routt County in 2004, the county is required to mitigate for the loss of a little more than 1 acre of wetlands at the construction site west of Steamboat Springs.
On Thursday, Tim Winter, the county's building and plant director, stood atop a mound of dirt pointing to areas of yellow flags indicating where native wetland plants were planted last spring and summer.
"The current construction of the building unavoidably took out some of the existing wetland area," he said. "To mitigate that, we have replaced the wetlands at a ratio of about two to one. For whatever we disturbed, we replaced it twofold."
A variety of wetland sedges and rushes, grasses, flowering plants, wildflowers and shrubs were planted, according to an annual wetland report released in May. International engineering firm WorleyParsons Komex prepared the report. It is the first of five documents aimed at tracking the progress of the wetlands for the next few years.
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the county intends the wetlands to be in a better condition than they were before construction of the Justice Center began about 13 months ago.
"Our goal from the very beginning when we realized there was going to be some wetland loss there was to create wetlands of a higher quality than was there before," she said. "I think that has been accomplished."
The wetland mitigation report is required from Routt County by the Army Corps as part of the wetland mitigation plans approved in 2005 for the construction of the $14 million, 5-acre Justice Center site adjacent to the Routt County Jail.
Winter said one of the goals was to create self-sufficient wetland with diverse native plants. The county also is required to decrease non-native plant species and exercise consistent weed control to keep the weeds from overtaking the wetlands.
"Everything seems to be thriving," he said. "The idea is to replicate the areas that were there before with more variety."
The wetland area has been dropped several feet to align with the area's water table, which has given some areas of the wetlands the appearance of being dried out.
"They're all wetland plants, but walking around there, you don't necessarily get your feet wet," he said. "The plants' roots are still getting nourished because of the way the water flows."
The new Routt County Justice Center is scheduled for completion in September, a date officials are confident still is in reach.
"We continue to be very optimistic that we'll be able to move our courts over to the new center in September," Stahoviak said.
Several courtrooms, the center's massive glass entrance and other areas are near completion, Winter said. Major projects still include getting the parking lot and sidewalks paved and putting in the electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems.
"We're doing pretty good," Winter said. "It's scares me a little every day because we have a lot to do, but for the most part, we're on schedule."
There are about 30 different sub-contractors that have worked on or are working on the construction of the building, he said.
"There's a lot of coordination that goes on," he said.
Winter said most of the building's rooms - including four county and district courtrooms - have a very "contemporary and modern" feel to them.
"The theme is stainless steel and wood," he said.
The center's Italian-inspired terrazzo floors have been laid, as has some dark gray carpet. Some of the walls have been painted an off-white color.
"You can really start to see more of what the finished product will look like," he said.
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