WISE – Wetlands Interpretive Sanctuary for Education

York County, with a population of approximately 63,000, lies in the eastern Virginia coastal plain on a peninsula formed by the James and York Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. The County is bordered by the York River, James City County, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg. The western-most part of the County consists almost entirely of Federal property, including the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, Cheatham Annex, and Camp Peary. With 106 square miles, it is the third smallest county in the state.

With the building of the 31,000 square foot Tabb Library in 1999 at the intersection of Hampton Highway (VA Route 134) and Long Green Boulevard; a wetlands area was destroyed, creating an obligation under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to either replace the wetlands area or fund a replacement in mitigation. The second part of the problem was a drainage problem in the local community of Lackey. A stream adjacent to Charles Brown Park was severely eroding in the vicinity of residential development in a neighborhood of low income families. A 1993 drainage study indicated high runoff velocities and flow rates that resulted in a degraded stream.

Faced with the problems of replacing a wetlands area along Hampton Highway and a drainage issue in the local community of Lackey, the county investigated whether it could solve both issues by creating a wetlands area downstream from the drainage problem and adjacent to Charles Brown Park. The result was a project that provided environmental advantages, including stream restoration, wetlands creation and drainage improvements. The program promoted and required intergovernmental cooperation in order to address the situation.

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