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Clarkson team to review state wetland restoration projects

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Clarkson team to review state wetland restoration projects
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A team of researchers from Clarkson will be combing through North Country wetlands to determine how successful restoration programs have been. The experts say tax dollars paid for the work. Our Barry Wygel says the goal is to find out if their money was put to good use.

NORTH COUNTRY, N.Y. -- Wetlands play an integral part in our world. Experts say they prevent floods, provide animals with homes and help keep our water clean.

"It's an ecosystem. A particular ecosystem that comes when you have shallow water that fluctuates in volume, it is periodically flooded and periodically dry," said Tom Langen, an associate professor of biology at Clarkson University.

State funds have been used to restore wetlands that were destroyed or removed. But skeptics say a restored wetland just isn't the same.

"The state and the government is putting money into restoring these wetlands we are wondering whether it is worthwhile," said Michael Twiss, professor of biology at Clarkson University.

To answer that question, a team from Clarkson will journey out to 50 sites the government has restored and perform a variety of tests.

"We are going to look at biodiversity, what plants and animals are in the wetlands. We are going to look at water quality. We are also looking at social aspects," said Langen.

Each team member brings a unique background to the project, from studying the plants and animals to the value of the land the restoration sits on.

"What I do is get the property value data for the areas around the study sites and then basically correlate those property values to the characteristics that are measured by my colleagues," said Martin Heintzelman, associate professor of economics and financial studies at Clarkson University.

Researchers will then combine the data they collect and send it to both governmental agencies and private interest groups.

The study will be completed during the next two years. It's being funded by a grant from the University of Michigan's Water Center.

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