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Wetlands center to host educational festival

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

During the Newman Wetlands Center's 10th annual Wetlands and Watershed Festival, Clayton County residents will be able to learn where rainfall, like the kind that has caused flooding across metropolitan Atlanta over the past few days, goes after a storm.

The festival will be held on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., at the wetlands center, located at 2755 Freeman Road, in Hampton. The wetlands center is owned by the Clayton County Water Authority.

"It's an environmental-education event about the wetlands and the watersheds, [and] the role they play in the flow of water through the county," said Carol Lambert, the senior conservationist at the Newman Wetlands Center.

Lambert said wetlands can help decrease the chances of flooding after a heavy rainfall because they create natural areas for the water to gather and soak into the ground.

"Wetlands hold water," Lambert said. "Plants and mud in the wetlands soak up water and store it. Basically, it's a big sponge."

In addition to learning about wetlands, visitors to the festival will be able to learn which of the county's 23 watershed areas they live in, Lambert said.

A watershed, Lambert explained, is where rainwater flows to once it hits the ground. The county's watersheds are connected by streams which eventually carry the water out of Clayton County.

The Clayton County Water Authority will have watershed maps available, so people can find the watershed area in which they live, Lambert said. She also said water that falls in the county flows into two river basins, because of a ridge which runs from north to south through the county. She said the railroad tracks which pass through Jonesboro are on top of that ridge.

"Everything to the east of the railroad tracks in Jonesboro drains east into the Ocmulgee River Basin, and eventually ends up in the Atlantic Ocean," Lambert said. "Everything to the west of the railroad tracks drains west into the Flint River Basin, and that winds up in the Gulf of Mexico."

The free event will include a scavenger hunt for children along the wetlands center's half-mile walking trail, as well as an exhibit on animals which reside at the wetlands center.

Lambert said 18 agencies, and centers, will have exhibits at the festival, including the Reynolds Nature Preserve; the Clayton County Extension Service; the Georgia Forestry Commission; the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program; the Clayton County Library System, and the Atlanta Audubon Society.

The festival will take place at a time when rainfall, and water flow, are making headlines in metropolitan Atlanta. Rain which fell over this past weekend, and on Monday, has caused widespread flooding in many parts of the Atlanta area. Clayton County was among 17 counties which Gov. Sonny Perdue declared were in a state of emergency because of the rainfall on Monday.

Perdue announced on Tuesday that he has requested President Barack Obama make a federal emergency declaration for those counties.

Locally, 3.72 inches of rain fell at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this past Saturday, with another 0.61 falling on Sunday, and 2.13 inches coming down on Monday, National Weather Service Meteorologist Frank Taylor said. He added that in Jonesboro, 1.22 inches fell on Saturday, while 0.28 inches fell on Sunday, and another 1.37 inches came down on Monday.

"They got a good rain, but they didn't get the bull's eye that the rest of metro Atlanta got," Taylor said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services spokesman, Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, said the fire department has not had to rescue anyone from their homes because of flooding in the county. Clayton County Public Schools Spokesman Charles White said no schools have been adversely affected by the recent rainfalls.

Lambert said anyone interested in attending the Wetlands and Watershed Festival should not worry about another deluge of rain forcing the event to be canceled.

"The festival will happen, rain or shine," she said.

- Staff writer Linda Looney-Bond contributed to this article.