Lafarge North America’s Davenport cement plant give the impression of heavy industry to those who pass by on Iowa 22. But the massive 840-acre site is crossed by creeks and streams and contains plenty of wildlife habitat. The company has also been working to restore prairie and wetland areas, make greater use of alternative fuels and recycle stormwater runoff.
For its restoration efforts, the Lafarge plant recently received honors from the Wildlife Habitat Council, a national organization that brings business and conservation efforts together to create wildlife habitat, and from Ducks Unlimited, with interests in conserving wetlands and waterfowl areas.
“The prairie grass areas along the Mississippi River appear to restore the land to its natural form,” said Nalin Joshi, environmental manager at the plant. “Bringing back the right types of vegetation and the wetlands will bring the area back to the way it should be and restore its equilibrium.”
In all, Lafarge restored two sections of prairie land totaling nearly 10 acres. Both parcels are adjacent to the Mississippi River and bookend its massive cement manufacturing plant.
The pond and wetlands area are on about nine acres north of the quarry on Moore Creek, Joshi said. They were initially built in the early 1970s but were later destroyed when a dam was removed sometime in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s by a previous owner, according to a summary of the project. It was rebuilt again in 1991 by Lafarge.
“The pond is connected to the creek, and the wetlands help to purify the water before it is returned to the creek,” Joshi said.”We’ve also added an island in the pond that serves as a bird sanctuary. Predators can’t get to it.”
The prairie areas were designed and seeded with the help of Pheasants Forever, a conservation group based in St. Paul, Minn., with staff and offices in Iowa. Matt O’Connor, a habitat coordinator for the group, reviewed the property and helped to determine the best way to restore the sites.
“They realized that they did not have the best soil conditions,” O’Connor said of the two prairie parcels. “We determined that prairie would be one of the best things to thrive here. It does well on a variety of soil types.”
The eastern parcel was once used for production of cement and, later, as an alfalfa field, according to the report. Three large man-made circular ponds once used in a now-discontinued wet manufacturing process for cement are adjacent to the new prairie. The western parcel has never been used but contained invasive plant species.
“Lafarge wanted to do something to attract wildlife,” O’Connor said. “You get migratory song birds up and down the river corridor. Other animals also move up and down the corridor. Prairie was common along the river before man began development. We weren’t big on the idea of putting in more forest because of how close the parcels are to the highway and the chances of car-deer accidents.”