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Storm Water Management - Flood Prevention (Feature)

posted on August 19, 2008 at 11:31 AM

After this year's flooding, there is no doubt that all Iowans know the impact of water. 

The floods displaced thousands of residents and businesses.  

Blame has ranged from whatever activities or development were taking place upstream -- to climate change that is bringing more rain to the state.

But no matter where the blame lies, there are many discussions on how to prevent the disaster from happening again. Such discussions occur after every flood – but talk turned into action a few years ago in northwest Iowa.

This may look like an ordinary flower bed -- but it is much more.  It is likely one of the best looking storm sewer intake points in the state. Strategically placed cutouts in the curbs of 3,300 feet of new concrete streets direct rainwater to 15 bio-retention cells … often also referred to as rain gardens.

The water then filters through the landscape, and through an underground rock and tile system. It has a chance to cool before the city's storm sewer line empties into popular West Okoboji Lake.         

Before this project was done, there was noticeable urban pollution being added to the lake.

Okoboji Mayor Mary VanderWoude: "It was just like a flood you know. You got 2-3 inches and away it went down the gully and into the lake. "

Brad Beck, Beck Engineering Consulting, Spirit Lake: "The temperature of storm water was very warm. It wasn't filtered. We would see dirt plumes come into the lake during heavy runoff."

While the City of Okoboji did its own projects to curtail runoff, it also became the first town in the state to approve a city ordinance mandating that new construction, and expanding residences or businesses, install systems to deal with storm water that, among other things, runs down driveways, parking lots and off rooflines.

Several nearby communities, and the county as well, followed with their own versions of storm water ordinances.  Since much of the required work is done below ground, the untrained eye wouldn't necessarily know that the rain gardens in this residential yard directs water from the street, filters it through the ground and drains it into a ravine adjacent to the driveway.  These permeable pavers for walk ways and parking lots absorb water and don't allow as much runoff as concrete.

This 18-unit condo in Arnolds Park has a complete underground tile, retention and filtration system for its driveways and rooflines.

Jim Krueger, Gene Krueger Construction: "This is the first real big project that we've done like this where we had to put in these low impact development features. There's people that are unaware of this kind of stuff until you bring it up to them and say, 'well you know all this run, runoff water from the driveway and roofs it doesn't just shoot to the lake.

They're hearing more about this because this area that we live in, that its becoming an issue we have to consciousness and try to collect all that water. And when you tell them about it then they understand it and they think it's a good thing. "

Krueger says the storm water management added an estimated $50,000 to $70,000 to the cost of the project.  It may seem like a lot of expense and additional work, but he says it is worth it to help keep the lakes clean.

It is the same attitude echoed by many others, including Mike May, who operates a 47-unit resort at lake's edge in Arnolds Park.

Mike May, Triggs Bay Resort: "We haven't looked at the urban issue as much as we should have. We have thrown down a lot of cement in our community and we haven't thought about the ramifications of that."

May said when he decided to redo his 33-stall parking lot, he would use permeable pavers, so water would soak in rather than run off.

Mike May, Triggs Resort, Arnolds Park: "We decided to put eco-brick down which is basically a 4 by 4 chunk.  They're a little bit thicker than normal patio brick and they have little bumps on the end of them so they separate a little bit more than patio brick.  The concept here is when it rains and they thought even with a few parking stalls they could capture 1 1/2 rain, we can capture about anything now because the water just soaks in immediately."

The concept of dealing with individual stormwater runoff seems to be embraced by many in the Okoboji lake area -- more so than many other parts of the state.   But that may be because the stakes are so and so visible in the region … where so much of the economy is dependent on tourism.

Mary VanderWoude, Okoboji mayor: "Without these lakes this area is nothing. So we have to do what we can to protect them."


Tags: climate change economy Energy/Environment floods HEAT Iowa lakes rivers tourism water water quality wetlands


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