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Lakeside Neighborhood a Test Case for Reducing Stormwater Runoff

DULUTH, Minn. — Duluth — with its steep slope, heavy clay soils and many streams flowing into Lake Superior — has problems with stormwater runoff. Everyone thinks about sanitary sewer overflows, but excess water in the storm sewer system is causing problems for local streams, which often become excessively muddy after rainstorms.

Here’s what happens: neighborhood rooftops and driveways don’t allow water to soak into the ground the way it does in a natural forest. Instead, water is channeled down storm drains directly into local streams, which really aren’t meant to hold that extra water. The banks erode, the water muddies, and fish and other aquatic species struggle. Over 1,000 gallons can run off an average house roof during a one-inch rainstorm.

To help scientists and the rest of us understand and manage this problem better, research is underway in a Duluth Lakeside neighborhood to define what a homeowner can do to measurably reduce the peak of the flow leaving their property after a storm.

Last year, measurements of stormwater flowing from three Duluth streets were taken. This week crews are busy installing and constructing stormwater diversions on one of the streets—ditches, rain gardens, rain barrels, infiltration trenches, and lawn aeration—to find out how well these efforts work to slow the water flow to Amity Creek. The data will be compared to control neighborhoods where no stormwater protection measures were taken.

The project is a collaborative effort of the City of Duluth and UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute and Minnesota Sea Grant, with assistance from the South St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District, Barr Engineering, the Minnesota Conservation Corps, the Regional Stormwater Protection Team, and volunteers. Funding is from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information, contact June Kallestad, UMD Natural Resources Research Institute, at 218-720-4300, or Sharon Moen, UMD Minnesota Sea Grant, at 218-726-6195.

Posted on July 2, 2009

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