Adding ‘green’ to roadway projects can benefit Great Lakes

Green infrastructure integration planning and funding methods detailed in recent workshop.

Stormwater runoff in urban areas creates pollution that affects our Michigan waterways. Green infrastructure is the use of vegetation, parks, greenways and other projects to help manage water and create healthier environments.

Recently, Michigan Sea Grant partnered with Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) to bring Nathan Polanski, a civil engineer with SvR Design Company in Seattle, to a workshop in Detroit focusing on implementing green stormwater infrastructure in transportation corridors. The workshop was the second in a series of four designed to help encourage implementation of the Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan and promote the Low Impact Development Manual for Michigan. ”This partnership with Michigan Sea Grant and Wisconsin Sea Grant is bringing in nationally recognized experts to provide tangible green infrastructure implementation strategies to our members and other local groups.  These workshops are defining the next steps for strategic implementation across our region that will lead to multiple community benefits while improving the quality of our local water resources and the Great Lakes,” said Kelly Karll of SEMCOG. 

Polanski provided an overview of incorporating green infrastructure into roadway projects to include planning and funding projects, detailed technical discussion of design considerations, right-of-way constraints, siting green infrastructure and maintenance. He also shared engineering details and specifications for bioretention – curb cuts, weirs (low dams), edge conditions and how these project details affect function and maintenance. Case studies were provided to demonstrate how incorporating green stormwater infrastructure into roadway projects can achieve multiple community goals and amenities.

Polanski also led participants through examples of how agencies have integrated green infrastructure into capital improvement plans, standard street sections and prioritizing roadway green infrastructure projects.

Anne Vaara, executive director of the Clinton River Watershed Council attended the workshop. “The Clinton River Watershed Council made Green Infrastructure (GI) one of our four strategic planning pillars in 2012. In 2013, we introduced our WaterTowns Program and a large component of WaterTowns includes our commitment to helping communities design and implement GI in their community planning and development for water quality protection and improvement.” said Vaara.

Future workshops are as follows:

July 21   - Featured Speaker: Juli-Beth Hinds, AICP Birchline Planning LLC. This workshop will focus on learning language modifications of codes and ordinances to support green infrastructure implementation in addition to outlining a collaborative process for long-term success.  The workshop will stress the most common planning documents and ordinances; checklists for these modifications and discuss common strategies for getting started.

August 20 – Green infrastructure bus tour for elected officials. Participants will visit the new MDNR Outdoor Adventure Center, view low impact development (LID) at Milliken State Park, roadside bioswales in Detroit, and LID practices and green infrastructure at Southfield Municipal Complex.

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