A Year Later: Managing Flood Effects with Rain Gardens, Increased Awareness

Rain garden at UMD. Photo by Chris J. Benson.

A year ago today torrential rains began falling in Duluth, Minn., in a way that closed industries, ripped through streets, and drowned zoo animals. The record-breaking rainfall also forced a retooling of stormwater management strategies in Northland communities.

"When possible, damaged stormwater pipes, culverts, and bridges are being replaced with ones that can endure larger rainfalls," said Hilarie Sorensen, Minnesota Sea Grant's Climate Change Extension Educator. "Some of the new culverts even mimic natural streams so that they can serve as fish refuges during times when flow rates are exceptionally high. But upgrading traditional infrastructure isn't the only angle Duluth is taking to manage stormwater. The city is also investing in green infrastructure such as swales and rain gardens."

This summer, at least ten new rain gardens will dot Duluth through the work of the Duluth Stream Corps, a project of Community Action Duluth funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. In support of this approach to stormwater management and water quality preservation, Minnesota Sea Grant is encouraging landowners to construct their own rain gardens.

"It is impressive how effective a well-built rain garden can be in keeping water away from a house," said Cristina Villella, Stormwater Management Assistant with Minn. Green Corps. "For landowners and communities around the world rain gardens have become a proven and picturesque way to help control stormwater."

Villella is coordinating two rain garden workshops in Duluth on behalf of the Regional Stormwater Protection Team. Each workshop will take place over two evenings from 6-8 p.m. and cover the same material. Registration is $25; additional people from the same household can attend for $5. The workshop dates are July 24-25 and August 7-8. Villella said the workshops will be informative, hands-on, and fun for anyone interested in learning how to design, install, and maintain a rain garden. For additional information on the rain garden workshops contact Minnesota Sea Grant at 218-726-8106 or email Villella at ville034@umn.edu.

"As Northland communities and residents continue to repair an estimated $80 million in damage to public infrastructure, they need to also continue to be proactive in preparing for a new paradigm of rainfall," said Sorensen. To help with that, tomorrow Sorensen will host a free talk about regional increases in the severity and frequency of extreme rain. The talk will take place in Grand Marais, Minn., at the Harbor House Grille from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. Keith Harding, a doctoral candidate from the University of Minnesota, will be presenting. For more information visit www.seagrant.umn.edu/news/2013/06/20 or contact Sorensen at 218-726-7677.

Posted on June 19, 2013


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