- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) - Many cities across Minnesota are establishing rain gardens and other green infrastructure, going beyond the traditional gutters and catch basins, in an effort to keep stormwater from polluting lakes and rivers.

A majority of them are small, neighborhood efforts, but a large-scale system in Inver Grove Heights recently has become somewhat of a national example, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1U2ezOC ) reported.

The rain garden, which spans more than 3,000 acres in the city’s Argenta Hills commercial development site, was among eight engineering projects this year to receive top awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies. Other winning projects included fancy transit stations in Denver and New York City, and an earthquake-proof bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In its first five years, the system is performing better than expected, which shows green infrastructure’s potential, said engineer Brett Emmons, whose firm helped design the system.

“This is kind of almost hidden or woven into the site in a way that isn’t so obvious but it does its job, at the same time it can be attractive,” he said. “This site and this whole area of Inver Grove Heights is proof that it can have a major, major impact.”

Although they’re not as big, other stormwater projects in the Twin Cities area have been equally successful.

In St. Paul, about 1,000 trees lining several miles of University Avenue have helped reduce the area’s stormwater runoff by more than 50 percent. That’s about as high as local officials could hope to get in an area that’s fully developed with existing buildings and a new light rail line, according to Mark Doneux of the Capitol Region Watershed District.

“Before, all the rain would just come right down to this catch basin and into a pipe and go straight to the river,” he said. “What happens now along this stretch of University Avenue is these catch basins are actually going into a rock trench that feed the roots of the trees.”

Although it can be more expensive to create green infrastructure, officials say its ability to help the environment and reduce maintenance work makes up for the cost.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org


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