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Village eyes green infrastructure, grants to curb drain issues

April 02, 2014 - Goodrich-Village officials and residents took a closer look at going green on Tuesday night during a special meeting.

Effective Solutions for Healthier Watersheds owner and hydrogeologist Tammie Heazlit, along with John DeLisle, an ecologist and owner of Natural Community Services, introduced residents along with council members to utilizing green infrastructure to remedy a bevy of drain and flooding issues plaguing the community.

At the center of the issue is an agricultural drain built in about 1897. The Wheelock & Watkins Drain encompasses a large section of the village, impacting about 100 residents. The old drain, partially under the jurisdiction of Genesee County, has been one possible cause of flooding of several residents' homes over the past few years. The flooding intensified, prompting village officials to engage the county drain officials to investigate the issues. As a result, petitions were signed last year and in a special meeting on April 9 at the village offices, a board of determination voted 3-0 to move forward with an upgrade to the Wheelock & Watkins Drain.

Since then, a study and survey of the impacted drain area to provide possible solutions was completed by the engineering firm of Fleis and Vandenbrink and released in December. The estimated costs of the two alternatives outlined in the report range from about $500,000 to $700,000, funded primarily by the village and residents within the drainage district.

However, due to the cost of the proposed drain project and impact on both residents and businesses, alternative solutions were sought.

Heazlit responded to the village drain conundrum with a letter to The Citizen offering the green infrastructure solution. Soon after because of the proximity within the drainage area, the Goodrich County Club members contacted Heazlit to provide a new look at the project—to lower costs to the taxpayer.

"For years we worked to just get water out of the way," said Heazlit. "But the infrastructre is aging and they just can't handle the volume of water anymore.

Heazlit emphasied that Green Infrastructure or GI intent relative to stormwater is to slow it down, spread it out and soak it in through basins and/or rain gardens which reduces the run-off into pipes, modular wetlands, permeable or grass pavers, even large scale rainwater collection systems.

"GI has been increasing dramatically across the US and Michigan and it's significantly less expensive to design and install anywhere from 20-80 percent reduction in costs. It treats water as a resource rather than a waste product. There is a maintenance aspect to GI, but it is much more cost effective than traditional piping, she added. The intent of GI relative to stormwater is to slow it down, spread it out and soak it in. Strategically located, these and other elements of GI can be installed at a cost savings to the citizens."

Key in the plan is the extensive use of a rain garden, which takes advantage of rainfall and stormwater runoff in its design and plant selection. What makes it a rain garden is in how it gets its water and what happens to that water once it arrives in the garden where stormwater is cleaned and reduced in volume once it enters the rain garden. This is achieved through the use of highly porous planting media and underdrains which carry the cleaned rainwater away from the garden.

Heazlit responded to several concerns from residents in attendence including the statement in the Fleis and Vandenbrink report that there's no guarantee a flood would not occur again.

"No one could guarantee that but God, but we can mitigate as much as possible," she said. "This project has grant written all over it."

The concept of GI is not new.

In 2006 Ingham County implemented the Towar Ran Garden Drain Project.

According to data provided by Ingham County Drain Commissioner Patrick Lindermann, the 200 acres and 550 homes was realizing flooding of both streets and property after minor rain. Landowner surveys included 64 percent had drainage problems and 13.5 percent had basement flooding. The cost of the project with traditional drain installation process was $23 million. The 150 rain gardens were constructed for $6.3 million of which the EPA contributed $3 million

All rain gardens effectivly reduced peak water discharge by 81 percent.

Heazlit will seek a meeting with Jeff Wright, Genesee County Drian Commissioner regarding the drain project in the village.

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