Government

Hills debuts permeable pavers to slow runoff, improve water quality

Water from a Hills fire truck flows into permeable pavers Wednesday in the Hills business district. The pavers are expected to filter 60,000 gallons of stormwater into the ground instead of the runoff going straight into the Iowa River. (KC McGinnis/freelance)
Water from a Hills fire truck flows into permeable pavers Wednesday in the Hills business district. The pavers are expected to filter 60,000 gallons of stormwater into the ground instead of the runoff going straight into the Iowa River. (KC McGinnis/freelance)
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HILLS — A blast from a fire hose Wednesday morning showed how stormwater will now — instead of running straight into a storm drain — seep into cracks between the new brick pavers that line a block in this Johnson County city’s downtown.

Hills debuted its new permeable pavers during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the urban conservation project in front of the Hills Community Center.

Rainwater flowing between the pavers is then filtered through rocks, thereby enhancing groundwater quality, reducing stormwater runoff and lessening potential floods.

The pavers “also allowed us to work on improving our overall aesthetics in town,” City Administrator Cathy Fitzmaurice-Hill said, adding the city funded some streetscape upgrades during the project.

“Even though it has a unique job, it looks a lot better, too,” she said of the $223,000 project.

The city received a loan from the state revolving fund, a program that provides low-interest loans for drinking and wastewater infrastructure improvements, said Lee Wagner with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The program, he said, is jointly administered by the DNR and the Iowa Finance Authority.

“The intent is really to try to restore the natural hydrology, so water would drain or infiltrate into the ground before development or settlement,” he said. “In that manner, we’re able to treat the water, get it back into the ground or get it to the streams more slowly so that it has less of an environmental impact.”

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Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig spoke to the “layered benefits” of such projects.

“You all accomplished something that’s beautiful,” he said. “But we also know — and this is one of those core elements of urban conservation work that certainly we’re involved in — is the science tells us these pavers, this practice also improves water quality.”

CEDAR RAPIDS COST-SHARE

Other cities also are ramping up stormwater management practices.

Cedar Rapids has a Stormwater Best Management Practices cost-share program that provides assistance to property owners who take on projects like rain gardens or permeable pavement.

Additionally, Green Iowa AmeriCorps developed a partnership with Cedar Rapids to help install rain gardens for residents, who can participate in the cost-share program.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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