Government

New bioswales near Cedar Rapids schools offer lessons for leaders, model for residents

(FILE PHOTO) Sustainable Landscape Solutions worker Donovan Smith of Kalona plants switchgrass plugs in the bottom of a new bioswale on Wenig Road NE, one of Cedar Rapids’ urban water quality demonstration projects, on Thursday, May 25, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) Sustainable Landscape Solutions worker Donovan Smith of Kalona plants switchgrass plugs in the bottom of a new bioswale on Wenig Road NE, one of Cedar Rapids’ urban water quality demonstration projects, on Thursday, May 25, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Officials hope five new bioswales installed near schools in Cedar Rapids serve as a teaching opportunity and inspire more environmentally friendly solutions to stormwater runoff.

Bioswales are landscape features designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water by slowing, collecting, infiltrating and filtering the water.

The bioswales typically are long, sloped ditches designed to take water from nearby impervious surfaces such as roads or parking lots and filled with vegetation or rock.

Absorbing rain water into the ground helps remove toxins before water reaches the sewer system, river and creeks.

“They were installed in places the city could have easy access,” said Cara Matteson, stormwater coordinator for the city’s public works department. “Also, where schools could have an opportunity for education and where the public would see it and they could have the opportunity to be intrigued.

“Hopefully, they see the signs and get educated about these practices.”

Bioswales have been installed near Taylor Elementary, Bowman Woods Elementary, Wilson Avenue and Sixth Street SW, Kennedy High School and Noelridge Park, she said.

The project happened thanks to two $100,000 grants from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The city matched the amount.

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The grants required Cedar Rapids to model stormwater management best practices. Other strategies deployed included reconstructing an alley near Coe College with permeable pavers.

Matteson said they are using the first installations as learning tools for others as well as themselves. Early lessons include the importance of maintenance to prevent blockages, and the use of rock to slow down the water and give sediment a chance to drop out.

Native grasses and flowers have been planted and should be more noticeable after a second year of growth, she said.

The hope is residents and businesses see the strategies and adopt them on their own properties. Mattison noted there a city incentives for doing so.

Cedar Rapids offers a stormwater best-management practices cost-share program, in which residents can get reimbursed for up to 50 percent of project costs as well as technical assistance. The reimbursement cap is $2,000.

Project examples include rain gardens, bioswales, pervious pavement, bio-retention cells and soil quality restoration. More information is available on the city website, Cedar-Rapids.org, by searching for “stormwater best management practices cost share program,” by contacting 319-286-5604 or emailing sewer@cedar-rapids.org.

Property owners also can reduce stormwater utility fees by making improvements that increase the amount of permeable surface.

More information about this program is available at on the city website by searching “stormwater utility.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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