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Changing water ways
McKenzie helping employees deal with life’s bumps
State climatologist predicts stormy winter
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Civil rights activist to speak on Martin Luther King’s legacy Jan. 27
What’s at stake for U.Va.?
garage-site stream
Photo by Matt Kelly
The garage-site stream has “plunge pools” that slow the flow of the water, tree trunks and root wads to direct the water and armor the banks from erosion, and a detention basin to hold 100-year floodwaters. Trees and rocks from the site are being used in building the stream channel.

Changing water ways

By Matt Kelly

The University is taking an innovative regional approach to storm-water management, and state officials are praising the approach.

About 1,200 feet of Meadow Creek in the Dell will be brought back to the surface as part of a plan for handling storm-water runoff from portions of the Grounds, the Emmet Street parking garage, the proposed arts precinct and the planned Massie Road multi-purpose arena. The University’s master plan calls for designing upstream areas to control drainage in order to limit erosion, flooding and the speed that water runs off into the city’s storm drain network.

“The regional approach is not new, but this combination of best management practices and stream renovation is probably more innovative than anything I know about in the state,” said Richard Cooper, an urban program engineer for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. He has approved the University’s storm-water master plan and is reviewing its implementation plans.

“The University is a good citizen and cares about the environment, “ said Lee Mallonee, landscape architect for Biohabitats Inc., which designed the streams in the project. “What is truly remarkable here is the University’s willingness to look at all of its property and handle storm-water management regionally, not just site by site. This kind of overall planning is very cutting edge.”

The idea initially came in a mid-1990s report on the University’s water resources by Andropogon Associates, which first suggested opening, or “daylighting,” Meadow Creek. Judith Nitsch Engineers, who created the storm-water master plan, refined it by incorporating the creek into the storm-water management steps of several University projects.

“We’re changing the approach to storm-water runoff from an engineering problem to an environmental and aesthetic asset for the University Grounds,” said University landscape architect Mary Hughes.

The majority of Meadow Creek on University Grounds was channeled into underground pipes in the 1950s when the topography of the area was changed to accommodate the McCormick Road dorms. The creek starts on Observatory Hill and winds through an underground pipe beneath Facilities Management, the Dell, under the Central Grounds Parking Garage and Nameless Field, then comes to the surface on the north edge of Carr’s Hill Field, just before running under the CSX railroad tracks. On the other side of the tracks, it is an open stream that runs around the southern and western edges of the Lambeth Field residence area, before going underground again to cross Emmet Street. It flows open along Emmet Street to Copley Road, where it enters the city storm drain at the low point of its watershed on University Grounds. By slowing the flow of storm water higher upstream, there is less impact when it enters the city system.

Landscaping at the Massie Road arena will be designed to accommodate drainage, with water runoff from the arena channeled into grass swales containing native plants to act as bio-retention filters and slowing the flow.

The University’s approach links several projects with a single regional system, instead of having individual detention basins on each site. It also complies with the Chesapeake Bay Directive, which calls for more creative management of storm water within the bay watershed. Cooper has accompanied Hughes and Nitsch to make presentations about the University’s plan before government and university audiences in Roanoke and Richmond.

For the Dell, Biohabitats designed a low-flow stream to run to a one-acre pond near the front of Lambeth House with an outlet into the underground pipe. The existing pipes are being left intact and the stream is being designed so that water flows exceeding 15 cubic feet per second will be diverted from the above-ground channel and flow into the pipe. Without the overflow pipe, the Dell would flood during heavy rains, Mallonee said.

Hughes said opening water to air and sunlight improves water quality, and Linda K. Blum, an associate professor in the environmental sciences department, will conduct research over several years to gather data on the process.

Hughes said the changes to the stream should reduce flooding at the Emmet Street and Ivy Road intersection.

While the construction of the Meadow Creek part is scheduled to start in the spring, the re-channeling of the nameless tributary that runs through the Emmet Street garage site is under way.

Biohabitats designed the garage-site stream to have “plunge pools” that slow the flow of the water, tree trunks and root wads to direct the water and armor the banks from erosion, and a detention basin to hold 100-year floodwaters. Trees and rocks from the site are being used in structuring the stream channel.

David Sweet, project manager at the Emmet Street garage, said the stream was placed to accommodate not only the garage but also the student housing planned for the front of the site.

“It’s a win-win situation all the way around, “ Cooper said.


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