By Margaret Buranen
In cities on the windswept Kansas prairies, green infrastructure is sprouting up as a way to manage stormwater now and for the future. It blooms as new projects, retrofits, and complementary components of traditional grey infrastructure. In one case, it is the focus of the rebuilding of an entire town.
Green Topeka has also led the way for green infrastructure in urban areas of the city. One example is the retrofit of Jackson Street. The city first planned to do a traditional grey infrastructure concrete enlargement of the existing storm sewer. However, exploring other possibilities and soliciting input from residents, municipal officials, engineers, and landscape architects produced a new plan. The revised design would control the flooding and also improve water quality and provide much needed wildlife habitat and green space downtown.
Gaining Public Acceptance
Despite these Green Topeka successes, Michaelis says, “One of the most difficult parts of implementing not only green infrastructure, but stormwater regulations as a whole, is public acceptance. It is a hefty task to continually educate not only the citizens, but also public officials that are constantly coming in and out of office. Changing public perception is often difficult, but we have had a great deal of success in the past and we will continue to chip away at the ‘old way of doing things’ and continue to implement best management practices.”
|Photo: Greensburg, KS
Native plantings break up sidewalk areas along Greensburg’s Main Street.
|Photo: Greensburg, KS
A rain garden at the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital
What has helped to bring about public acceptance? “Surprisingly, one of the most effective tools we have had is our NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permit,” she says. “By showing this to officials and educating the public on our requirements, they begin to realize this work isn’t some farfetched idea, but actual regulation that we are required to implement.”
Green and Grey
Topeka has also used green infrastructure to improve the performance of grey infrastructure. The Deer Creek Sanitary Sewer Interceptor installation required replacing about 5 miles of 36-inch sewer pipe along the creek. The erosion to the west bank of the channel that resulted caused disruption to the rest of the channel.
The most dramatic piece of green infrastructure in Lenexa is Lake Lenexa and its surrounding Blackhoof Park. The project, which cost $26 million dollars and took only 286 days to build, was completed in 2006.
- US Society on Dams (USSD) 2009 Project of the Year Award
- USSD 2008 Award of Excellence in the Constructed Project
- American Concrete Institute Technical Innovation Award for the Lake Lenexa Spillway, 2006
- American Council of Engineering Companies National Engineering Excellence Award, given to Black and Veatch for the design of Lake Lenexa, 2006
- American Builders and Contractors’ Heart of America chapter Excellence in Construction Award, Heavy Site Work/Demolition, given to Mega Industries Corporation for phase 1 of Black Hoof Park, 2006
Building on a Tornado
The city of Greensburg had the rare chance to create a new stormwater management system from scratch. That opportunity arose because of a major disaster. On the evening of May 4, 2007, a massive EF-5 tornado struck Greensburg.