The best technology to prevent flooding in Detroit may actually be nature itself. Cody Rouge, a neighborhood with a history of flood problems, has become the first public property in Detroit to deal with storm water infiltration with plants.
The answer is called bioswale.
It’s a landform that typically has a slight slope and may be covered by grasses, landscape fabric, mulch or other vegetation. It collects surface water, enhances infiltration, and reduces flooding, so to naturally prevent floods in areas.
The newly planted bioswale in Detroit’s Stein Park is a mixture of native and landscape plants. It will not only collect water but also pollutants from nearby Rouge River in times of heavy rains. The project is a collaboration between the Greening of Detroit and the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation.
They also got help from students from Cody High School DIT who helped plant the bioswale vegetation. They are part of the school’s “green team” and have been actively involved in planting trees in the park, building raised beds for vegetables, and other environmental initiatives.
The bioswale will cut down on the water that can enter the sewers and cause floods in the Joy-Southfield community. It is expected up to 6,000 gallons of water will be infiltrated from the adjacent road when the rains cause the river to rise.
“Bioswales and trees are excellent natural resources we can use to reduce storm water pollution and flooding,” said Dean Hay, director of Green Infrastructure at The Greening of Detroit. “Southeast Michigan suffered more than $2 billion worth of property damage from the flooding in August 2014. Detroit’s Cody Rouge neighborhood has a history of basement and street flooding and this new bioswale is another low-cost method of addressing this issue.”
Before the Cody High students started planting Hay taught them about the benefits of the bioswale and how it would be used to reduce storm water runoff and flooding in the neighborhood.
The Greening, in partnership with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, planted more than 4,000 trees in the neighborhood in the past three years. In addition, The Greening also planted 3,000 trees in Rouge Park.
Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation is aggressively working to create a greener neighborhood in a two-by-three mile area on the far northwest area of Detroit.
“We have partnered with the Greening on several green projects and are proud of the progress we are making in implementing green infrastructure in the community,” says Rodney Gasaway, director of economic development for Joy-Southfield CDC. “We are committed to improving the quality of life for our residents, and a big piece of that is reducing our issues with flooding. We are excited about the bioswale project and its positive impact.”
The Greening and Joy-Southfield CDC partnered on the “shovel-ready” project and received $83,000 of funding from Kresge Foundation. The city of Detroit’s Recreation Department coordinated the use of Stein Park for the project.