WBEZ | stormwater http://www.wbez.org/tags/stormwater Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Logan Square parklet would soak up rain along Milwaukee Avenue http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/logan-square-parklet-would-soak-rain-along-milwaukee-avenue-106373 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Woodard-Plaza-design.png" style="height: 325px; width: 610px;" title="Preliminary design for Woodard Plaza, at the intersection of Milwaukee, Kimball and Woodard avenues. (Courtesy Chicago Department of Transportation)" /></p><p>Torrential rain drenched the city in 2010. Lula Cafe in Logan Square, like many homes and businesses, was inundated and had to shut down for a few days due to flooding. Barely a year later <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/6663103-418/incredible-amount-of-rain-sets-area-record.html">the same thing happened</a>, and <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/6663103-418/incredible-amount-of-rain-sets-area-record.html">is expected to continue recurring</a> as climate change contributes to heavier storms in the Chicago area.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a very high concentration of 311 calls for flooding in this neighborhood,&rdquo; said Kara Riggio, a senior research associate with the <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/index.html" target="_blank">Metropolitan Planning Council</a>.</p><p>MPC manages a $200,000 grant from the state Environmental Protection Agency to seed green infrastructure projects on 79 acres of North Milwaukee Avenue between Kimball and California avenues.</p><p>Right now about 95 percent of that area is made up of impervious surfaces that prevent rain from soaking into the ground, further aggravating <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/scouring-scarred-watershed-104916">an overburdened stormwater system</a>. Their goal is expand the pervious surface area, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/reuniting-nature-nations-backyards-105473">sprinkling natural filtration systems</a> throughout several urban neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea is making these small investments at the parcel level,&rdquo; Riggio said. &ldquo;Hopefully we&rsquo;ll be able to concentrate them and make an impact on how much water is entering the sewer system.&rdquo;</p><p>So far they have approved six projects in what they&rsquo;re calling <a href="http://logansquareh2o.org/">The Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor</a>. Recently they approved plans to turn a drab concrete island bounded by Milwaukee, Kimball and Woodard avenues into a parklet that will prevent 4,434 gallons of stormwater from entering the sewer system during each one-inch storm event. The design expands pervious surfaces by a factor of eight, from 185 square feet to 1,500.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Woodard-Plaza-current.png" style="height: 264px; width: 610px;" title="The current intersection of Milwaukee, Kimball and Woodard avenues, looking south on Kimball. (Courtesy Chicago Department of Transportation)" /></div><p>Dubbed Woodard Plaza, its features include a concrete runnel that directs water collected throughout the plaza toward five infiltration planters, which include native plants. The plaza will receive some additional runoff from adjacent streets by lowering the curb in some places.</p><p>It could be a boon for the pedestrian experience around that intersection, which is home to the <a href="http://www.placemakingchicago.com/places/logan-square-community-arts-center.asp" target="_blank">Logan Square Community Arts Center</a> and Hairpin artist lofts, but remains a spit of concrete amid busy streets.</p><p>The design team includes <a href="http://www.tgda.net/" target="_blank">Terry Guen Design Associates</a>, with civil engineering from McDonough Associates and soil testing from Wang Engineering. Grant funding only accounts for 8 percent of the total cost, but the rest has been secured through the Chicago Department of Transportation&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/make_way_for_people.html">Make Way for People initiative</a> and tax increment financing (TIF) funding.</p><p>On Saturday <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/news-events/event/218" target="_blank">MPC will hold a workshop in Logan Square&rsquo;s Comfort Station</a> (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) with information about the grant program, which still has $80,000 to award.</p></p> Fri, 29 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/logan-square-parklet-would-soak-rain-along-milwaukee-avenue-106373 Climate change could worsen Chicago floods http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dc60618/2857566291/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bowmanville%20chicago%20river.jpg" style="height: 458px; width: 610px;" title="A swollen Chicago River runs through Albany Park in 2008. (Dominic Casey via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>Climatologists predict rainstorms will become heavier and more frequent in Northeastern Illinois, but many Chicagoans don&rsquo;t need mathematical models to know flooding is a problem.</p><p>Azarina Cerkic, 37, was living in the 5100 block of North Bernard Street in 2008, when a record-setting storm dropped more than 6.5 inches of rain in one day. (That record has <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-23/news/chi-chicago-weather-heat-rainstorm-20110723_1_storms-move-rainstorms-chicagoweathercenter-com">since been broken</a>.) The North Branch of the Chicago River rushed over its banks in Albany Park, dumping more than seven feet of water into Cerkic&rsquo;s basement.</p><p>&ldquo;There was so much water it flipped my washer and dryer right over, effortlessly,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And those are some seriously heavy things.&rdquo;</p><p>Cerkic and her husband had moved to the neighborhood from nearby Portage Park only three months earlier. Worried about the rising water, she said she called 311 on Friday and was told it would be fine. On Saturday the Red Cross evacuated her street.</p><p>Neighbors who had lived next to the river since the 1970s told her not to worry about flooding, Cerkic said. Like her, many of them did not have flood insurance. Cerkic, who now lives in El Paso, Texas, lost everything in her basement except for some childhood photographs that happened to tangle themselves up in plastic, surviving the water damage and mold.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had a lot less attachment to physical things since the flood,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Even the most rigorous models cannot predict the future with certainty, but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/climate-change-warnings-sharp-relief-104942">the third national climate assessment released in draft form in January</a> said the Midwest is likely to see a substantial increase in extreme rainfall events as a result of climate change.</p><p>The frequency of heavy rainfall in the region has doubled since the 1970s, according to the <a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/">Chicago Climate Action Plan</a>, and the 10 most extreme floods in northeast Illinois all occurred after 1950.</p><p>State Climatologist Jim Angel cautioned that climate models can be difficult to plan around. He and his colleagues reviewed several models available in 2007 and found widely varying predictions for future rainfall in Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;Even if we had the perfect climate model,&rdquo; Angel said, &ldquo;we still don&rsquo;t know what society is going to do with greenhouse gas emissions.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Angel said, the trend is toward wetter conditions. Not only are the annual precipitation totals greater, but heavier events have become more common. Last year&rsquo;s drought was severe, but 2012 was the exception in a decades-long trend. In terms of overall precipitation, it tied several other years for the 10<sup>th</sup> driest in Illinois history.</p><p>Apart from rising greenhouse gases, changes in land-use may also be accelerating the effects of climate change. As more natural landscapes are ceded to development and urban sprawl, hydrologists register an explosion in &ldquo;impervious surfaces&rdquo; such as concrete, brick and pavement. Water that once seeped slowly through the soil is instead shunted off into rivers and streams directly as stormwater.</p><p>Agricultural development also contributes to the rising frequency of extreme storm events.</p><p>&ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t design a more efficient way of pulling moisture out of the soil and putting into the atmosphere in July than what we&rsquo;ve got with the corn and soybean crops,&rdquo; Angel said.&nbsp;</p><p>While the Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District prepares to release a watershed management ordinance later this year &mdash; similar measures have been in place for more than a decade in the collar counties &mdash; it is not expected to factor in climate change.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174 Scouring a Scarred Watershed http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/scouring-scarred-watershed-104916 <p><p><object height="465" width="620"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632517519364%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632517519364%2F&amp;set_id=72157632517519364&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124956" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632517519364%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632517519364%2F&amp;set_id=72157632517519364&amp;jump_to=" height="465" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124956" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></object></p><p>Before development clogged up natural plumbing with impervious surfaces, every drop of rain that fell within the Chicago River watershed would seep slowly through the soil into the river. Now as much as <a href="http://www.examiner.com/article/cook-county-flooding-is-a-product-of-poor-planning">42 percent of Cook County</a> is covered with surfaces that do not absorb water, and instead channel it more directly into the river.</p><p>That runoff scores the landscape as it speeds through the watershed, carving out gashes in the soil over time. These gashes, called gullies, are like small ditches that let runoff water scrape away soil as they funnel it into the river.</p><p>John Quail, director of watershed planning for <a href="http://www.chicagoriver.org">Friends of the Chicago River</a>, explained Saturday to a group of volunteers how gullies encourage a vicious cycle of erosion. &ldquo;Topsoil is the currency of the forest,&rdquo; Quail said to the group he was training. Since fall, Friends of the Chicago River has recruited volunteers to become &ldquo;Gully Walkers.&rdquo;</p><p>In their effort to catalogue these scars and repair the ecosystem, Friends of the Chicago River has turned to crowd-sourcing. Gullies are a problem all over the Chicago River watershed, which comprises hundreds of square miles. The goal is to gather GPS data along at least 50 miles of the river. Once they know the size and locations of the gullies, they will dispatch volunteers to repair small ditches and call in contractors for the heavy lifting.</p><p>&ldquo;We talk about restoration, but we don&rsquo;t really mean it too literally,&rdquo; Quail said, leading the group through Edgebrook Woods on the city&rsquo;s far northwest side. &ldquo;That would mean turning the North Shore into a muddy swamp.&rdquo; Instead the term takes on a more general meaning: restoring nature to the urban environment. Before Chicago developed, the river meandered through a series of wetlands and marshes. Now it flows between concrete walls.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="(WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gully-measuring-620px.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Volunteers measured the width and depth of several gullies Saturday, recording GPS data along the way. As they tracked the river downstream through the forest, they came to a hill topped with a parking lot. Standing water at the foot of the hill bled into a mat of shallow ditches &mdash; it was the source of the gullies. In the summer, Quail said, the runoff&#39;s path downhill would be more clear, appearing as chutes between the vegetation.&nbsp;</p><p>Whether volunteer efforts can keep pace with the growth of increased precipitation due to climate change or urban sprawl remains to be seen. The effects of negligent stormwater dumping are no drop in the bucket. In west suburban Theodore Stone Forest Preserve, stormwater dumped by a neighboring mall carved out a ditch so massive that volunteers have dubbed it &ldquo;Apathy Canyon.&rdquo;</p><p>A few years ago, Edgebrook Woods volunteers built a rain garden of native plants where a curb cut in the Forest Preserve&rsquo;s access road released stormwater into a field. After two 100-year storms hit in as many years, though, water began to pool up beyond the rain garden. So volunteers built another one. And another. Several years and four 100-year storms later, three rain gardens helped stabilize the flow of water off North Central Avenue.</p></p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 06:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/scouring-scarred-watershed-104916