About a year ago I wrote a post, An Urban Restoration Opportunity, in which I talked about a golden opportunity the City of Madison had to make substantial environmental and cultural improvements to the blighted storm water ditch down the middle of Cherokee Drive in the Nakoma neighborhood.
I envisioned and described a green infrastructure approach to handling storm water in the Cherokee Drive median ditch. (Green infrastructure to manage storm water is nothing new and is being used all over the country.) In this “green approach” instead of sending stormwater downhill as fast as possible to the Arboretum and Lake Wingra, the City would encourage infiltration, citizen engagement, and habitat and biodiversity enhancement. Such a green infrastructure approach would also protect the Arboretum and Lake Wingra.
But would the City of Madison seize this restoration opportunity? No. There is apparently not enough imagination, vision, or fortitude in city’s engineering world view and engineering model to try something new. Instead, the same old failed storm water management approach is being used as this is written. Under project # 7016, “Cherokee Drive Utilities and Resurfacing” the City will pay R G Huston Company $1.1 million for work on Cherokee Drive between Midvale Boulevard and Waban Hill. The work will consist of installing a new storm sewer main, removal and replacement of portions of curb, and spot replacement of sidewalks. “Between Midvale and Waban Hill, concrete speed bumps will be constructed and the pavement will be replaced. The street will be pulverized, shaped and resurfaced between Waban Hill and Nakoma Road.” Click here to see the full project specifications.
And just as importantly, this project increases the difficulty ecological restoration in the Lake Wingra Watershed and especially in the Arboretum. The Arboretum, which annually receives about 470 million gallons of storm water runoff, has identified storm water runoff and its side effects (including erosion, nutrients loss, and facilitation of pest species, among other impacts) as one of the major impediments to its restoration work.
How is this old-fashioned and failed storm water management technique consistent with the Lake Wingra watershed management planning approach that the Friends of Lake Wingra and City of Madison Engineering Division are engaged in? No, I don’t think this new Cherokee Drive storm water main is a product of the Friends of Lake Wingra and City Engineering collaboration, but it does not bode well for an environmentally-enlightened watershed management plan. The Cherokee Drive project shows that it is going to take an engaged and energized watershed community to encourage City Engineering to try some new approaches.