GLRI-funded infrastructure project to restore Superior wetlands

Christie Bleck/Mining Journal (Marquette) The Superior Watershed Partnership has been awarded a grant to relocate an open-channel stormwater drain next to Hawley Street in the city of Marquette. The project is expected to better Lake Superior water quality, among other improvements.

MARQUETTE — The Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative announced an award of a $288,500 grant to the Superior Watershed Partnership to implement a large-scale green infrastructure project.

The goals of that project are to protect Lake Superior water quality, help prevent public beach closures and restore Great Lakes coastal wetlands.

The SWP, in cooperation with the city of Marquette, will address urban runoff impairments by relocating an open-channel stormwater drain adjacent to Hawley Street that currently discharges directly across a public beach into Lake Superior.

Relocation of the outfall of this storm drain, which involves a 100 percent disconnection into an adjacent coastal wetland restoration project, will provide a consistent source of hydrology to 12 acres of wetlands. It also will reduce documented human health risks as well as water quality impacts to the nearshore waters of Lake Superior and adjacent public beaches.

“This is a great example of a local non-profit working with the city to better protect Lake Superior,” said Geraldine Grant, SWP senior planner. “The project not only reduces storm water runoff to Lake Superior, it also restores coastal wetlands that help filter pollutants and provide important habitat for wildlife.”

Grant said the existing drain, located in front of BioLife Plasma Services on Hawley, will be redirected north onto property adjacent to Hawley and Lakeshore Boulevard and owned by the city of Marquette. Wetland areas also will be created to help filter water, she said.

The long-term plan for the project, which will be open to the public, is to put some trails through there as well, she said. It is hoped construction will begin next spring.

Grant said the project will involve opportunities for Northern Michigan University and local K-12 students to take part in onsite research. Volunteers also may help with planting.

The project involves the SWP’s Great Lakes Conservation Corps to assist with native plant restoration, particularly around the new channel and most likely with wetland species.

The GLCC, Grant noted, already has planted trees at the new site.

The project will reduce water quality impacts and human health impacts, including e-coli bacteria levels, at public beaches identified through a previous EPA-funded Great Lakes beach monitoring project and provide consistent hydrology for the restored wetlands under changing climate conditions.

The projected volume of stormwater that will be captured and filtered by the restored wetland habitat will range between 7.5 million gallons and 9.1 million gallons per year under various climate scenarios, according to the EPA National Stormwater Calculator.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a pretty competitive grant program, so the city of Marquette is thrilled to partner on this collaborative clean water project,” said Curt Goodman, Marquette director of public works and utilities, in a news release. “It’s a win-win; it saves city funding and it better protects Lake Superior.”

The project will help Marquette adapt to changing climate conditions including more frequent and intense storms, changing lake levels and increasing Lake Superior water temperatures, according to the SWP.

The proposed green infrastructure practices will also be resilient to temperature and precipitation changes.

The project will include an education and outreach component to raise public awareness about urban stormwater impacts and coastal habitat restoration. Project information will also be shared with the Great Lakes Beach Association, the GLSI, and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative as a model for urban stormwater management and coastal wetland habitat restoration.