Bio-Retention Breakthroughs in Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas-City-231-1024x682, March 27th 2014

The City of Kansas City, Missouri is planning to move on the Arrowhead Transmission Main project in the future to address storm-water management and related issues in the city. This entails attempting to increase system capacity, improve overall system reliability, provide redundancy to existing thirty-six-inch MCI transmission main, and to accommodate regional Northland community growth.

I-29 and North Oak Trafficway by Vivian Road, Kansas City, Missouri

The city’s Department of Water Services installed a bioretention cell at Interstate 29 and North Oak Trafficway – a major north to south Interstate Highway in the Midwestern United States, which begins in Missouri before exiting the state and entering Iowa. It travels through Kansas City and neighboring St. Joseph metropolitan areas. The department’s current initiatives now include a new two-mile-long, fifty-four-inch wide water transmission main from the Water Treatment Plant at 9 Highway and North Oak Trafficway northward to Vivion Road in Kansas City, Missouri.

Water ways and swales around Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, Missouri

Much like a residential rain garden, the cell is a grassy, downhill area that contains native plants, a grass buffer strip, a sand bed, mulch and planting soil. The cell is designed to efficiently capture and absorb storm-water runoff and pollutants. An underdrain installed beneath the cell contains and treats the storm-water, improving water quality for any creeks or steams that receive water downstream. 18Broadway also has a smaller version of bioretention systems.

Typically, the area would just contain typical turf grass, but now, seeded with native plant seeds including Little Blue Stems, Prairie Blazing Stars, Missouri Black Eyed Susans and Coreopsises, this novel and new approach will serve as a “green solution” to capture some of the storm-water runoff that is created by the adjacent streets and serve as an amenity to the area. The native species require lower maintenance cost and time, and will take a about year to mature. This cell is the first of its kind in the City of Kansas City.

Midtown swales and parkway, Kansas City, Missouri

These designs can significantly slow storm water runoff from the highways, in addition to enhancing the beauty of the region’s transportation systems and infrastructure, while keeping contaminants from entering streams. But like any public expenditure projects, capital funding seems to be limited for these endeavors to be replicated elsewhere.

Might alternative modes of finance be available for future projects? Can communities themselves be involved in partnering with the public sector to plan and execute similar projects in the area in the future?

Author: Lucy Walton

BSc Conservation Biology

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