Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Assessing District School Sites for Potential BMPs

By Sage Passi

Last summer the District began evaluating school sites throughout the Watershed to assess their grounds for potential installations of retrofit Best Management Practices (BMPs). The District received an Accelerated Implementation grant in 2014 from the Clean Water Legacy Fund to help support this evaluation process. The goals for this project are analyzing implementation priorities and setting the stage for generating projects on school grounds in the future that will help the District meet stormwater volume and nutrient reduction goals.


Josh Vosejpka, GIS Specialist for Barr Engineering (left)
helps Erin Anderson Wenz (2nd from right) test drive an iPad
used to load details and photos during school site visits.
Barr Engineering staff delineated all school properties within the watershed using air photos and LiDAR data. This GIS information revealed 78 schools sites and provided input that helped narrow the number of sites to visit “on the ground” to a total of 38. Church schools that could be included in other projects and school sites where the District had already implemented BMPs were eliminated from the list.

A check list to help determine the most promising sites for retrofits and provide information to help in the concept design phase of the project was developed. In June 2014 Barr Engineering created an iPad application to load details and photos of each site during field visits, store the data in real time and reference the sites geographically in GIS for future use.

In July 2014 Watershed and Barr staff conducted 38 field visits at the most promising school sites. Using the data collected from the site visits, Barr developed a scoring system to categorize the site data based on constructability considerations, stormwater quality benefit, required property owner concessions and visibility. Twenty-four sites were deemed of high enough potential to grade. This scoring system narrowed down the assessed sites to eleven strong contenders for further investigation and visits with decision-makers and educators.

The eleven schools that ranked highest in the site evaluation process include: Bailey Elementary, Battle Creek Middle School, Central Park Elementary, Harmony Learning Center, Maplewood Middle School, Roseville Area Middle School, Sunrise Park Middle School, Weaver Elementary, Woodbury Elementary, Woodbury Middle School and Woodbury High School.

Maplewood Middle School's site assessment includes several recommended rain garden locations, as indicated in red.

An important component of this project involved interactions with school administrators, teachers and school district-level grounds staff to introduce the Watershed District and its goals, determine the schools’ willingness to partner with the Watershed District, identify barriers to installation and maintenance of stormwater BMPs and lay the groundwork for working effectively with schools into the future.

Starting in the fall of 2014 and continuing during the winter and spring of 2015, Watershed and Barr staff held meetings with principals, teachers and grounds staff at these eleven schools to discuss the results of their site assessments. Maps with proposed sites for rain gardens were provided, giving school officials the opportunity to provide feedback and input about locations and other concerns. A number of these meetings included teachers who have worked with the District on watershed related education projects in the past. Involving teachers helped strengthen the schools’ partnership capacity and generated a spirit of enthusiasm for participation.

Glacial Ridge's soil borings done this summer
will help determine the soil's infiltration
capacity at each of the targeted school sites.

Preliminary concept plans for the high priority sites will be developed that include planning level cost estimates for implementation and treatment potential (in costs per pound of phosphorus). This will assist the District in determining cost vs. benefit for each of the eleven schools and help prioritize projects that can be targeted for our annual work plan and future grant opportunities. We hope to be able to construct projects at three schools in 2016 and three in the following year. 


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