By Casey Hans
A stormwater improvement project on the northeast corner of the Pioneer High School property should help alleviate flooding problems in the Allen Creek Watershed and improve water discharged into the Huron River.
It also will spruce up the school grounds, level the land to create a usable recreation area and add about 130 new trees and a decorative plaza as well as interpretive signs explaining about the Allen Creek, which now runs as an underground drain at the site.
The $3.1 million project will be paid for through federal stimulus funds and state monies as well as a loan to be paid back through the city of Ann Arbor’s water and sewer fund. The project is on Ann Arbor Public Schools land, but the district is paying no part of the construction, officials said.
The project, at the corner of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard, encompasses just under five acres. Two large detention tanks will be placed 25 feet underground to hold and slowly discharge water into Allen Creek, keeping excess phosphorus from going into the river.
Construction should be completed in the spring of 2010, with seeding and hydrating of the site starting next summer in time to park cars this fall for U-M football games, which is a money-maker for the district. A 1-acre portion of the site, where the tanks are installed, will be covered with stone for one year to allow the site to settle. It should not affect football parking and will eventually be seeded once the ground has settled, officials said.
“There were three government agencies working together to make it better for the citizens,” notes Randy Trent, executive director of physical properties for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. “People worked really quickly and really well together. This is, by far, the biggest project we’ve done (together.)”
The Ann Arbor Public Schools, the Office of the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner and city of Ann Arbor have collaborated on the west side project, said Harry Sheehan, environmental manager for the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s office. The state’s Department of Environmental Quality and the federal EPA also have had a hand in it, due to federal regulations that require agencies to reduce phosphorus levels in the river.
The Pioneer site will handle water filtering for about 300 acres of property upstream and “make a big difference in water quality downstream and into downtown,” said Sheehan. He said that the Pioneer site was a good one for the project because two storm sewers come together at that point. Upstream, there will be filters to catch any solid materials before they reach the tanks and those filters will be cleaned out regularly.
Funding is broken down into federal stimulus money (40 percent), the Michigan Department of Transportation (4 percent) and a loan for the drainage district (56 percent) that will be paid back from the city of Ann Arbor’s water and sewer fund over 20 years, Sheehan said.
Trent said Pioneer High School science teacher Ronald Robinson has been consulting with county officials about using the site for student instruction.
He added that the nearby sports field will be “minimally impacted” by the project and that the new level area created in the graded area of the tank sites will likely be used as a small field for the district’s Rec & Ed Department to use with the community. Also, the entire sidewalk along Main Street and Stadium Boulevard will be repaired as part of the project. And, additional trees are planned along the Pioneer fence line when municipal roadway work is done in 2013.
Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-994-2090 ext. 51228.