Drake receives stormwater/sustainability grant from IDALS

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) announced that Drake has been awarded a $79,110 grant to improve the flow characteristics and water quality of campus runoff as part of campus-wide improvements in sustainability and stormwater management, with an additional $6,000 coming from the City of Des Moines. The grants will be used to build a bioretention and bioremediation system in the area between the agora and Harvey Ingham Hall. This system will capture stormwater running off from Helmick Commons and other parts of central campus. Using berms and native plantings, bioretention and bioremediation cells slow the movement of stormwater, allowing plants and soils to filter the water and remove contaminants. In this way, significantly cleaner stormwater is discharged to local streams at a more constant pace, reducing erosion and flooding problems downstream, while also improving soil moisture near the site during dry times.

This was a student-initiated project, with initial investigation of opportunities done by students in the Drake Environmental Action League, in particular Elly Flemming, who built it into her capstone in Environmental Science and Sustainability. Drake Facilities Planning and Management staff, including Sustainability Coordinator Sophia Seigel and Director Kevin Moran, then worked with students, faculty, the City, and IDALS to organize the application and plan the execution. An important part of the grant will be measuring and analyzing the discharge into the stream just north of the Tennis Center (Ravine Creek) to determine the impact of the improvements.

This work is part of a much larger campus effort to remediate stormwater runoff and improve water quality in Ravine Creek. Other projects have included permeable pavement and equisetum planting on 28th Street going through campus, the prairie north of Meredith, native plantings as part of the Ray Promenade project, runoff collection built into recent parking lot improvements, rain gardens across campus, and capstone projects this spring and a Restoration Ecology class this fall that will focus on habitat improvements in the forested region through which the creek flows.

— David Courard-Hauri, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy