Storm demonstrates weakness of City's erosion control plan

Summary: The gravel check dam in the middle of the greenway worked for the most part, although it was over topped.  But the sediment trap below the greenway failed to trap much sediment, because the current inside was too great, and muddy water made an end run around it.

Muddy water is a threat to the lake because the fine particles carry  phosphorus to the lake.  (Since phosphorus is insoluble, it has to hitchhike on the surface of tiny particles.)  This nutrient upsets the natural balance of the lake--it can kill fish and create toxic algae blooms.  Once in the lake, phosphorus for the most part stays forever.

Barriers like the sediment trap below catch only a tiny fraction of the phosphorus.  The only really effective way to trap fine particles is to channel them into a vegetated basin or grassy depression--like the median of Midvale just below the sediment trap.   The runoff is already in Midvale Blvd--all it would take would be a few low asphalt ridges to direct it to the depressed, grassy median.

Greenway becomes a foaming torrent

On Saturday evening and Sunday morning (Oct. 23-24), it rained a toral of .52 in.  It had been raining moderately hard for a few hours on Sunday morning when I took the photos.

The ravine in the greenway drains a basin about half a mile long, but the ground was quite dry before the rain.  So today's test of the erosion control plan for the greenway was pretty mild.  The record rainfall for Oct. 24 was 2.49 " in 1991.

Protecting the east end of the greenway was an incomplete layer of gravel on the newly bulldozed road, plus a gravel check dam at the lower end of the road.

East end of greenway--the "geyser" resulted from the pipe being partly choked with gravel and leaves.

This "road" may become a hog wallow in coming days.

The gravel check dam below the road was over topped, becoming a waterfall.

Check dam, looking upstream.

The sediment trap on Midvale Blvd overflows.

Muddy water does an end run around the trap.  From here it flows to all four gutters of Midvale.

During peak flow, the current inside the trap was so fast that fist-sized rocks washed in.  With current like this, you can be sure most smaller particles will be washed out of the "trap."

Is your cup half full or half empty (of sediment)

While I was surveying the damage above, an optimistic Alderman happened by.  Chris Schmidt said, "Look at all the sediment the trap caught."  I replied that I'd found a stormwater inlet downstream completely filled with sediment.  We looked at another one, also clogged.

Pointing to the fist-sized rocks in the trap, I suggested that the small amount of sediment in the trap had probably only settled there when the current had calmed at the end of the storm.

Motorists enjoyed surfing the runoff.

Downstream, the stormwater inlets in the gutters were unprotected.  This one, about the fourth down, was totally filled with sandy sediment.

In the center, behind the big tree, is the perfect spot to receive and filter the muddy water.

The muddy road back in the greenway, after the storm.

Problems ahead: a hog wallow for machinery in the ravine.

See all the photos ...
After the storm     ...we're still adding captions to the photos...


  1. You sir are a joke! complain, complain, complain! This project needs to be done. your lucky the city even compromised. You dont even live on the Greenway! Keep your nose and camera out of my backyard. Yes its a muddy mess, the contractor just started the project! They cant control when it rains. Not everyone agrees with your opinions. How does it feel to have someone disagree with all you complainers. You live in a city for heaven sakes! You want no government or possible improvements in the area you live? Then move to the boonies! You can tree hug all you want there, without disrupting the peace of the neighborhood. Complain about the mud, complain about the color of the ribbons, complain about saving the dead trees. Keep your happy faces off the trees! You have no right to do that, just as some of you said the city has no right to put "crime tape" around trees. Your a do gooder. Mind your own business and let this work get done once and for all!

  2. People who oppose the greenway project have various reasons, but I think all are trying to be constructive--to improve our city. My own goals are to work to improve our polluted lakes, and to nudge the City towards "green infrastructure" projects, which I think will save money in the long run and improve our quality of life.

    This debate is not about whether the greenway/sewer should be repaired. It's about how best to do that without ruining the natural values of the greenway and the lakes.

    In this debate, I think it does help to criticise projects you think are poorly designed or move us towards the wrong goals. But when the other side doesn't listen, and you repeat your comments, you start to sound like a scold. Yes, being a scold no fun. I've tried to move beyond criticism to suggest constructive ideas, like using the median of Midvale Blvd downstream to filter muddy water.

    The person above who called me a "joke" is himself being a scold of the scolds. Would he like to take off his anonymous mask and join the open debate? Does he have constructive comments to make in the open?

    Perhaps he or she does have a good point about the happy faces on trees. Anything put on trees that are to be saved should be removeable.


Please feel free to comment on the article above, or on other watershed issues.