In May, a massive storm threw down an impressive 10 inches of rain in a 72-hour period. However, after the runoff passed through a series of water-cleansing “bioretention” vegetated ponds, the main building on the Museum’s Discovery Campus experienced ordinary runoff conditions.
“We experienced floodwater and debris floating across the property,” said John Adamski, president of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “If not for the bioretention practices, we would have had significant flooding in the building. Fortunately, there was none.”
The bioretention system is a series of ponds in the ground filled with especially absorbent plants and a retentive soil mixture that cleanse storm water as it moves toward Sugar Creek and onward to Keuka Lake. Runoff is slowed and absorbed by each successive pond, and pollutants are filtered out so what little water does make it to Sugar Creek is reduced in volume and much cleaner.
This system has been seen to be not only efficient but independent of maintenance. “Fish have to swim and plants have to drink,” said Jon Sorensen, Director of Public Information for the NYS Environmental Facilities Corp. “Unlike machines, once you put these systems in place, they can run themselves.”
The storm water management system at the Museum also includes a rooftop garden, a rainwater recycling cistern, and a porous pavement parking lot, all of which absorb rainwater and reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering Sugar Creek.
The ponds were designed by Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects LLP from Ithaca, NY as part of a New York State Green Innovation Grant Program (GIGP) administered by the Environmental Facilities Corporation. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council included the Finger Lakes Museum in its regional development plan for 2011, resulting in $381,000 of GIGP funding, along with nearly $2 million from the Empire State Development Corp. and the State Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation.
The Green Innovation Grant Program (GIGP) will have a further $12.6 million available this year for more green storm water infrastructure projects. Businesses, municipalities, not-for-profits and the public are encouraged to apply for assistance from dozens of state funding programs.
GIGP applicants are strongly encouraged to work with their Regional Council to align their project with regional goals and priorities. The 2014 REDC Guidebook and list of available resources can be found at www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.