Stormy lessons at a fishing access site

Stormwater runoff into our lakes and streams is a big problem that deserves attention.

As is often the case, I should have pulled the plug on the fishing trip 10 minutes earlier when I saw the storm clouds heading toward where we were fishing. Instead of tying up at the boat dock as the first raindrops hit the deck, it was pouring and had been for several minutes.

Lesson learned? Yes – actually two lessons.

One was about how to better read approaching storms.

The other was about how much stormwater runoff is created by a paved-over parking lot.

The dock I tied up to during the storm was at the boat ramp. Evidently, the parking lot was engineered to funnel rainwater to the boat ramp, then down the ramp into the marina. By the time I had the boat secured, the water flowing down the ramp was about five inches deep.

It wasn’t just water. It was dirt, debris and litter once scattered over the expanse of asphalt, now turning the runoff into a gray, trashy mix. All of it was flowing into the marina and eventually out into the lake.

Most people have heard messages from clean-water advocates about the amount of stormwater falling on expansive rooftops, streets and paved parking lots at marinas funneling quickly into drains, or towards boat ramps, along with whatever stuff is washing along with it to the nearest waterway. This is water that otherwise would, and should, fall on the land where it can be absorbed naturally and percolate into the soil.

I’ve heard the message, but never seen such a first-hand example. I’m sure much of this fast-moving water is as bad or worse than what I saw at the boat ramp, and it’s all flowing to waters used for swimming, boating, fishing, even drinking.

What can be done?

More than one community is experimenting with “pervious pavement.” Instead of paved areas being completely impermeable, some or all of the pavement is designed to let rainfall soak through to the soil underneath, either eliminating it’s path to public waters or slowing it and allowing the natural filtration processes of water percolating through the soil to occur.

Currently, pervious pavement is expensive measured against traditional paving and it’s even more costly to retrofit previously paved areas. However, keeping public waters clean has an economic value as well, which mitigates the initial costs.

As environmental engineers refine the types of permeable pavement available as well as the techniques to install it, costs will decline.

If only I could refine my approaching-storm-cloud-prediction ability.

Categories: Blog Content, Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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