Lake Street in Whitehall to become Michigan’s first “green road”

Rain gardens, bioswales, and porous pavement will filter stormwater and reduce the amount that reaches White Lake during storms — reducing pollution and flooding.

This summer, Whitehall will transform a ½-mile stretch of Lake Street into Michigan’s first “green road.” The street will be equipped with a state-of-the-art stormwater system to collect runoff from 60 acres of surrounding streets and industrial properties. It will use rain gardens, porous pavements, and a variety of other methods to filter runoff and absorb as much as possible before it reaches nearby White Lake.

Lake Street runs between a large industrial area and the site of a former tannery on the south shore of White Lake, an EPA Area of Concern (AOC). The goal of the new system is to filter the storm water as many times as possible – and by as many methods as possible – before it enters White Lake.

“We’ve always tried to make our streets environmentally friendly,” said Whitehall City Manager Scott Huebler, “and this was an awesome opportunity to do more. We’re hoping that once this is in place, it can be a model for other communities.”

Low-Impact Design

Runoff on Lake Street will be diverted into a series of bioswales along both sides of the road. These will direct the runoff into several detention zones lined with native trees and plants. The runoff will then flow into the new wetland areas being created at the former tannery site. Each of these steps is designed to filter the runoff and encourage it to soak into the soil.

Porous pavement is also being considered for on-street parking areas and intersections along Lake Street. This would allow some runoff to be absorbed into the soil under the road.

Runoff collected at industrial facilities east of Lake Street currently flows through storm sewers to White Lake. This project will add filtration chambers to these sewers, and then divert the storm water to one of the Tannery Bay wetlands. These chambers will also allow Whitehall to monitor their system.

Alcoa-Howmet, an adjacent property-owner and the County’s largest employer, will convert portions of its parking lot into rain gardens. Some of the runoff from the Alcoa-Howmet facility will flow into the rain gardens, through adjacent bioswales, and to the Tannery Bay wetland.

EPA Grant Funding

Lake Street runs between a large industrial area and the site of a former tannery on the shore of White Lake, an EPA Area of Concern (AOC). Because the road’s stormwater system is so environmentally-friendly, this project will further the EPA’s goals to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of storm water entering White Lake.

For this reason, Whitehall won a $376,000 grant — 50% of the construction cost — from the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Lake Street is the first road project to receive a grant from the $450-million GLRI fund.

Celebrating over 40 years of operation, Prein&Newhof is a full-service engineering firm offering a wide range of civil engineering, environmental consulting, surveying, GIS, and laboratory services to municipal and private clients across West Michigan. The firm has offices in Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, and Traverse City, as well as an environmental laboratory adjacent to its headquarters in Grand Rapids.

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