KNOXVILLE (WATE) - University of Tennessee landscape architecture students are partnering with the city of Knoxville to work on solutions to storm water problems throughout the region.
The project will save local taxpayers millions. A $4.3 million grant was given to Knoxville to oversee the regional program, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities.
The students are researching, drawing site designs and writing policy recommendations that address storm water quality and flash flooding. Their design plans are on Facebook.
"I was stunned with what they came up with," said Michael Carberry, planning manager for the Metropolitan Planning Commission.
Graduate student Valerie Friedmann explained that the goal is to think of environmentally friendly methods to solve storm water issues like flooding and run-off that have plagued cities like Knoxville for years.
Some areas are more flood prone, "especially along the Broadway, First Creek corridor," said Friedman. "That's typically an area where we see a lot of flooding because of the types of development patterns in that area."
Phase one of the three-year research and design project is complete. They started with the Fountain City Duck Pond, Market Square and the southern portion of UT's ag campus.
The Fountain City design is unique, "using the park as sort of a sponge to absorb rain water from the existing areas," Friedmann explained. "So if you can imagine places where there's just large grass fields, maybe start thinking of those as meadows, and for the duck pond itself maybe taking out the concrete liner and replacing it with something more like a constructed wet land."
The detailed designs range from rain gardens at UT to more green roofs and hard surfaces that soak up water on Market Square.
It's not just about absorbing the water, but also cleaning it to keep pollutants from spilling into First Creek. This would help protect the wildlife and the rest of us as well.
"Things like bio-retention areas in parking lots where you're flushing all that water off a parking lot. You're putting it into a source to hold it, and cleansing it at the same time before it goes into a stream," Carberry said.
UT students will perform six design studios, teams of students working on specific site plans, over the three-year period. Their plans will benefit five counties in the region.
"The work that they've done in identifying what practices can improve or prevent water quality damage can be used in any of those watersheds throughout the region," said Carberry. "It's not only for the city, but it's for the Oak Ridges the Clintons, Loudon, and the counties around those areas."
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