Green digest // Planning for extreme weather

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District recently joined a national study that aims to develop models for adapting municipal stormwater infrastructure to a changing climate and a future in which extreme rain events may become more common.

The study will look specifically at the cities of Victoria, a developing exurban community of about 6,300 people just west of Chanhassen, and Minneapolis. The public is invited to learn more about the study, and how they can become involved, at a May 15 forum set to run 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center, 3700 Monterey Dr.

The 181-square-mile watershed district, which covers portions of 27 cities and two townships, is the fourth region in the country to enroll in the Weather – Extreme Trends (WET) Study. By examining regional land-use and rainfall trends and the capacity of existing stormwater management systems, the study aims to identify what it will take — including how much it will cost — to adapt those systems to a warmer, wetter climate, said district spokesperson Telly Mamayek.

“We’ve already started the technical piece [of the study], the modeling of the stormwater infrastructure and the precipitation patterns,” Mamayek said, adding that the May 15 forum begins the next phase of the project: inviting the community to join the planning process.

The risks of increased extreme rain events include more frequent flooding and infrastructure damage. There are also implications for local water quality when rainfall events overwhelm stormwater management systems. 

The WET Study’s lead investigators are Latham Stack of Syntectic International, a company that specializes in advising municipalities on adapting to climate change, and Michael Simpson, an Antioch University New England professor and chair of the university’s Department of Environmental Studies. The University of Minnesota is one of several local partners participating in this phase of the project.

Register for the May 15 forum at surveymonkey.com/s/WETregistration, or visit minnehahacreek.org for more information on the study and a link to the registration page.

Forum participants will be briefed on the local phase of the WET Study, the climate trends driving the research, and the current state of the local stormwater infrastructure, including potential vulnerabilities. 

A record Recycle Run

About 700 people participated in the fifth-annual Minneapolis Recycle Run held April 22 at Lake Harriet, setting a record for the event that raises funds for the Minneapolis Earth Day Clean Up.

Event coordinator Arik Rudolph of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board said about 9,000 pounds of trash were collected during the citywide cleanup held a day earlier, and roughly 2,000 volunteers showed up at neighborhood parks, lakes and streams to help collect trash. It was a better turnout than 2011, when snow and cold weather limited participation to about 1,500 volunteers, but the amount of trash collected missed last year’s mark by about 1,000 pounds.

School recycling grants available

Hennepin County plans to award up to $200,000 in grants to K–12 schools to fund the creation or expansion of in-school recycling programs.

Both public and private schools are eligible to apply for the School Recycling Assistance Program grants, which have two objectives: promoting source-separated organics reuse or recycling in lunchrooms and improving schools’ programs for recycling all kinds of materials.

County guidelines for the grants explain that establishing a source-separated organics program could involve separating compostable organic waste in the lunchroom or saving still-edible, unused food for donation. Improving an existing program could be as simple as using grant funds to replace or refurbish recycling signs and receptacles, or it could mean expanding the variety of recyclables collected.

No matching funds are required for grants of $25,000 or less. For larger grants, schools must commit to a 25-percent match, which could include in-kind staff time or other project expenses.

For more information, or to download application forms, go to hennepin.us and type “School Recycling Assistance Program” into the search box. Applications are due by 5 p.m. May 31.