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Sustainable stormwater: LSSU to implement green infrastructure project along St. Marys River

A rendering of the forthcoming Richard and Theresa Barch Center for Freshwater Research and Education Building and the site of the St. Marys River Green Stormwater Demonstration Project is shown. (Rendering courtesy of LSSU)

SAULT STE. MARIE — Lake Superior State University will implement the St. Marys River Green Stormwater Demonstration Project in 2021, which will create the first green stormwater demonstration project along the St. Marys River and do so at a former industrial brownfield site.

The $250,000 project will be located adjacent to LSSU’s Center for Freshwater Research and Education and the city of Sault Ste. Marie’s Alford Park.

The university’s project is one of 27 recently funded projects through the U.S. Forest Service’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Projects were funded in Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin, totaling almost $4.5 million, and are designed to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and accelerate progress toward shared long-term restoration goals.

The St. Marys River Green Stormwater Demonstration Project will use green infrastructure to increase runoff infiltration and pollutant removal, create wildlife habitat in a unique riparian area and provide community education opportunities on the importance of sustainable stormwater management. CFRE will engage students and the community and lead the development of rain gardens, pollinator habitats and treescapes that will include approximately 50 new trees, 400 shrubs and more than 4,000 native flowers planted across the CFRE and Alford Park properties.

Key partners in this project include the City of Sault Sainte Marie and the Chippewa/Luce/ Mackinac Conservation District.

“This project will create high-impact experiences related to sustainability for our undergraduate students and our high school career and technology education students by engaging them in rain garden design and planting,” CFRE Director Dr. Ashley Moerke said. “This project is particularly exciting because it will help return a former industrial and contaminated site into a natural area that will more sustainably manage stormwater runoff and protect the water quality of the St. Marys River. The site will be an example used to guide sustainable waterfront development in the future.”

LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley said Lake Superior State University recognizes the important role it has in contributing to the protection and conservation of the natural environment that surrounds the area.

“It’s part of our mission to enhance the quality of life of the Great Lakes region,” Hanley said. “And sustainability is one of the pillars in our strategic plan. Through the support from the U.S. Forest Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the St. Marys River Green Stormwater Demonstration Project will help grow campus- and community-based sustainability initiatives focused on our cherished freshwater resources and give our students vital experiences in the process.”

Signature programs at LSSU include fisheries and wildlife management, engineering, nursing, criminal justice, business, robotics engineering and fire science. In 2019, Lake State launched the first cannabis chemistry program in the nation. LSSU also was the first campus nationwide to offer an accredited four-year fire science program; it is one of three in the United States.

LSSU was the first campus nationwide to offer an accredited four-year robotics engineering technology program and is the only university nationwide to offer undergraduate education in industrial robotics. LSSU also offers several certificate programs, including a one-year culinary arts chef certificate at its 5,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art Les Cheneaux Culinary School in Hessel. Regional centers are in Escanaba, Iron Mountain, and Petoskey. LSSU opened its newest location in St. Helen in 2020. Additional LSSU hallmarks include the annual Banished Words List that receives worldwide media coverage and a student-run Atlantic salmon hatchery at its renowned Center for Freshwater Research and Education.

LSSU’s NCAA Division I hockey team has won five national championships; men compete in five other sports and women in six at the Division II level.

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