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Coastal collaboration the natural way to be resilient

The Great Lakes One Water Partnership is a multi-year, basin-wide collaboration whose purpose is to limit the impact of extreme weather events and flooding in 31 coastal Great Lakes communities.

Led by the Council of Michigan Foundations, the project aims to act as a “force multiplier” to bring on a new era of water management in the Great Lakes basin.

The council, as it reads on its website at michiganfoundations.org/greatlakesonewater, “will support the community foundations and their partners as they implement community-based and regional solutions for long-term, equitable access to clean, healthy water resources.”

Storms tend to be increasing in frequency and intensity in the region, so planning for these scenarios is a good way to be proactive.

Perhaps Mother Nature has the best answers.

What’s being looked at are “green infrastructure interventions,” which are nature-based solutions to increase resilience to weather events and address stormwater issues.

And stormwater management is important. The Superior Watershed Partnership notes there are over 3,000 storm drains Marquette alone, and almost all of the stormwater ends up in Lake Superior.

One idea involves rain gardens, which basically are plants, preferably native to an area, placed in a depression. Not only do they look good, they absorb stormwater, filter contaminants and recharge groundwater.

The Environmental Protection Agency has this to say about rain gardens: “Planted with grasses and flowering perennials, rain gardens can be a cost-effective and beautiful way to reduce runoff from your property. Rain gardens can also help filter out pollutants in runoff and provide food and shelter for butterflies, songbirds and other wildlife.”

The Lake Superior Rain Garden Challenge will begin over the winter.

A Marquette team plans to education the community about rain gardens and work with private property owners as well as look into municipal opportunities. The challenge will use a cost-sharing structure to help selected program applicants place rain gardens on their properties, hopefully in high-visibility areas to show the public how they work.

Aesthetically pleasing, we believe rain gardens also are an essential part of green infrastructure interventions, and hope they become a permanent part of the region in years to come.