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GVSU Ravines Studied

Grand Valley State University has undergone extensive land use changes since its founding in 1960. As the school and its student population has grown, the need for more facilities and parking has led to conversion of agricultural land. This urbanization has changed the way storm water runs off campus and is most evident in the ravines. The Department of Geology has been studying erosion in the ravines for many years and collecting storm water runoff data since the summer of 2006. Geology students Patrick Womble and Ted Lacross, working with Dr. Peter Wampler, installed stream gages and measured stream flow in the ravines. An ad-hoc committee called the Storm Water Advisory Group (SWAG) was formed in the Fall of 2006 with members from Natural Resources Management, Biology, Geology, and Facilities. SWAG will be working with Fishbeck Thompson Carr, and Huber, a Grand Rapids consulting firm, to develop a comprehensive storm water plan for the GVSU campus. The Storm Water Advisory Group (SWAG) continues to work with James Moyer and facilities to finalize a Storm Water Management plan for the GVSU Allendale campus. The draft plan, finished in June, was prepared by Fishbeck, Thompson, Huber, and Carr (FTCH). Some of the discussions and Best Management Practices outlined in the plan have already been incorporated in new buildings and infrastructure under construction at the Allendale campus. For example, a portion of Parking Lot C was fitted with a strip of permeable asphalt to allow storm water runoff to infiltrate rather than proceed to the storm drains. The monitoring of Storm water runoff has continued with the installation of new gages and monitoring sites. At the present, a total of 14 continuous gages have been installed and are being monitored with the help of geology students, Kirk Perschbacker, James Barr, and Sarah Negorsen. Also included in the new monitoring system are two web-based cameras to capture storm events, and one internet-based water level and water chemistry probe near Calder. In September 2007 three shallow monitoring wells were installed with help of Peter Riemersma of the geology Department and Raymer Drilling. These wells will allow us to collect data and better understand a shallow sand aquifer which lies some 6-20 meters below campus. This aquifer provides an underground pathway for storm water to enter the ravines. About a dozen students helped with the drilling and geologic description of the drill holes. The Storm Water monitoring effort was expanded this year with the help of biology professor Eric Snyder and his students. Biology students Jason Dragowski and Michelle Harju collected biologic data on algae growth and fish populations in the ravines. This has been combined with chemical analyses of storm water performed by geology student Katie Conroy to provide a baseline for future changes that may restore or alter ravine ecological functions and water chemistry. SWAG is in the process of developing a long-term monitoring plan with facilities to insure that data can continue to be collected and inform future decisions regarding infrastructure at GVSU. This effort will include the participation of GVSU students. One of the exciting plans on the horizon is the construction of a large wetland complex near the radio towers. The proposed wetlands will allow storm water to runoff to the west instead of into the ravines. The overarching goal of SWAG and facilities continues to be the return of GVSU to runoff levels present in 1960 when the University was founded. For more information please contact Dr. Peter Wampler (616) 331-2834.

 

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