The Middle Blue River Green Infrastructure Project in the Marlborough neighborhood of south Kansas City, Missouri has received the nation’s first Envision Platinum Award for a Combined Sewer Overflow area.
The project is the largest of its type to receive Platinum certification from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), which develops and maintains a rating system for all civil infrastructure nationwide.
“Sustainable infrastructure projects are starting to build momentum in North America, and these projects are contributing greatly to their local communities, their environment, and their economies,” said ISI President and CEO, William Bertera. “As sustainable infrastructure projects serve the community, the Kansas City Middle Blue River Green Infrastructure projects highlight the health of the city’s water and sewer flows that contribute to the quality of life and sustainability of the water infrastructure effects on the local economy.”
“People are worried about crumbling infrastructure,” said Terry Leeds, Director of KC Water. “This award demonstrates that Kansas City is a leader in meeting our immediate and long-term infrastructure challenges while also maximizing the return on investment that our customers must make in the federally mandated Overflow Control Program.”
KC Water was the first utility in the nation to include green infrastructure as part of a federal consent decree mandate to reduce sewer overflows. KC Water’s Overflow Control Program is estimated to cost $4.5 to $5 billion over 25 years, making it the largest infrastructure investment in Kansas City history.
ISI specifically mentioned Kansas City’s national leadership and emerging role as a model for infrastructure sustainability.
“We have been very impressed with the quality of the submittals for the Envision review of the Middle Blue River Green Infrastructure project,” said Denise Nelson, ISI’s vice president for public education. “So impressed that we would like to use this project as an example for improving our data collection and reporting processes.”
Marlborough is the epicenter of the 744-acre Middle Blue River Green Infrastructure Project. Features like cascading rain gardens, improved pedestrian access, removal of illegal dumping sites, a wetland with native habitat, trails and nature viewing stations are improving areas such as Arleta Park, Rachel Morado Drive, the Paseo median and at 81st Street and Troost Avenue. Some construction is complete; other work is under way or being planned.
Benefits and outcomes include traffic-calming measures to improve neighborhood safety; street repairs; collection and storage of stormwater runoff; stormwater infiltration that recharges groundwater resources; decreased neighborhood flooding and backups; reduced stormwater entering the collection system; improvements to parks, and existing sewer pipes; and use of rain barrels, personal rain gardens, pervious pavement, and other best management practices.
ISI also noted KC Water’s extraordinary efforts – going back more than a decade — to secure public buy-in and support. A community panel and community meetings led to the priority of green infrastructure solutions. Kansas City became an ISI Public Sector member in January 2014. Today, 36 staff members have earned the Envision Sustainability Professional credential.
As a result, KC Water today follows a strategy to fix current systems, reduce problems before solving them, and using green infrastructure to reduce combined sewer overflows. KC Water incorporates a strategic protocol by using standardized language in requests for qualifications and proposals; identifying sustainability tasks in the project scope of work; and standardizing construction details, specifications, and communications.
Vireo was a critical part of the team that developed the design and construction documents for over 200 rain gardens, bioretention and other landscape designs for the Middle Blue River Basin Green Solutions Project (MBRB). MBRB is a cutting-edge project that covers an entire urban watershed, creating urban streetscapes that overlap with residents’ front yards to test the effectiveness of using green solutions to help reduce overflows and flooding. The result is an exceptional example of combining strong landscape architectural design with engineering for a more sustainable result.