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City plans new rain gardens to manage storm runoff

Projects are designed to handle 1" rainfalls
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Clayte Street - East 2
Clayte St. site hosts one of several existing rain gardens

THUNDER BAY -- The City of Thunder Bay has announced plans for several additional urban rain gardens as part of its long-range plan to manage stormwater runoff.

Seven locations falling outside road allowances are currently being studied, including sites near North Edward Street on the city's south side, and Hinton Avenue, Hartviksen Street, Olympia Place, Bruce Street, Theresa Street and Winnipeg Avenue on the north side.

The city is also looking to undertake additional projects within road allowances. 

Rain gardens, also known as bio-retention facilities, are landscaped, shallow depressions that use a combination of soil and plant material intended to clean stormwater and reduce flooding

City project engineer Aaron Ward says the new rain gardens would be similar to existing ones on either side of Memorial Avenue and on Clayte Street. 

At three locations, new storm sewer outfalls to McVicar Creek or the Neebing River may be installed as well.

"These will be quite small because the amount of water coming out of these facilities should be less than a regular storm sewer system, because of the fact it will be infiltrating into the ground," Ward said.

He said the city's stormwater plan has identified over 500 facilities to be developed on city-owned land. 

Approximately three dozen projects will have been completed after this latest round, and it's expected to take more than twenty years to finish them all.

The city's rain gardens are designed to treat essentially the first inch of water that falls during a storm. That covers 90 per cent of the rain events that happen in Thunder Bay.

But a storm on the scale of the one that left parts of the city inundated in May 2012 is a far different scenario.

"During the 100-year storms it will help, but won't solve it by itself. The hope is that by building a lot of these now, they start to have a cumulative effect," Ward said.