AHS students are ‘Sinkin’ the Stormwater in Humboldt County’

Arcata High students vegetate the parking lot runoff area. Photo by Moonlight Macumber | Union

 

Ray Olson
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Arcata’s Jolly Giant Creek might be feeling a lot jollier this winter, thanks to more than a dozen environmentally-minded Arcata High School students who recently planted rain gardens on campus. 

The newly vegetated areas capture and cleanse rainfall runoff from parking lots and other paved areas. The pooled runoff soaks into the ground and eventually trickles underground into the nearby Jolly Giant Creek.  

The students planted the gardens with native plants, including sword ferns, salal, native grasses, kelsey dogwood, and monkeyflower.

The students enthusiastically joined in the project after an Advanced Placement Environmental Science class assignment that sampled 8 locations in Jolly Giant Creek last year. “We found a high level of pollutants in the creek and felt something needed to be done to make our campus more sustainable,” said senior Julia McLeod, founder and president of the campus Surfrider chapter. In fact, parking lots are typically a significant source of stormwater pollution from vehicles leaking fluids such as radiator coolant, motor oil, and other toxic fluids.  Without treatment, the contaminated runoff flows into stormdrains, which discharge directly into creeks and other waterways, harming aquatic plants and animals.  Juvenile coho salmon and their food sources are especially vulnerable to the heavy metals and toxins found in untreated stormwater runoff.  

Toiling in the rain garden. Photo by Moonlight Macumber | Union

The project is funded by a grant from the State Water Resources Control Board through its Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools (DROPS).  The Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) and the Northern Humboldt Union High School District collaborated to develop the project and submit the grant.  A local engineering firm, GHD, Inc., provided technical design.  The project’s catchy title, “Sinkin’ the Stormwater in Humboldt County,” reflects its goal of capturing, treating and infiltrating stormwater runoff.

The new rain gardens at Arcata High School are just one part of a broader, county-wide effort to integrate low-impact development (LID) and related education at school campuses to improve stormwater quality. Rain gardens, vegetated bio-swales and mosquito-proof rain barrels are being constructed at several other Humboldt County schools. The LID projects capture rainfall runoff, screen litter, and clean out most toxins using the natural filtering process of rocks, plants, and soils. The treated runoff infiltrates to recharge groundwater, and/or flows underground into nearby waterways. Rain captured in barrels will be used to water landscaping.  

The project also includes a robust educational element, according to Morguine Sefcik, project coordinator and RCAA Natural Resources Services senior planner.  Morguine visits schools and provides curriculum explaining how LID features help to protect and preserve Humboldt’s waterways from contaminants from impervious paved areas such as roads and parking lots.  Interpretive signs will also be installed at participating schools to explain the function and benefits of the new rain gardens and other stormwater LID projects. For more information please contact Morguine Sefcik at [email protected].

The students planted the gardens with native plants, including sword ferns, salal, native grasses, kelsey dogwood, and monkeyflower.

The students enthusiastically joined in the project after an Advanced Placement Environmental Science class assignment that sampled eight locations in Jolly Giant Creek last year. 

“We found a high level of pollutants in the creek and felt something needed to be done to make our campus more sustainable,” said senior Julia McLeod, founder and president of the campus Surfrider chapter. 

In fact, parking lots are typically a significant source of stormwater pollution from vehicles leaking fluids such as radiator coolant, motor oil and other toxic fluids. Without treatment, the contaminated runoff flows into storm drains, which discharge directly into creeks and other waterways, harming aquatic plants and animals. 

Juvenile coho salmon and their food sources are especially vulnerable to the heavy metals and toxins found in untreated stormwater runoff. 

The project is funded by a grant from the State Water Resources Control Board through its Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools (DROPS). The Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) and the Northern Humboldt Union High School District collaborated to develop the project and submit the grant. A local engineering firm, GHD, Inc., provided technical design. 

The project’s catchy title, “Sinkin’ the Stormwater in Humboldt County,” reflects its goal of capturing, treating and infiltrating stormwater runoff.

The new rain gardens at Arcata High School are just one part of a broader, county-wide effort to integrate low-impact development (LID) and related education at school campuses to improve stormwater quality. Rain gardens, vegetated bio-swales and mosquito-proof rain barrels are being constructed at several other Humboldt County schools. 

The LID projects capture rainfall runoff, screen litter, and clean out most toxins using the natural filtering process of rocks, plants, and soils. The treated runoff infiltrates to recharge groundwater, and/or flows underground into nearby waterways. Rain captured in barrels will be used to water landscaping. 

 The project also includes a robust educational element, according to Morguine Sefcik, project coordinator and RCAA natural Resources Services Senior planner. Morguine visits schools and provides curriculum explaining how LID features help to protect and preserve Humboldt’s waterways from contaminants from impervious paved areas such as roads and parking lots. 

Interpretive signs will also be installed at participating schools to explain the function and benefits of the new rain gardens and other stormwater LID projects. 

For more information, contact Morguine Sefcik at [email protected].

 







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