Finding solutions to record rainfallTom Fennessey, director of Facilities Management at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said his top priority now is solving the problem that caused tens of millions of dollars in damages on campus.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Tom Fennessey, director of Facilities Management at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said his top priority now is solving the problem that caused tens of millions of dollars in damages on campus.
After all, there was simply no place for the water to go as rainfall — not seen in Superior in a more than a century — overwhelmed the region.
All but one of the buildings on campus sustained damage despite a storm water conveyance system on campus that runs to the bay in the area where Marina Drive washed out during the storm.
The university is adjacent to one of the worst affected neighborhoods in the city.
Even pumping out the buildings wouldn’t have helped because there was no place for the water to go, Fennessey said.
Steve Roberts at the city’s Environmental Services Division agrees.
The worst flooding in Superior during the June 19-20 storm occurred along the Faxon Creek watershed, affecting residents from East Second Street to Central Park and the area near the university’s steam plant. Water surrounded Superior High School, which remained dry inside, and covered North 28th Street.
For residents near the university the problem was particularly troubling as they combated sewage, not rainwater, entering their home, prompting a petition drive for sewer improvements.
Roberts said while the university has a storm water sewer system that empties in the bay near Barker’s , the neighborhood near the power plan has a combined sewer system, Roberts said. A combined system conveys storm and wastewater in a single pipe.
The Faxon Creek watershed is a large watershed, Roberts said.
Roberts said the storm sewers were simply overwhelmed. In fact, Marina drive was washed away near the culvert that carries storm water from the campus and other parts of town.
Fennessey said he has talked to city officials during past flooding issues on campus and questioned the long-term solution, such as storm water retention systems that have been built in other parts of the city.
Storm water systems in Billings Park and South Superior were among the success stories during the record rainfall, Roberts said.
Far fewer reports of flooding came from those neighborhoods than would have in the past despite the record rainfall, Roberts said.
Roberts said he has looked at the area and identified a possible location on unused campus property where a storm water retention basin could be constructed after residents living near the campus launched a petition seeking a long-term solution to the sewer backups that occurred June 19-20.
However, Roberts said, that would require planning and funding, and may require a partnership with the university.
“I think the university does need to become a partner in this to make sure it happens,” Fennessey said. “I think that it’s one of the best ways of doing it is to get that retention pond, where any of the overflow goes in there and is immediately held.”