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Bemidji City Council: Rubble will be added to parking lots stop soil erosion

Too much rainwater flowing off the Sanford Center parking lots has caused soil to erode and has prevented plants from growing in certain areas. The Bemidji City Council voted Monday to use leftover Sanford Center construction dollars to put in ri...

Too much rainwater flowing off the Sanford Center parking lots has caused soil to erode and has prevented plants from growing in certain areas.

The Bemidji City Council voted Monday to use leftover Sanford Center construction dollars to put in riprap to help drain water away from the parking areas without disturbing the plants and soil.

Riprap is rock or other material used to protect areas from water taking soil with it as it moves.

Currently, concrete curbs direct water from the parking lots to a series of basins that collect and treat the water. But without grass and vegetation, the concrete flumes are not enough to drain and collect the fast, streaming water, said Craig Gray, the city's director of public works/city engineer.

"We have struggled with these areas for well over one year, I think," Gray said.

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The original intent of the Sanford Center design team was to have the basin areas seeded with grass and to establish vegetation to help the water drain properly, Gray said. However, because of the widespread pavement area, large amounts of rainwater and higher speeds of water flowing off the pavement, seeds eventually get washed out.

"I think part of the problem is design," Gray said. "There's just a lot of pavement going in there."

In the city's existing contract with Kraus Anderson Construction Company, the event center was to be reseeded and re-graded at least two times.

As part of the city council's vote of approval Monday, the city approved a quote from J.D. Hanson & Sons in the amount of $38,707.50 to put in riprap to help drain the water off the parking lots.

"Right now there is no riprap there at all," Gray said. "It just flows down into the grass, where it erodes the soil away."

Now, large granite boulders will be put in to allow the water to flow without capturing soil and plant seeds along the way. Gray admitted putting in riprap is something the city should have looked into earlier on the building process.

"The intent was to try to avoid the process of riprap and have it look better without the rocks," he said. "So, as opposed to continuing to dealing with this, we need to get this fixed right so we're not using general fund tax dollars every single year to fix this."

Gray hired Karvakko Engineering in Bemidji to help design the new riprap stormwater system.

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"I think it will look pretty good," he said. "It's using angular riprap as opposed to the round river rock-type. The angular will work to slow the rate of the water down a great deal. Not only does it look nice but it also works fairly well."

The riprap project will be financed similarly to a city street project. The final bill will be based on the amount of rock, grass seed and labor put into the project. The end amount could be less or more than the quote. Funding will come from the Sanford Center contingency fund, or the money left over from the construction project.

"That is a very good price for this work," Gray said. "It will involve fixing 13 areas."

Construction is expected to start this week and could be completed within a week, Gray added.

"We were a little surprised and disappointed the things we tried before didn't work, but we're pretty confident now this will get it permanently fixed," he said.

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