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Remember to keep your grass out of our gutters!

Remember to keep your grass out of our gutters!

Spring and summer is the heart of lawn-mowing season, so we’re in the thick of it now. But did you know that grass clippings and other yard waste left in the street can cause flooding and storm water drainage problems for Riverdale? That’s because grass clippings in the street ultimately end up in a storm drain. Once in the drain, they can build up and clog pipes and cause drain issues.

This sophisticated diagram spells out what you need to keep in mind when it comes to cutting your grass next to the street.

In Riverdale, we have free, curbside pick-up of yard waste from April through October (and, sometimes, into November), so there’s no reason for residents to leave their lawn clippings, leaves and other plant refuse in the street.

Also, did you know that grass clippings and other yard waste in the streets can cause high levels of nutrients in local creeks and streams which can result in algae problems? It’s better for you to leave your grass clippings on your yard to help restore nutrients back into the soil and increase the amount of organic materials in your soil.

Grass on the road can also be a hazard to motorists, especially motorcyclists and bicyclists. If a two-wheeled vehicle hits a patch of grass in the road, the unstable nature of the grass pile can result in the bike losing traction on the road and, thus, losing control. 

According to Justin Lovely, in this article on the GreenPal website

“Grass clippings in the roadway can be extremely hazardous to the rider and even deadly. Rider’s are taught about potential *gravel* on the road but far too often forget about the dangers of grass. In our area we often see this on the back country rural roads.” 

“Rider’s don’t think about it because the rider is often on pavement or other city roads where this is really not an issue. The moment the rider decides to go on the secondary roads, he or she needs to be thinking and looking out for grass.”

Solutions For Your Grass Problem

There are a number of things you can do to make sure you and your grass clippings are not the cause of Riverdale’s next great storm water management problem.

  • If your mower shoots grass clippings out of the side, make sure you mow a few passes with your mower blowing towards your yard and not into the street – do it first, before you get going on the rest of your yard.

  • If you bag your grass with your mower, make sure you transfer the grass into your disposal bags away from the curb and street.
  • If you mulch, you’re good. Mulch-mowing will not blog grass out the side which means you shouldn’t have to worry about grass blowing into the street.
Drains blow out on Manor Hill creating heavy erosion.

Drains blow out on Manor Hill creating heavy erosion.

Stormwater drainage running down the west side of Manor Drive Hill is rupturing.

Following the 4-inch rainfall that hit Riverdale overnight at the end of March, it now appears the drainage system on the west side of Manor Drive hill have been blown-out by excess water pressure.

Riverdale resident (and retired engineer), Steve Townsend, spent some time investigating the decades-old drainage system running down on the west side of Manor Drive Hill to try and understand how the sudden rain seemed to cause more damage than in prior years. Evidence of water rushing over the surface was clear, but upon further investigation, there were several spots where it appears water burst through the underground pipes and pushed back up through the soil.

After inspecting the stormwater intakes on the west side of the street, Steve noted damage to the structure that may have created a blockage at the end of the line. The result of the “clog” was stormwater backing up the line until enough pressure had built up to break through the pipes.

Steve worked out a temporary fix for the ruptured spots which, hopefully, will last long enough for the City Engineer and others to review the situation and recommend a long-term fix that will stop the erosion and – hopefully – create an opportunity to grow some grass on that part of the hill.

Another rupture in the storm water line running down the west side of Manor Drive Hill.

Weekend weather wrecks havoc on Riverdale.

Weekend weather wrecks havoc on Riverdale.

Riverdale residents were drenched Friday night with nearly 4 inches of rain in a very short span of time, causing basements to fill with storm water, flash flooding over saturated lands and hillsides, and mounds of mud and debris at intersections along Hwy 67 throughout the City.

Here are my notes (Mike Bawden) from the 3 hours I spent checking out various spots in the City …

Fenno Road/Hwy 67

Water was standing in ditches, with trash and other debris obstructing many of the culverts that would allow water to pass under the highway and make its way toward the river. No word how businesses located south of State Street (Schebler, Arconic and others) fared or were handling the runoff. The neighborhood up and on top of Fenno Hill appeared no worse for wear although we didn’t have a chance to speak to any residents.

SCC Entrance (College Drive)

The entrance to Scott Community College was buried under nearly 8 inches of mud which seems to have come up from the storm water pipes located under the road. Mayor Mike Bawden worked with SCC Dean Matt Schmidt to get a crew from the college out with a skid loader to scoop the entrance out so cars and bicyclists using the MRT could pass.

Arconic Learning Center

There appears to have been a washout under the eastern entrance to the Arconic Learning Center, resulting in the driveway collapsing. The MRT running from the SCC entrance to Manor Drive had standing water on parts of it (and didn’t appear to be draining) but was otherwise passable.

Manor Drive/Circle Drive

Residents living on top of Riverdale Hill reported that their sump pumps were running throughout the night. Some escaped with little to no damage while others had nearly a foot of water standing in their basements when they went down to check on things in the morning. Add to these problems the recent announcement by Republic that it was suspending bulky waste pick-up for the foreseeable future, and there are issues the City will have to deal with on Monday morning.

Woods Estates

Developer Seth Woods was on his tractor first thing in the morning, scraping mud out of the Gwyneth/State Street intersection and putting it back into the development. While the seeding and matting Woods Development had done on the north side of Gwyneth held firm, the bare land left by contractors installing gas and electric lines created an opportunity for the minor mud-slide Woods and his employees had to deal with.

To his credit, Woods was on the scene before the site was inspected by the City. He also had his employees work on parts of the MRT that were covered with mud and debris so bikers could continue to use the trail rather than ride in the street.

Brenny’s Motorcycle Clinic

The Brenny’s complex weathered the storm in fine fashion, although some erosion appears to have taken place under the drainage pipes leading from the new building. Mayor Mike Bawden stopped by to check on Mark Brenny and his crew who were still hard at work, doing business in spite of the recent challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and extreme weather.

Havens Acres

Inspection of Havens Acres showed this neighborhood showed it weathered the storm as well as expected – many of the homes in the area were already dealing with a river and creek at or near flood stage. Pumps were moving water to the street and storm water system. Much of the work that will be done on the roads in the neighborhood this summer will address the catch basins and drainage areas in addition to the street surface and driveway entrances. Some work (behind the curbs) will begin in the next month (weather permitting).

Belmont Road

Taking a quick look at the state of Fox Creek (which runs from by SCC and then under Belmont Road toward the river), there was a lot of debris and the water levels ran high overnight, but we didn’t see any major damage. Flow through this area has increased significantly due to parking lots and other development by PVCSD and SCC. I did not have a chance to speak to residents up by the bend in Belmont Road to see if there were any unique problems.

Photos from my “disaster tour” of Riverdale can be found below:

City Council discusses process for enforcing yard waste ordinance during the fall.

City Council discusses process for enforcing yard waste ordinance during the fall.

At last Tuesday’s City Council Meeting (10/22/19), the Riverdale City Council discussed what they thought was reasonable enforcement of the City’s code concerning a Resident’s responsibility to control their own yard waste – and how that code will be enforced this fall.

It was generally acknowledged that there are some “habitual offenders” when it comes to people raking or blowing their yard waste into the street so it can be washed down the drain. This can cause problems with the City’s stormwater system and violates City Code 135.03.

Council members felt one warning letter per household was enough of notice. After that, offending households will receive a citation from the City explaining the infraction, the amount of the fine and how to remedy the situation going forward. Fines will increase with subsequent infractions.

The Mayor explained that while the City recognizes that some residents live in areas where trees overhang and drop leaves, etc. into the street, the main concern of the Council related to those residents who push their yard waste into the street rather than preparing it to be hauled away and leaving it out for pick-up on Mondays after a weekend of yard work.

Why it matters. It’s not just about making sure Riverdale looks nice.

The fact is, Riverdale – like metropolitan cities across Iowa of every size – has to follow certain storm water management practices that are mandated by the State of Iowa. Among those practices is a requirement to eliminate as much plant matter from the storm sewers as possible.

That means we all have to work together to keep grass clippings, leaves, sticks and such out of our storm drains and sewers. Failure to do so could result in penalties from the State – and that would cost the entire community. 

The easiest thing to do to meet this requirement is to make sure your personal yard waste isn’t left in the street to go down the drains and into our storm sewers. 

What you SHOULD do.

Please either blow the debris back into your yard or bag it in kraft paper bags (like the ones shown) for weekly collection. Remember, yard waste collection is paid for out of the City’s budget as part of our waste management contract with Republic Services – so there is NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE to residents to do this.

If you don’t have large, kraft paper bags for your yard waste, you can use garbage cans instead. Just make sure the yard waste is loose in the cans so everything dumps out. Please DON’T BAG YOUR YARD WASTE if you put it in a garbage can.

Also, if you have sticks or branches that need to be hauled away, they need to be no thicker than your wrist and cut into lengths not to exceed four feet in length. Please bundle sticks and branches together so they’re easier to handle by the crew picking up yard waste on Mondays.

Yard waste pick-up will continue through November.

Cleaning up your yard? Don’t leave it in the street!

Cleaning up your yard? Don’t leave it in the street!

As homeowners all over Riverdale start to get ready for falling leaves and the final weekends in the yard before the snow flies, we’d like to offer a friendly reminder: please don’t leave your yard waste in the city’s streets this fall or you could be fined for violated Chapter 135.05 of the Riverdale City Code.

In past years, the City hasn’t said much to residents who rake their grass clippings, sticks and dead leaves into the street. But now that Riverdale doesn’t have its own street sweeper and is paying an outside contractor to clean our streets, we’re mindful of the additional expense created when too much debris is in the streets to give them a good cleaning. 

We don’t sweep the streets just to make them look pretty

Leaves and grass clippings on Circle Drive sometime last fall. Please make sure your yard clippings and leaves are either burned or bagged this season.

In fact, quarterly street sweeping and drain cleaning is part of the City’s obligation to retain its storm water management certification, required for metropolitan cities of all sizes – including Riverdale. By keeping our streets and gutters free of debris, stormwater (like rain or melted snow) has a place to go and won’t pool up and freeze at night. That can save the City loads of money down the road by reducing maintenance costs and reducing risks and damage from pooling water.

This fall, City personnel will be checking our streets regularly to make sure yard waste is being handled correctly. Residents who don’t seem to have a handle on their wayward leaves and grass clippings will get a reminder notice in the mail, first. Continued failings/code violations will result in fines.

Let us know if you have any questions in the comment area, below.

How rain barrels can help you manage stormwater runoff.

How rain barrels can help you manage stormwater runoff.

The City’s engineering firm, MSA Professional Services, provides some good information on how residents can manage their stormwater runoff with a simple rain barrel.

Rain barrels.

What are they? What purpose do they serve? Are they easy enough to maintain? Where can I get one that doesn’t cost $100, locally? What should I consider before I commit to it? Can they freeze, or do they have to be drained in winter? Do they breed mosquitoes? Can you water your garden/yard with water that has mosquito preventative in it? Are there restrictions on them here? Are they worth the effort?

Rain barrels are typically placed at the end of roof downspouts. The intent is to capture storm water runoff to supplement nonpotable water use, usually garden irrigation. If deployment of rain barrels are substantial in a watershed, they could potentially reduce runoff volume and increase pollutant removal. It is not likely that most homeowners would adopt the use of them, but every little bit helps.

For the home owner who is active in maintaining their yard and/or their garden, rain barrels are easy to maintain. They can be part of a complex system that captures roof runoff and then distributes it via tubes to irrigate plants. Or they can be very simple, and the distribution of the storm water relies on the home owner and a bucket or watering can.

You can purchase good rain barrels from Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, on-line, etc. Or you can make them yourself. Guides to make your own rain barrel are on-line and easily found. Also, there is, what appears to be a store on US 67 in Davenport that also advertises rain barrels on a front door sign.

Depending upon the design of a rain barrel and if water is not circulated through them regularly, they do have the potential to breed mosquitoes. Adding a small amount of liquid dish soap, vegetable oil, or mosquito dunks to your rain barrel every week will kill the mosquito larvae. It is safe to utilize water with any of these items in it on your yard plant and gardens. In addition to controlling mosquitos, here in Iowa, rain barrels should be drained every autumn.

The pay-back period on a rain barrel is very long. If you are contemplating the use of a rain barrel only to save costs on the purchase of water, then it is recommended you do not consider utilizing a rain barrel. If you want better quality water to water your yard and garden plants, then rain barrels will provide better quality water for plants. This is mostly because chlorine is not present in the captured storm water.

Some communities out west forbid the use of rain barrels. The water runoff is an essential component of downstream commercial agriculture and/or community water supply. In Iowa, generally, rain barrels are allowed, and their use is encouraged.

A PDF of this document can be found by clicking here.

Stormwater tips for the homeowner

Stormwater tips for the homeowner

With the recent storms of the past few days and the expected rainfall that will be occurring throughout the week or so, we feel it’s necessary to provide a handy homeowner’s guide for managing stormwater runoff.

You can download your copy of the guide here. (Note: the guide will open in a separate window)

The guide is designed to help homeowners understand what stormwater is, how runoff can become a problem and what you (as a homeowner) can do about it.

The guide is not a substitute for professional design and implementation of stormwater runoff plans, but it should help you become more informed on the general concerns, solutions and practices associated with this issue.

The City will (via its website and e-newsletter) provide educational material on stormwater handling on a regular basis.

Valley Drive Drainage Project completed

Valley Drive Drainage Project completed

According to this report from the City’s engineering firm, MSA Professional Consultants, the sub-contractor on this project, McClintock Trucking & Excavating, has completed the project.  According to a field report provided by MSA’s Chris Cooper, “The project is complete and conforms to the sketch prepared by MSA and approved by the City of Riverdale.”

The discharge pipe has been moved to a new location, which has since been seeded and blanketed (to prevent erosion). The new location for the pipe means there will be little, if any, water seeping onto Valley Drive this fall and winter.

(Update 08/30/19) – The City’s engineering firm, MSA Professional Services, has provided an update that the work on the Valley Drive Drainage project is nearing completion. This report shows the contractor, McClintock Trucking and Excavating, restoring the project site after the excavation and other infrastructure work to install a new drainage structure was completed.

All that is left to do on the site, according to MSA, is to seed the area and submit paperwork to the City for payment.

Construction of a new drainage system in the hillside facing Valley Drive (near the I-67/State Street intersection) should eliminate drainage and icing problems at the location during winter and spring.

(Update 08/29/19) – The City’s engineering firm, MSA Professional Services, has provided an update on the Valley Drive Drainage project.

This report shows the the construction of the drainage improvements. The contractor, McClintock Trucking and Excavating, was using 8″ diameter PVC, although 6″ diameter PVC was originally specified. MSA approved the alteration.

This project is nearing completion.

Project Details:

Scope of Work:

The sub-contractor was expected to supply all labor, equipment and materials to dig up and cut existing pipe and set a new 36″ area drain; run 165′ of 6″ pipe; pour new fillet in new area drain; backfill and compact the open-cut trench; seed with appropriate seed and then cover with a straw mat.

Budget:

MSA Professional Services = TBD

Sub-Contractor(s) = Bid of $11,355 was accepted from bidding sub-contractor; actual costs were $11,335

Project Bid Date:

MSA Proposal was submitted to Council for review; approval was granted on: ________.

Sub-contractor bids were received the beginning of July.  One bid was for $39,100. The second bid was for  $11,355

Project Start Date:

TBD

Project Completion Date:

September 5, 2019

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