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Highland Ravine Stabilization

Water Resource Planning from the Top-Down

The City of Saint Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood is perched high atop a steep bluff where the Mississippi River joins with the Minnesota River. One of the neighborhood’s natural features is a large ravine that cascades from the top of the bluff down to the river. The surrounding neighborhood is primarily residential and bound by Edgecumbe Road, Highland Parkway, Lexington Avenue and Montreal Avenue.

The Challenge

Due to topography and land use in the area, runoff moves very quickly through the ravine on its way to the Mississippi River. Stormwater runoff carves gullies into the landscape, which causes erosion, flooding and the delivery of pollutants to the river.

Stormwater runoff has also resulted in impacts to residential properties. Highland Park is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Saint Paul, but the instability of Highland Ravine has generated great concern among residents. Large amounts of stormwater runoff and sedimentation from the ravine have flooded streets and damaged private property. In response to citizen concerns, a 2011 feasibility study of the ravine identified and quantified problems of flooding, erosion and water quality and recommended solutions.

"The Highland Ravine project is a perfect example of how CRWD works with both public and private property owners within the District to fulfill its mission. Stabilizing and restoring Highland Ravine will prevent future flooding, erosion, and sedimentation to local properties and improve the quality of stormwater going into the Mississippi River.” – Anna Eleria, Planning Projects and Grants Division Manager for CRWD.

The Solution

The 2011 study identified two primary gullies responsible for increased runoff and erosion in the ravine. The recommendation was to first stabilize the gullies by re-grading the slopes and creating rock dams to slow down water. Then, pipes would be installed on several steep slopes to minimize erosion and convey runoff to the bottom of the ravine. Finally, the ravine area would be restored with native plants to stabilize the soil, and stormwater best management practices (BMPs) would be constructed in the upland areas to minimize runoff.

Results

The stabilization project began in 2012 after securing $200,000 from CRWD and a grant from the Minnesota Clean Water Fund. Improvements included one-foot-high rock check dams along the length of the gullies, pipes at the bottom of the gully channels to bring water safely down the slope, and a stormwater basin at the bottom of one of the ravines.

In early 2014, CRWD completed the gully stabilization and began working with individual property owners in the design and implementation of water-friendly landscapes that manage residential rainwater on-site by redirecting downspouts to flat vegetated areas and neighborhood rain gardens.

Since most of the project impacted privately-owned land, communication with property owners and neighborhood residents was essential. These stakeholders provided valuable feedback throughout the planning and design process. Addressing the concerns of property owners and residents has been and will continue to be vital to the implementation and future success of the project.

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