Southfield wins award for wetlands

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published July 17, 2014

 Native plants and retention walls help filter stormwater at the Valley Woods Nature Preserve in Southfield.

Native plants and retention walls help filter stormwater at the Valley Woods Nature Preserve in Southfield.

Photos by Patricia O’Blenes


SOUTHFIELD — The city of Southfield has won the 2013 Project of the Year award for the Valley Woods wetlands restoration and stormwater improvement project from the American Public Works Association.

The project took place within the 126-acre Valley Woods Nature Preserve on the Rouge River in Southfield, with the goal of restoring the wetland back to its natural state.

One of the ways this was done was removing invasive plants and replacing them with new, Michigan native plants by performing a controlled burn on the site.

Brandy Siedlaczek, storm water manager for the city of Southfield, said performing a controlled burn was a bit out of the ordinary for Southfield.

“Here within city, we are a mile or so of major roadways, and a lot of people live in that area,” Siedlaczek said. “City officials were concerned about it, but we hired a company to do the burn, and everything went smoothly.”

Another part of the project was improving the quality and treatment of stormwater.

Merrie Carlock, landscape architect for the city of Southfield, said removing ditches was crucial to improving the quality of the stormwater on the wetland.

“Farmers had ditches to collect water as quickly as possible, and it drained the area,” Carlock said. “We pretty much blocked all those ditches, returning it to a wetland.”

Carlock also said the goal of blocking the ditches was to slow down the movement of stormwater in the area.

“The stormwater was coming down from roads and rooftops, and it was causing erosion and flooding downstream,” Carlock said. “Anytime you can slow down the water, it prevents those things.”

Not only does improving the treatment of stormwater remove harmful things like oil and salt from roadways, it helps foster wildlife in the area.

“We’ve seen improvements downstream already with water quality scores and testing,” Siedlaczek said.  “It’s hard to gage the future. We can’t rely on one season of scores, but we have seen a little bit of improvement, as well. We’ve seen more birds and wildlife in that area.”

Construction of the restoration project began in June 2011 and was finished by the spring of 2013. It was funded in part by a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“We are competing against other great projects in the state of Michigan,” Siedlaczek said. “Other people are doing great things, too, but it’s exciting for us because we’re doing things the way we should be doing them, and our projects stand out.”

Glenn Chinavare, awards chairman for the Michigan chapter of the APWA, said Southfield earned the award by completing and exceeding seven requirements.

The award is based on safety, sustainability, construction management, community relations, and the benefit to and impact on the surrounding environment. The project also needs to be out of the ordinary.

The city’s work on the project was reviewed by Chinavare and an awards committee.

“In my opinion, and the committee’s, Southfield did better than most other projects,” Chinavare said.

The project was awarded at the national APWA conference May.