Photo by Chas Redmond
Cincinnati is embarked on a $276-million public works
project that revolves around daylighting a long buried
creek to help reduce combined sewer overflows.
Lick Run became part of the Cincinnati’s wastewater
system more than 100 years ago when the creek was
funneled into a pipe to carry both sewage and stormwater — a common practice in many cities. The system
works well until heavy rains overwhelm the pipe and
send overflows of stormwater and raw sewage into the
surrounding Mill Creek watershed before the foul flood
can reach a sewage treatment plant.
Daylighting a mile of Lick Run and flanking it with wetlands — which store and absorb runoff — will provide a
separate channel for stormwater to flow into Mill Creek
without mixing with sewage. The project will include
walking trails and recreation areas, demolishing aging
buildings to create a public amenity that could stimulate new development in the challenged neighborhood.
Seattle is riddled with creeks that disappear into a pipe,
pop back up, then disappear into a pipe again. “Typically,
it’s where somebody wanted to build something or just
to get the stream out of the way,” says Miles Mayhew,
strategic advisor with Seattle Public Utilities.
Over the last decade, the city has completed several
daylighting projects designed to improve water quality,
enhance wildlife habitat — particularly for salmon —
and add green space to neighborhoods that in many cases
were the biggest advocates for undertaking the work.
“A lot of it has been community driven in a lot of ways,”
When a developer sought to build a mixed-use project
in the parking lot of a shopping mall, citizens successfully fought to require that Thornton Creek, which ran
through a pipe beneath the parking lot, be uncovered
as part of the project.
“Technically, it’s a water quality channel,” Mayhew says.
Instead of rushing through a pipe, stormwater winds
slowly through the channel, which is planted with native
plants that filter and process sediments, pollutants and
nutrients such as nitrates — which can cause toxic algae
blooms — before the runoff reaches Lake Washington.
The creek — or water quality channel — doubles as
park space for residents of Thornton Place, the much
acclaimed transit-oriented development it now flows
through. “It’s a big-time amenity,” Mayhew said.
The city has completed several
projects designed to improve water
quality, enhance wildlife habitat and
add green space to neighborhoods.
Thornton Creek in Seattle, Wash.
Photo by Chas Redmond