By Michael Regan firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Crews will spend the next few weeks applying the finishing touches along Webster Street as they near the completion of a $574,000 rain garden project in downtown North Tonawanda.
The project, most of which was completed last year, is expected to eliminate runoff into the Erie Canal through a bio-filtration system built underground to collect rain water and redirect it.
Decades-old trees were also taken down in the fall along with unsightly planter boxes and replaced on a two-block stretch between Sweeney and Goundry streets with newer, less intrusive species. While that caused a slight rumble among some of the business owners, most stated they were agreeable to the changes, in interviews conducted by the Tonawanda News last year.
The Lumber City Development Corp., which applied for the grant, had met on multiple occasions with members of the Downtown Merchant’s Association of North Tonawanda as part of an inclusionary process that gathered incite into some of the changes now in place on Webster Street, officials said.
North Tonawanda received the funding through the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council in 2012. Officials have cited engineering reports from 2012 showing 40.54 inches of precipitation, with 2.4 million gallons of runoff entering the canal unfiltered and with pollutants.
However, the study showed the retention system should reduce stormwater runoff by 58 percent and remove 95 percent of the contaminants, including gasoline, oil, phosphorus and nitrogen.
The trees, many of which will be placed on the east side of the street in the coming weeks, were chosen from a list of 10 and include non-fruit bearing varieties such as Jack Pear and Ivory Silk Lilac trees, which grow to a maximum height of 20 feet, making them easier to maintain and allowing more storefronts to be shown, according to officials.
City Engineer Dale Marshall said the final stages of the project should be wrapped up prior to Memorial Day, when the summer season draws more people to the downtown corridor and area waterways.
“We’re at the tail end of this project,” he said.
Porous pavement is being installed through next week in front of Webster’s Bistro and Bar as well as the Riviera Theatre, linking into the bio-filtration system. Bricks and tree grates will be place along the sidewalk along with several remaining trees.
“There’s a lot of pavement to be filtered,” he said. “When this project is finished it’s going to make a huge difference for the Erie Canal.”