Michigan’s first ‘green road’ protects water quality

Project Summary: A half-mile of city street in West Michigan that was transformed into the state’s first “green road” will reduce the volume of polluted stormwater that reaches White Lake, which is a Great Lakes Area of Concern.


Project name: Urban Stormwater Management in the White Lake Area of Concern Using Low Impact Design.

Location: Whitehall, Mi.

Bio-swales along Lake Street filter pollutants out of stormwater before the water reaches White Lake. (Prein & Newhof photo)

Description: White Lake is a major tributary to Lake Michigan and one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Historic industrial pollution contaminated lake bottom sediments, tainted fish and harmed water quality in the lake, located in West Michigan. Several industrial cleanups years have dramatically improved conditions in the lake. Government officials are now working to reduce the volume of polluted stormwater that drains off the land and into White Lake. The city of Whitehall, with financial support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, recently completed Michigan’s first “green road.” The city transformed a 2,800 linear feet of Lake Street from a traditional paved roadway into a state-of-the-art stormwater collection system that uses pervious pavers, rain gardens and bio-swales to capture and repeatedly filter stormwater runoff from 60 acres of streets and industrial land near White Lake. The filtered stormwater is then channeled into wetlands that were created at the site of a former tannery on the lakeshore. The project, which uses green infrastructure to trap and filter stormwater, will reduce the volume of polluted water entering the lake. Whitehall city officials hope the project becomes a model for other communities looking to reduce stormwater runoff.

Pervious pavers capture stormwater runoff and direct it into rain gardens, bio-swales and wetlands that absorb water and filter out pollutants. (Prein & Newhof photo)

Approximate cost of project: $1 million. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provided $381,760, which covered half of the construction costs.

Resource challenges addressed: Stormwater runoff and water quality in White Lake.

Key partners (public and private): City of Whitehall, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Prein & Newhof engineering firm.

Types of jobs created: Engineers, surveyors, landscape designers, pipefitters, heavy equipment operators and general laborers.

Results and accomplishments: The stormwater collection systems installed under and along Lake Street capture stormwater runoff from 60 acres of streets and industrial properties, thereby reducing the volume of pollutants that reach White Lake.

Web site: This link has a summary that was written before the White Lake project was completed, but has an excellent diagram showing how the stormwater system works.

This link shows the award-winning end product.

Originally Published: December 4, 2012