NORMAN — The first phase of a project designed to rehabilitate parts of Brookhaven Creek, reduce area flooding and create a manmade wetland is complete, a city official said Friday.
Bob Hanger, stormwater engineer for the City of Norman, said 10 “Newberry riffles” have been installed along the creek between Rock Creek Road and Crossroads Boulevard. He said Newberry riffles, made up of large, boulder-looking rocks, are designed to prevent erosion, stabilize streams and create wildlife habitat.
The project is years in the making, Hanger said, and the city is partnering with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the nonprofit group Watershed Restoration Incorporated. The Environmental Protection Agency is providing a $175,000 grant.
Compared to conventional stormwater infrastructure, the work being done on Brookhaven Creek is inexpensive, Hanger said.
By the time all three phases of the project are complete, sometime in the next few months, about 7,000 trees, shrubs and other small wetland plants will be in place.
Each one of them serves a purpose, Hanger said.
“All of these things — the plants, trees and the riffles — are going to help filter a lot of the fertilizers and all the oils and gases that run off into the water, just like a natural wetland,” he said, adding that wildlife will benefit as well.
In fact, Hanger said a section of Brookhaven Creek to the south is bursting with life.
“I live down there,” he said. “There are wild animals everywhere, foxes even. It’s pretty neat, and it sustains a lot of life.”
Hanger said the trees will keep water temperatures cool in hot summer months and, along with the shrubs, will create a riparian zone — a transitional area between the creek and land.
And the decision to undertake the project, which has cost the city about $50,000 in cash and a similar amount in in-kind donations, including labor, isn’t just to improve water quality and protect wildlife.
“The city wants to do the right thing for the environment and the ecosystem in that area, without question,” Hanger said. “But it’s also something I can bring developers out to see, to see what we’ve done, and it’s something that fits into the Storm Water Master Plan and the Stream Planning Corridor ordinance we’re working on.”
The water detention portion of the project is a 1.5-acre pond being dug right now just north of Rock Creek Road, which will soon connect to the bridge straddling I-35.
Hanger said the pond will feature a 10-foot-wide walking trail and he hopes it’ll become a destination for local families and children.
“It will eventually be a park the size of Morgan Park, which is nearby,” he said.
Hanger, who admits his work at the city isn’t always the most glamorous, said he’s looking forward to the project’s completion because it isn’t his typical finished product.
“It’ll be beautiful,” he said. “And everything I usually do is ugly, so I’m kind of excited about it.”
Andrew Knittle 366-3540 firstname.lastname@example.org