In an effort to reduce maintenance costs, improve stormwater safety and beautify neighborhoods, Fort Worth is now using native grasses in stormwater channels.
The project could also save the city money.
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To the untrained eye, the empty field near Valley Ranch Road, just east of Interstate 35W and Alliance Airport, doesn't look like much. However, over the last year it's been the site of an important field test for the city.
"If we don't maintain our channels, we start having problems upstream, houses flooding, people flooding," said Juan Cadena, with the city's stormwater management department.
Cadena said the city maintains 923 miles of channels each year.
"We have crews that are constantly maintaining our underground pipes, our catch basins and our channels," Cadena said.
But in an effort to limit the amount of time those crews have to spent on maintaining earthen channels, the city with the help of several partners, turned the one channel into an experiment.
They planted about two dozen types of native grass and flower seeds in the channel. They also removed taller grasses that often require mowing three or four times a year.
"The goal is to lower our maintenance efforts," Cadena said.
The native grasses now in place only require mowing about once a year, if that, and they also fair better when it comes to erosion from rain runoff.
"They have a good root system," Cadena said. "And that's what we're looking for, something that has a good root system and hold the soils in place."
While it'll take another year or two for the grasses to fully take hold, the goal is to turn this experiment into a citywide program that will save on maintenance costs, add beauty to neighborhoods with spring wildflowers and, perhaps most of all, improve safety.
"So that when we do get that big rain two or three times a year, water flows," Cadena said. "Water flows and it keeps moving downstream and homes aren't flooded and people aren't in danger."
Cadena said another channel could get the native grasses later this year.
And while inner-city channels could get the native seeds, not all channels are appropriate for it. But the city hopes this will free maintenance crews up and reduce the blight of tall grasses along some channels in the city.