Luther College has been awarded an $85,979 grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to replace the asphalt paving of an existing 24,600-square-foot parking on the Luther campus with a more environmentally beneficial permeable surface.

The grant money will pay a major part of the cost of removing the current 120-foot by 205-foot asphalt parking surface, grading the base and constructing a two-section permeable concrete parking surface. The lot will be graded to direct run-off water away from nearby residential properties.

The permeable surface paving has a design life of 50 years and is expected to function for at least 20 years with minimal maintenance. Construction on the project will begin in summer 2010.

Located on the southwest part of campus near the college's facilities services building, the lot is the primary parking area for the college's fleet vehicles and service vehicles. Because the lot is located within 100 yards of the Upper Iowa River basin, precipitation that collects on the current asphalt service flows into the adjacent street and the city's storm sewer system and quickly enters the river.

The run-off water can potentially carry oil or other contaminants into the river, and at times of heavy rainfall or snow melt, the large volume of run-off water can increase the risk of flooding.

The new permeable surface of the lot will allow surface water and snowmelt water to seep through the paving and into the underlying soil, which significantly reduces the rate at which the water enters the river. The sandy soil underlying the permeable pavement lot also acts as a filter for the groundwater, removing particles of contaminant as the water percolates through the sand.

Rich Tenneson, Luther director of facilities services, who applied for the grant for the pilot project, said resource assistance was provided by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, headed by Chuck Gipp of Decorah, former Iowa Sate Representative and Speaker of the Iowa House. Wayne Petersen of IDALS assisted with the project proposal by providing information about permeable pavement installation.

In June 2008, torrential rainfalls in Eastern Iowa and Southeast Minnesota raised the Upper Iowa River to record levels, causing a 20-foot breach in the dike on the west edge of the Luther campus. The lower campus, including some athletic facilities and fields, were covered with floodwater to a depth of 9 feet in some areas.

The college sustained more than $2 million in damage and flood-related expenses. Although the most severe flooding in Decorah was confined to the campus, some residential and commercial areas also sustained damage.

The permeable surface parking lot pavement project will be the latest of a series of flood prevention and control projects the college has done since the 2008 floods.