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Posted on Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

1,000 trees on the way for Ann Arbor's stormwater diversion plan

By Amy Biolchini


Ann Arbor resident Katy Rockefeller smiles while doing yard work as her dog Sheldon yawns Sunday evening outside her Mulholland Street home. New trees were recently planted along the street and the surrounding area.

Jeffrey Smith |

About 1,000 additional trees will be planted along Ann Arbor streets this fall and spring as part of a continuing effort by Ann Arbor and the Washtenaw County Drain Office to divert runoff in the city from loading the Huron River watershed with phosphorous and other pollutants.

The city has almost finished planting 1,200 trees from last fall’s tree allocation, said Kerry Gray, the city’s urban forestry and natural resource planning coordinator.

“Trees provide a really important stormwater function,” Gray said. “When it rains, tree leaves help slow down runoff into the system.”


New trees such as the one pictured were recently planted along Mulholland Street and the surrounding area.

Jeffrey Smith |

Harry Sheehan, environmental manager for the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, said the tree project is part of an annual undertaking by the city.

“We will be providing financing and the city will be taking charge of the implementation,” said Janis Bobrin, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner.

The tree planting project is separate from and in addition to the planned tree plantings set for this fall for areas in the Malletts Creek watershed that have been recently restored, Bobrin said.

Screen shot 2012-05-18 at 6.08.36 PM.png

The city's tree planting plan for this fall and next spring. Areas highlighted in purple will likely receive a portion of the 1,000 trees that will be planted to divert some of Ann Arbor's runoff from entering the watershed of the Huron River.

A “favorable funding opportunity” brought a loan from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s state revolving fund for about $315,000, Sheehan said in an email to

The loan will be paid back over a 20-year period at an interest rate of 2.5 percent, and will be financed through the drainage district, Sheehan said.

The project will not increase the existing annual storm water fee.

Because most of local tributaries to the Huron River are within the highly urbanized areas of Ann Arbor, there’s a large amount of runoff that enters the river.

Officials say the trees will slow and reduce the runoff of nutrients into the creeks. Once fully grown, each tree is estimated to keep from1,500 to 1,900 gallons of storm water from entering the watershed per year.

Trees with trunks about 1 3/4 inches in diameter will be added along streets, Gray said. Planting will begin this fall and continue through next summer. Gray said the areas that will be planted first have yet to be determined.

Each of the following drainage districts is slated to receive a portion of the total project cost in trees:

  • Malletts Creek: $135,000
  • Traver Creek: $80,000
  • Allen Creek: $70,000
  • Swift Run: $30,000

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Alan Goldsmith

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 11:07 a.m.

"Ann Arbor resident Katy Rockefeller smiles while doing yard work as her dog Sheldon yawns Sunday evening outside her Mulholland Street home. New trees were recently planted along the street and the surrounding area." Eh, but no photo of actually TREES? Lol. Nice dog though.

E. Daniel Ayres

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

There is no "tree killer" like lack of regular watering durng the first two years of establishmet for the large caliper nursery trees being purchased. Every resident near one or more of the new trees, if they want to see them survive will have to water them regularly the first year, and if it is hot and dry, dring the peak heat/draught sections of the next two full years. Any less effort will tend to kill the tree or severely reduce its expected life span due to rooting problems. IMHO borrowing money for large caiiper "industrial" tree installations is not the optimum solution, but... if it is to be done, DO IT RIGHT! Make sure the trees are well watered. Note that some species can be over-watered/drowned especially if they are planted in wells of clay which many locations in the Ann Arbor area tend to have. A second "tree killer" is so-called "weed whacker disease." The city, and any one else considering "maintaining" the new trees should avoid using a weed whacker near them for the forseeable future. Bark and wood chip mulch to a depth of 4-6" in a 3' or more surround of each tree is a much better "beautifier" than weed whacking. I will never forget the wasteful/expensive "improvement" made to the Ypsilanti Huron Street exit ramp reconstruction project. Thousands of dollars in large caliper trees were destroyed in the frst two weeks after installation because of lack of foresight/planning. They picked a July week-end to put the trees in on a friday, installed empty "tree gators" on them, and then for the next three weeks, no one put any water in them. Finally someone came around and filled them, but it was too late. The trees almost every one of them were dead sticks within a month of planting. No one ever came along and replaced them, but I suspect the state paid for a "one year warranty" from the controctor. Everyone, if you like the idea of trees, coordinate

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

Maybe the tree the City replaced in November 2010 in front of my house that died last summer can be replaced with one of the 1,000 cited here?

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 11:06 a.m.

You would lose that bet. I actually put a 'gator' on it for your information and the other dozen or more trees I've planted in my yard all seem to be doing fine. I'm patiently waiting for a reply to the email I sent to the Forestry folks, who actually did a great job (other than the tree dying...) with their customer service last time around.

E. Daniel Ayres

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

@Alan... I'll bet you didn't take it upon yourself to see that the tree was watered regularly?

Ryan Mosher

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

This is great news. I agree with what a benefit all these trees will be to the City and stormwater control. I have attended a few of the county's public meeting and they present the facts well. Grey, Sheehan and Bobrin are the professionals. We as taxpayers pay them to dig into the facts, talk to other county's and do what is best for the residents of AA and Washtenaw County. If they say this is what we should do, then I trust them to do their job. Good Job Staff. 1,000 nes trees! This will be a plus for the area for decades to come!


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

This is lack of staff and resources. This is what happens when public workers and budgets are cut. And when people are not willing to pay for services and vote in crazy people whose only objective is slash and burn. Even privatization would cost.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

I'd rather have trees than any amount of art.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

It would be great if the city/county would come back and water the trees that have already been planted. So many in my neighborhood are dry sticks that were never given any attention once they were plopped in the ground. Seem like a lot of money/effort to just abandon them.

Dog Guy

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

"Trees provide a really important stormwater function," Gray said. "When it rains, tree leaves help slow down runoff into the system." Additionally, the roots will lift sidewalk slabs and allow water to soak into the soil under the sidewalks.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

" fully grown " keep your boats in the basement till they are...Storm water runoff and flooding are a " now " not " then " aid


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 11:03 a.m.

I think this is great, but wonder what happens to trees that die? Are they replaced under warranty? Or is there funding to replace them? I see dead trees on the roads near the Traverwood rust bucket, although perhaps dead trees are supposed to compost back into the environment...


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

Many trees are expertly designed not only to live long lives, but to self-replicate.