Lenexa Dam Earns Award, Uses Stormwater for Recreation

Black & Veatch and the city of Lenexa, Kan., announced May 12 that the Lake Lenexa Dam and Spillway has earned the U.S. Society of Dams 2009 Excellence in the Constructed Project Award.

Lenexa, a suburb of Kansas City, owns the lake and associated park area and conceived the “Rain to Recreation” program that includes the dam and spillway project. Black & Veatch provided study, public outreach, design, and construction management services.

"Thanks to the support and visionary thinking of our citizens, the courage of our governing body to carry out the mission of Rain to Recreation, and the expertise and creative solutions of our partners and city staff, this beautiful state-of-the-art dam will enhance the quality of life and serve our growing community for many years to come," said Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm.

The Lake Lenexa Rain to Recreation approach transforms stormwater into a community asset. The city built a spillway and dam to create a 35-acre lake within nearly 350 acres of parkland for fishing, nature education, and non-motorized boating. The new facilities also feature wetlands, trails, docks, a boat ramp, picnic areas, and boardwalks.

“We rejected the mindset that stormwater is a problem to be rapidly swept away,” said Ron Norris, Public Works director. “City staff worked closely with Black & Veatch’s water resources experts to carefully plan and effectively implement a project that delivers much more than flood control.”

The USSD 2009 Excellence in the Constructed Project Award recognizes the significant contributions made to the dam community and to society through the construction, remediation, or removal of a dam or water resources structure. The award honors individuals or team of professionals who meet the challenges of the nation's aging infrastructure in an era of limited financial resources and increasing environmental awareness.

The $23-million lake, dam and spillway, and park project benefits Lenexa and other Johnson County residents. The project not only provides essential flood control but also improved water quality through construction of wetlands; natural stream preservation and restoration; stormwater management through incorporation of porous pavement and rain gardens; and recreation and education opportunities.

Community involvement was essential to the project’s success, and public input was strongly encouraged. The project team was responsive to other needs as well. When it was discovered that vital habitat for the protected Redbelly Snake existed along the reservoir stream, plans were modified to minimize construction impacts on the habitat area.

Nature’s hydrologic cycle inspired innovative design of the dam’s 8,000 cubic yards of steel-reinforced concrete using sloping curves and other architecturally appealing features. The 800-foot-long, 50-foot-high dam holds stormwater in a 700-acre-foot lake.

“The Lake Lenexa Dam and Spillway is a marriage of form and function that will continue to add great value to the community for generations to come,” said Michael Beezhold, Watershed manager for Lenexa. “They are beautifully conceived, designed, and constructed, and the city is very pleased with the outcome.”