Underground Detention Ponds a Break From Tradition

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BRYAN, Texas It's a break from tradition, but officials said a new underground detention pond system is not only good for small business owners, but the environment as well.

Detention ponds are typically dug out on land near a new business. Their purpose is to hold massive amounts of rain water, preventing it from flooding the area, then slowly release it into the storm sewer system.

The problem for small business owners is that they take up valuable land.

Jeremy Peters with Gessner Engineering is heading up a new underground detention system project along Highway 6 near Briar Crest. Cylinders designed to hold rain water are buried underground, leaving the land on top ready to use for other purposes like parking, landscaping or even more businesses. That could be good news for the local economy.

"We're able to preserve the usable land on top. So even though we're putting that volume under ground, we're going to be putting parking, landscaping and other surface features on top," said Peters. "So we're basically using the land twice. We're using it underground for detention, and the surface for conventional development purposes."

Tim Owens said his new Taco Casa will benefit a great deal from the project.

"Then we're going to come in and be able to pave over that and have parking areas, landscaping, and a lot of things for our customers," said Owens.

Master developer Sam Harrison said the option of adding more landscaping to the area is a great way to maximize the scenic beauty of the property.

"If you look at a retention center, it really doesn't do justice to the property that you're trying to develop," said Harrison. "So this made perfect sense."

The up front cost of building the system is more expensive than the traditional ponds, but Peters said as the cost of land continues to rise in the Bryan, College Station area, more business owners are looking to the underground system.

"When you look at building a conventional detention pond no the surface, it is more expensive than that per cubic foot of storage volume ," said Peters. "However, if you take into account what the land actually costs to buy and build on, this is a more cost effective option."

There are only a small number of underground systems in the Bryan, College Station area, but city officials said it's a growing trend.