The flood of 2008 and last spring’s heavy rains convinced leaders in the northeast Iowa town of Charles City to resurface a 16-block historic area near the downtown. The project, which is one of the largest of its kind in the country, was completed earlier this month.

City Administrator Tom Brownlow says they chose permeable or porous paving with holes that allow water to follow through them into an aquifer. “The water goes through openings in the pavement down into a rock layer underneath where it’s detained and then it slowly percolates into the ground,” Brownlow explained. “So, it acts more naturally. The water goes into an aquifer the way it would if this was an open field of undeveloped area.”

The roads resemble cobblestone and when it rains, the streets no longer flood like they did with the old storm water drainage system. “Any pollutants like antifreeze or oil drippings, instead of going into the river, they go into the soil where they are broken down by natural occurring organisms – so it’s much better for the environment in that way too,” Brownlow said. “They tell us that we can have up to a three inch rain and no water will go into the river.”

Federal stimulus money, an I-Jobs grant and local option sales tax revenue paid for the work.