Montana Tech students design stormwater system to improve motel parking lot

students work on a stormwater project

A team of students from Montana Technological University have designed a stormwater system for the  parking lot and grassy area upgradient of the Motel 6 in Butte that will incorporate native plants, and improve the infrastructure’s resilience to climate change.

The team consists of environmental engineering student Daniel Leas, and civil engineering students Elijah Zeluff and Hayden Massar. The project was completed as part of a senior capstone class taught by Dr. Robin Bullock and Dr. Rick LaDouceur. Butte-Silver Bow public works personnel have been working with the students over the past 2 semesters to complete the work at the property, located at the intersection of Copper and Wyoming Streets.

students work on a stormwater project

“There was no stormwater system in the parking lot, which had consequentially caused damage to a retaining wall on the north end of the Motel Six building,” Zeluff said. “Because of the steep topography above and adjacent, there was a lot of sediment transportation also going on.”

The team surveyed the site and modeled a 100-year, 24-hour storm with software.

“The reason we chose this storm is because we’ve been receiving higher frequency 100-year storms,”  Massar said. “We wanted to have the best system that could handle a changing climate.”

The stormwater system was designed within accordance with Butte-Silver Bow’s requirements. A biofiltration basin is proposed for the grassy lot to the east that will help capture and filter runoff.

“Plants that will go into our design include sagebrush species, juniper and prairie junegrass. These are more drought tolerant species,” Leas said.

Toward the inside of the biofiltration basin, where there will be more moisture, elderberry, Kinnikinnick, sweet grass, and aster.

“All of these plants are sun-tolerant for this spot, and they are all native,” Leas said.

The team budgeted the project, created a risk assessment, and will conduct operations tests this spring, once the snow has melted.

The team will present their research at the 13th Annual Techxpo Design Showcase on April 25, 2024 in the Montana Tech HPER.