Congrats 2020 Finalists

Congratulations to 2020 Soak it Up! Award Finalists

First Congregational Church  |  WTC Apprenticeship & Industry Training Center  |  Kurt & Renee Knutson

 This year’s finalist noticed water issues and took action. They landscaped with water and community in mind. Because of them, less polluted runoff is in our waterways. Thank you to all of our finalists.



First Congregational Church

2503 Main St, La Crosse, WI 54601



Over the past few years, rain has taken a toll on property owned by La Crosse’s First Congregational Church. During heavy rains, runoff came through door thresholds, flooded the church’s pre-school, seeped into the boiler room, and created a pond on the lawn. Runoff from the building’s roof, lawns and playground drained through pipes to a sump pump that moved runoff out of the building to the City’s sanitary sewer system. If the pump were to fail during a big storm, major damage would be caused.

The congregation decided to take action with a sustainable solution that enhanced the building’s efficiency, lowered operating costs and had a positive effect on our community. Construction started with work on an existing depression in the lawn, where they built a biofilter rain garden around an existing drain to soak up runoff naturally and filter pollutants. Native forbs and grasses were planted to improve soil and increase absorption. They also regraded and built a concrete diversion curb to keep the water from flowing down the wall directly to the boiler room.

“This is one of the sustainability efforts our building and grounds crew is implementing to “green” our environmental footprint, enhance our building’s efficiency and lower our operating costs. We did this because it was the right thing to do, but it is also nice to be recognized.”

WTC Apprenticeship & Industry Training Center

2860 21st Place South, La Crosse



The renovations to the parking lot at the Apprenticeship & Industry Training Center are representative of Western’s ongoing to sustainable practices. The last several parking lots constructed by Western have always made the reduction of stormwater runoff a priority. Part of the mission of Western Technical College is “the development of a sustainable culture that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.”

The new bioswale installed at the Apprenticeship & Industry Training Center was designed to capture 92% of the runoff of the parking area, and 76% of the overall site. The bioswale features drought and salt tolerant plants, large rocks to dissipate the erosion energy of the water, and specially blended soils that treat 54% of all pollutants and suspended solids. They reduced the flow of runoff entering the City’s stormwater system by 48%.

“Western’s hope is to educate and demonstrate to other businesses and homeowners, the feasibility of effective stormwater runoff practices.”



Kurt & Renee Knutson

2231 Hiawatha Ave, La Crosse




For years, these La Crosse homeowners watched stormwater rush through their yard when it rained. They recognized the basic cause of their runoff problems and knew they needed professionals to help them maximize benefits.

Before construction, this La Crosse lot was flat and empty. Now, it’s naturalized with a series of three large rain gardens and connecting cobblestone dry creek beds. Soil excavated from the rain gardens was used to build several large bermed gardens, and both rain gardens and berms are filled with native plants. The inspired homeowners also decided to go solar during construction, and added solar panels to the landscape.

“We were wowed by the change in the property and the final results. It was exciting to see the field morph from a flat, uncared for space to a beautiful, thoughtful green space with dimension. Added bonus…the water issues we used to experience are no longer occurring. We have been fortunate enough to incorporate environmentally friendly projects over the years. First we added geothermal to our home and when this opportunity came up to deal with rain water, the addition of solar was a natural next step to going full circle. With all of the environmental issues we are facing as a world, we believe it’s important for each of us to step up and do what we can.”