Stormwater Operations

Prescribed burning

We use prescribed burning to maintain and restore native plant areas by intentionally applying fire to certain parks, woodlands, stormwater facilities and roadway medians to reduce weeds and nonnative plants and keep prairie plants healthy. 

Prescribed burning helps recycle nutrients back to the soil, encourages new growth and lessens the risk of wildfires by reducing flammable vegetation that builds up over time. Without burning, many of the prairie areas would eventually turn into forests or be replaced by invasive species that lack the water quality benefits native plants with deep roots provide. Those valuable roots increase the capacity of Kansas’ dense clay soils to absorb stormwater runoff.

How a prescribed burn works

We burn 60 to 100 acres of native areas each year when weather and conditions are suitable. We coordinate these fires on a rotating cycle during cooler months, typically February and March or late fall and early winter. Burns are only conducted during daytime hours. 

Beforehand, we acquire permits for open burning through the Lenexa Fire Department and Johnson County Environmental Department. Prescribed burns are managed by crews from our Municipal Services and Parks and Recreation departments who have been trained in fire-control techniques. In addition, Lenexa Fire Department personnel are at the ready during each event. 

Crews carefully start a fire burning from an established perimeter and move inward. As the fire burns, members of the crew keep the fire contained and stay with the fire until it has burned out. The fire will be completely extinguished before city staff members leave the site. 

Safety precautions 

Any fire can be dangerous if not kept under control. Our crews are trained in fire management and are extremely careful in planning and executing a prescribed fire. We do the following: 

  • Examine a site’s topography and vegetation to determine safety precautions, such as firebreaks, that will keep the fire contained. 
  • Monitor wind conditions, humidity, temperature and the amount of moisture in plant material to ensure it is safe to conduct a burn. 
  • Consider ways to manage smoke dispersal and minimize harm to wildlife. 
  • Develop contingency plans in case a fire escapes the designated area. 
  • Notify nearby residents of burning activity and maintain a safe buffer distance from houses and other buildings. 

What to expect during and after a prescribed fire

Crews make great efforts to reduce smoke impacts, but some smoke will be unavoidable. During a prescribed burn, it may temporarily reduce visibility or aggravate certain health conditions. The smell may be present for several days. 

After a burn has taken place, the landscape will look charred and lifeless. But the post-fire recovery is usually fairly rapid. The blackened soil heats up quickly by absorbing solar energy, stimulating seed germination, sprouting and growth.

Pipe and storm drain maintenance

Our storm drain system includes more than 340 miles of pipes, more than 14,000 storm drains and nearly 29 miles of roadside ditches, which are both publicly and privately owned. We use everything from shovels to excavators to keep the public portion of this system maintained and working properly. This includes:

  • Proactive diagnostics: crews use a camera to inspect and rate underground pipes.
  • Flood prevention: repairing and replacing failing pipes, storm drains and culverts.
  • Pollution reduction: cleaning pipes and storm drains with a large vacuum pump.
  • Ditch repair: maintaining roadside ditches by removing excess sediment.

Learn more about current stormwater infrastructure projects

Stream and green infrastructure maintenance

We focus on preventing floods and reducing pollution by maintaining or increasing the natural functions and capacity of streams, ponds and lakes. We do this by:

  • Stabilizing stream banks: Repairing eroding banks reduces flooding risks and keeps soil in place. We accomplish this by regrading, installing energy dissipation devices such as rock weirs, utilizing erosion control products, seeding native plants and planting trees.
  • Managing vegetation: We control invasive species and reestablish native plants to provide flood protection and promote habitat and pollution removal and filtration.
  • Removing debris: Removing limbs or fallen trees significantly reduces the potential for flood damage to structures and nearby homes and buildings.
  • Collecting pollutants and litter: Crews collect hundreds of cubic yards of trash from streamways each year.

Volunteer for clean water

Clean water is everyone’s business and we need your help to help out with some important community opportunities. We are currently seeking schools, businesses, community groups, families and individuals to volunteer in the following areas:

  • Stream cleanup. Tired of seeing your local creek or stream filled with trash? Sign up to host a stream cleanup. Your group will walk the length of a stream or river, collecting trash and recording information about the quantity and types of garbage removed.
  • Adopt-A-Spot is Lenexa’s cleanup and beautification program. Groups commit to cleaning the area they adopt three times a year for two years.
  • Vegetation management - Attention hikers, gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts: we need help with restoration activities in Lenexa’s natural areas. Help us maintain native prairie plants, remove invasive species, collect seeds or transplant native plantings.

For more information contact Ted Semadeni.