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Posts Tagged ‘combined sewer overflows’

BY JARED BREY

Buffalo plans the country’s biggest environmental impact bond to fund green infrastructure.

FROM THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 2018, the City of Buffalo, New York, cut the ribbon on Jesse Clipper Square, a small park named for the first Black soldier from Buffalo to die in World War I. The square, originally dedicated in the 1930s, was designed by John Edmonston Brent, one of Buffalo’s first Black architects. Today it sits in the median of William Street, a wide arterial street connecting downtown Buffalo to the neighborhood of Willert Park. As part of a broader greening of William Street, the park was expanded and planted with new trees and a rain garden. According to the Buffalo Sewer Authority, the project helps prevent some 284,000 gallons of water from entering the city’s combined sewer system during typical rain storms.

Green infrastructure projects like the William Street overhaul—small-scale interventions designed to manage stormwater on public streets, parking lots, and rooftops—are the bread and butter of the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Rain Check program, a $380 million commitment that originated in a 2014 consent agreement between the city and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and improve water quality. Under the terms of its Long Term Control Plan, Buffalo committed to spending $93 million on green infrastructure to manage stormwater on at least 1,315 impervious acres. In the first phase of the plan, Rain Check 1.0, which began in 2015, the sewer authority focused on public projects that could be carried out relatively easily, according to documents. But Rain Check 2.0, announced last spring, is going for tougher targets, mostly on private property.

To help push the project along, Buffalo’s Mayor, Byron Brown, announced in February that the city would issue a $30 million environmental impact bond (EIB) to help fund a grant program that will encourage private landowners to install green infrastructure. Environmental impact bonds are a kind of municipal borrowing that links bond investors’ returns to the performance of the projects funded by the bond. One of the first EIBs in the United States was issued in 2016 by DC Water, Washington, D.C.’s water authority, to help fund green infrastructure related to its own agreement with the EPA (see “The River Beneath the River,” LAM, November 2018). Since then, more cities have begun experimenting with the bonds, including Atlanta, New Orleans, and Baltimore. In many cases, new funds for green infrastructure equates to more work for landscape architects. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Gray infrastructure has given way to green to prevent sewer overflows into Washington, D.C.’s waters.

FROM “THE RIVER BENEATH THE RIVER,” IN THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Green infrastructure is now an important part of the Clean Rivers Project. The colossal Anacostia River tunnel remains a fixture in the effort on the east side of the city to hold and carry stormwater to DC Water’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. But to the west, the introduction of green infrastructure is allowing the elimination of one smaller tunnel for a combined sewer network above Rock Creek, which drains into the Potomac River, and the scaling back of another large tunnel along the Potomac itself.

The notion of complementing gray infrastructure with green was a priority of George Hawkins when he became general manager of DC Water in 2009. It was not an easy sell. Clean-water advocates were skeptical of green infrastructure’s performance capability and also feared delays in achieving the goals of the Clean Rivers Project—to end 96 percent of the District of Columbia’s combined sewer overflows. Hawkins was able to make a case for the efficacy of green infrastructure and also to show that significant improvements to water quality would occur well before the tunnels’ projected completion.

The Clean Rivers program is deploying a mix of bioretention, porous pavements, rain barrels, and downspout disconnection from combined sewers. In the Rock Creek sewershed, enough green infrastructure is planned to manage (more…)

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WHERE THE WATER WAS

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text, with English text available below.

BY ANNE RAVER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

We were driving around west Philadelphia when Anne Whiston Spirn, FASLA, stopped at the corner of Walnut and 43rd Streets to recall the moment of discovery that still drives her work. It was 1971. She was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, on her way to the supermarket, when she was stopped at a gaping hole where the street had caved in over the Mill Creek sewer. “I looked down and saw this big, brown rushing river, and all this masonry that had fallen in. I thought, ‘My God, there are rivers underground. We’re walking on a river.’”

She was looking at Mill Creek, buried in the brick sewer pipe in the 1880s. Historic photographs show workers dwarfed by its size, constructing the pipe, about 20 feet in diameter, snaking along the creek bed. Drawings depict horse-drawn carts loaded with soil—millions of cubic yards dug with pickaxes and shovels—to cover up the pipe. Row houses were built right on top of the fill.

That buried river would become the heart of Spirn’s work when she came back to Penn 15 years later to chair the landscape architecture department and to launch the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP), but also in her larger vision of (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The West Bottoms Flats site is bisected by a narrow street, scaled as an intimate alley with landscaping. Image courtesy BNIM.

In Kansas City, the private sector is helping pick up the tab for green infrastructure in a new residential development.

 

Since 2010, Kansas City, Missouri, has been subject to a federal consent decree, to begin properly capturing sewage and stormwater before it flows into rivers and streams. It’s a consequence of the city’s overwhelmed combined sewer system, which covers 58 square miles. From 2002 to 2010, the system produced 1,300 illegal overflows, putting approximately 6.4 billion gallons of untreated sewage into waterways annually.

Notably, this is the first time a municipal water federal consent decree has allowed the use of green infrastructure, according to Andy Shively, a special assistant to the City Manager Troy Schulte, who works on issues relating to the consent decree. And the developer-driven West Bottoms Flats mixed-use residential complex designed by Kansas City-based BNIM is shaping up to be an influential test case for ways the private sector can grapple with public sector failure toward water quality goals.

Landscape architects at BNIM have designed the flats’ green infrastructure capacity to absorb excess stormwater as a series of placemaking amenities “in order to prevent it from being [value-engineered] from the project,” says Cheryl Lough, the director of BNIM’s landscape architecture studio. (more…)

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