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Nine Mile Run blog

13
May

Earlier this month NMRWA staff travelled to Scottdale, PA for a staff development day. Scottdale is home to the Jacobs Creek Watershed Association. We met Annie Quinn, the Executive Director of the watershed association. The association is young but has accomplished quite a lot. Annie showed us around town to the various projects Jacobs Creek has created and led.

First, we visited the downtown Scottdale area where Jacobs Creek has created several green infrastructure projects. In downtown, every pedestrian crosswalk is made from pervious pavement. This allows water to flow through the ground and is also more visible to drivers. Along several of the streets, rain gardens line the sidewalks. Curb cuts allow the water to flow into the rain garden and any excess water can flow out.

Additional pervious pavement and rain gardens are located throughout the downtown area. One particular rain garden is located next to a government building which was experiencing severe flooding during rain events. Jacobs Creek worked to situate the rain garden at the correct spot to mitigate the water. The building sits at the bottom of a parking lot which was causing the rainwater to flow directly to the building. In addition to the rain garden, Jacobs Creek created levels of the parking lot. At three points in the lot, street trees and pervious pavement were installed. This allows rainwater to infiltrate in three different locations. Any rainwater that is not captured at these points will continue to flow into the rain garden at the end of the lot. Thanks to all of these measures, the government building no longer experiences flooding.

Jacobs Creek continued with green infrastructure projects at the local middle school. With a large campus, the school was also experiencing problems from stormwater runoff. The watershed association worked with the school to create a large rain garden on the school grounds. The garden has served as green infrastructure but also as a unique teaching tool for teachers.

Our last stop was at a mobile home park in town. This area had also suffered from flooding. In particular, one woman was receiving runoff from the entire park into her house. Jacobs Creek created and planned several green infrastructure projects to absorb the stormwater on this property. During our trip, it was still under construction but a system of drains and pervious pavement will soon address stormwater in this area.

The number of projects in Scottdale was quite impressive. We learned a lot from the process and ideas of Jacobs Creek. We are excited for the future projects and success. We are grateful to Annie for showing us around and teaching us so much. We are excited to show her around the Nine Mile Run Watershed soon!

27
Apr

For the past two years, NMRWA has been working with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) to increase the environmental stewardship capacity of our watershed community. Funding for this work was provided by a grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program. Maybe you read about this in our recently released Spring newsletter?

Yesterday, as a part this program, NMRWA staff co-led a training workshop for Urban EcoStewards on streamflow monitoring in Nine Mile Run. Along with Sarah Lavin, a graduate student in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Sara Powell & Paul Yanulavich spent a sunny Sunday morning working with eight volunteers to measure streamflow and take cross-section measurements of the stream.

It is important for us to understand streamflow patterns and how the stream channel is changing in Nine Mile Run, both for continued restoration efforts in Frick Park (e.g., erosion remediation), and also so we can assess how well management efforts in the upper watershed (e.g., green stormwater infrastructure, rain barrels) are reducing excess stormwater flows into the stream.

Unfortunately, continuous monitoring of discharge (the volume of water flowing through the stream during a unit of time) is complex and expensive. Instead, since last summer, we have been working with Urban EcoSteward (UES) volunteers to help us collect data that will allow us to create something called a stage-discharge rating curve.

This curve will allow us to ‘reconstruct’ a continuous discharge record – giving us a much better understanding of streamflow in Nine Mile Run!

So, at Sunday’s training, we demonstrated how UES volunteers can measure the stream’s velocity and cross-sectional area – two critical pieces to calculating discharge. We then used similar methods to measure the stream channel geometry.

The geometry of the channel is also important to understand, because storms can cause large volumes of water to surge rapidly through Nine Mile Run, changing the stream channel shape very quickly. These changes, whether they are due to erosion or damage to built rock features, put our restoration efforts at risk. Regular cross-section measurements will allow us to look at how the shape of the stream channel is changing over time, and to apply necessary management efforts as needed.

Thank you so much to all the Urban EcoStewards and interested volunteers for coming out on Sunday! We will be posting more photos from the day on our Facebook page, so make sure to check them out!

If you are interested in becoming an Urban EcoSteward, click here for more information or contact Paul at .

 

08
Apr

Today’s blog post comes from the Clean Rivers Campaign – an education & advocacy program designed to raise awareness of the stormwater runoff and sewage overflow issues in Allegheny County. NMRWA is one of the CRC’s six founding organizations. Last week, NMRWA staff participated in the Clean Rivers Campaign’s actions which explained Pittsburgh’s need for a CAP to ALCOSAN.

CRC Gets A Win Towards CAP!

The Clean Rivers Campaign had a big week last week. On Monday, March 23rd, campaign supporters gathered in Market Square downtown to seek petition signatures asking ALCOSAN to create a Customer Assistance Program (CAP). A CAP would protect our low and fixed income neighbors who will be affected most by rate increases. Thanks to the action downtown and other canvassing efforts, CRC collected over 2,000 signatures on the petition.

On March 26th, CRC continued efforts to create a CAP. Arriving at ALCOSAN, supporters had assembled all of the petition signatures into a banner showing the strong support from the community. As ALCOSAN Board members arrived for their meeting, chants began, “We Need A CAP!”. Supporters then attended the Board Meeting where they heard Chairman John Weinstein announce the creation of a subcommittee which will work with ALCOSAN staff to create a CAP. This is the first step in creating a CAP program but, it’s not a done deal!

This is a great victory for the Clean Rivers Campaign!  But we still have a lot to do in creating a green first plan and ensuring the implementation of a CAP to protect our most vulnerable neighbors.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our actions and who signed our petition! Below is the media coverage of our two actions and our win:

Activists Call On Alcosan to Create Customer Assistance Program for Low-Income Residents

Coalition says people need help to pay increasing sewer bills

Sanitary Authority Overhaul Expected To Take Toll On Low-Income

Clean Rivers Campiagn Seeks Customer Assistance Program KDKA(Video)

Clean Rivers Campaign seeks customer assistance program WTAE (Video)

KDKA Radio Story

ALCOSAN Creates Subcommittee to Develop Customer Assistance Program

Municipalities Receive Extension to Pursue Green Infrastructure

The Clean Rivers Campaign has been educating consumers and urging ALCOSAN and regional leaders to adopt a green first approach to solving our sewer overflow problem since 2011.  This approach is the only one that takes ratepayer money and returns not only clean rivers but community benefits like green spaces, reduced flooding, jobs, and other community improvements.  Monday’s announcement by the DEP is an important step towards ensuring ratepayer dollars are invested in communities, not simply buried under our rivers.

We are pleased that the DEP is taking such an active role in promoting green infrastructure in our region.  Requiring municipalities to complete green plans in exchange for an extension on their consent orders is a great first step. But now we must ensure that those plans are coordinated and we must pursue a regional green infrastructure assessment.  That coordination and cooperation will allow our region to create a plan that places green infrastructure strategically and effectively rather than just municipality by municipality.  A coordinated approach will yield a plan that maximizes green infrastructure for flow reduction, brings our region the best water quality, most community benefits, and most cost effective solutions by allowing us to rightsize our gray infrastructure.

Mayor Peduto and County Executive Fitzgerald have been great advocates of green infrastructure in this endeavor, and we praise their leadership.  In other cities and regions where green plans are underway, visionary leadership, both political and within the authority, has been critical to successful planning and implementation of sustainable wet weather controls.  Without leadership, our region will miss out on an opportunity to use this largest ever public works investment to the benefit of both our water quality and our communities.   With the Mayor and County Executive’s leadership and the DEP’s support, we have made important progress toward greening our plan, now we must coordinate as a region, identify world-class leaders for our plan, and move forward.

Below is the media coverage of the DEP extension:

Peduto, County Officials Seek ‘Green’ Solution To Water & Sewer

Local officials ask for more time for ALCOSAN fix KDKA (Video)

Pittsburgh, Allegheny County plead for more time to plan sewer overflow compliance

Pittsburgh, Allegheny County scramble to prepare for sewage upgrade

Stay on track: It’s important to push forward on sewer upgrades

DEP gives Alcosan customer municipalities more time to deal with sewage overflows

Also appears in:
My Informs
Waste Water Infrastructure News
World News

DEP grants 18-month extension on stormwater control effort

State gives extension to add ‘green’ solutions to sewer woes

DEP Extends Alcosan’s Wastewater Overflow Order To Pursue Green Infrastructure

photo 4 (1)

18
Mar

Chilly temperatures and several inches of snow did not hold back NMRWA staff and volunteers from a productive tree pruning workshop at Kelly Elementary School on Saturday March 7th. Volunteers from Bartlett Tree Expert’s McDonald office performed some much needed pruning on trees planted at Kelly School in 2012 and 2013.  These trees were planted as part of Rooted in Wilkinsburg:  500 Tree Initiative.

Volunteers were instructed in proper structural pruning which includes thinning for good branch spacing, low limb elevation and removing dead, damaged, or diseased branches.  Additionally, proper limb removal via the three-step cut and branch collar locating was discussed.  You can learn more about these tree pruning methods here. Tools were provided and the team went to work.  An impressive 61 trees were pruned over the two hour session.  Coffee, hot cocoa and donuts were enjoyed in celebration of the volunteers’ efforts.

As these ‘500 Tree Initiative’ trees continue to age, as well as other newly planted trees in the watershed, more tree pruning maintenance will be needed.  If you are interested in volunteer events such as this, please consider participating in the Tree Tender Class on March 21, 2015 at the Upper Environmental Charter School. You can register for the class here.

10
Mar

120522_NineMileRun_Tree_13Several years ago, Swissvale Council approved a resolution establishing a Shade Tree Advisory Committee consisting of 3-5 resident volunteers appointed by Council. Since this resolution, the Committee has become inactive. Swissvale’s urban forest is not only an asset to the community, but also areas downstream of Swissvale, including the Nine Mile Run Watershed, Frick Park, and the Monongahela River. With the support of Borough Council, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association is assisting Swissvale in community outreach and reformation of this committee.

Based on 2010 data, tree canopy cover analyzed by the US Forest Service for Allegheny County found that approximately 39% of Swissvale’s land area is covered with tree canopy. That’s pretty good, but it can be better! There are many streets in Swissvale that could benefit from planting more street trees for shade, stormwater retention, and aesthetics. Maintaining trees for today while planting for tomorrow provides a connection for residents to the community now and in the future.

The Committee will advise the Swissvale Borough in managing the street trees of the urban forest by prioritizing maintenance, acquiring grants for tree plantings, assisting in community outreach, and drafting a tree ordinance. There are no minimum requirements for membership in the Committee. Swissvale seeks residents with a passion for their community and its trees as they relate to the preservation and expansion of the Borough’s stock of trees. Any and all members of the Swissvale community are encouraged to participate in the meetings and activities of the Committee.

If you are interested in volunteering for the Shade Tree Advisory Committee, you may contact Jared Manzo, Greenlinks Coordinator, at Jared@ninemilerun.org or 412-371-8779 x116 or Councilperson Darrell Rapp at Rapp4swissvale@gmail.com or 412-271-7101.

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