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!
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:
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:
Several 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.
Most of you are aware by now there is an issue of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) polluting Nine Mile Run. During wet weather, our watershed’s aging combined sewer systems do not have the capacity to handle both stormwater and sewage so they overflow into Nine Mile Run, introducing pathogens, trash, and other pollutants to the stream. We have actively worked to correct this issue through green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) interventions in the upper watershed over the last 14 years, including installing rain barrels and rain gardens and planting over 900 street trees.
Despite all of this effort, however, we still have degraded water quality during and after wet weather. When we developed our 2013-15 Strategic Plan there was one main goal: to reduce the flow of stormwater and sewage into Nine Mile Run.
We understood to achieve this goal we would need to install GSI facilities capable of capturing large quantities of stormwater before it enters the combined sewer system. In 2014, we worked with Matt Graham of Landbase Systems to identify areas in the watershed that have high amounts of stormwater flowing into curb inlets and eventually overflowing into Nine Mile Run. Through detailed analysis, he identified an area in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which is actually outside of the watershed, but is part of the Nine Mile Run sewershed, that contributes over 25 million gallons of stormwater and sewerage overflow to the stream annually during wet weather events.
In case you aren’t familiar, a sewershed is simply a drainage area determined by the curbs, storm drains, pipes, and outfalls that all drain to a common outlet (e.g., Nine Mile Run). It doesn’t match perfectly with the Nine Mile Run watershed boundary because sewersheds often cross the boundaries of watersheds that existed before urbanization.
The Rosedale Runoff Reduction Project (RRRP) is a holistic sustainable stormwater project with the goal to remove all 25 million gallons of overflow entering the stream. We will achieve this by constructing 3 large GSI sites, 40 stormwater management tree pits, 200 Hydra rain containers, and 10 rain gardens.
In October 2014, we were awarded $150,000 from PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) Watershed Restoration and Protection Program to construct one of the GSI sites. And most recently in January, we received notification that we were awarded $236,175 from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Growing Greener Program to construct a second site and install 200 Hydras. Both of these grant awards will allow us to implement the first phase of the RRRP, which proposes to remove 7 million gallons of annual runoff from the combined sewer system.
Stay tuned for proposed plans, details, schedule of implementation, and outreach events related to the RRRP!
It’s time for another edition of Meet the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association Staff!
You may remember we did another post about our staff called Meet the Newest NMRWA Staff Members! There, you got to know our GreenLinks Coordinator, Jared and Stormw0rks’ Regional Stormwater Strategist, Mo.
Since that blog post Brittany, the Managing Director of Stormworks, has joined us! Brittany answered 5 questions so you could get to know her a bit better.
We also asked Mike, our Director of Policy and Outreach 5 questions. Mike has worked at NMRWA since July 2013. Stay tuned for more blog posts in this series to get to know all NMRWA staff members!
Learn more about Brittany and Mike below!
Brittany joined the Stormworks team earlier this month. Brittany brings over five years of experience in sales, marketing, and operations from various start-ups to her new role as StormWorks Managing Director. She has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, with a focus in Marketing. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, baking, reading, skiing, and walking her dog.
1. Can you speak any other languages?
Brittany does not speak another language although she did take Latin in high school!
2. If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would it be?
France because of all of the baked goods and the scenery. Brittany has already traveled to London.
3. What are your hobbies?
Brittany loves to read and play sports, especially tennis, golf and skiing. She also enjoys doing crafts as well as baking and cooking.
4. Draw your favorite animal.
Check out Brittany’s awesome drawing of a wolf below!
5. What is your favorite tree?
A White Oak. Brittany and her husband planted a white oak tree during their wedding ceremony!
Mike Joined NMRWA in July 2013 as the Director of Policy and Outreach. He has an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies and a Master of Art degree in Geography with a Graduate Certificate in GIS & Spatial Analysis, both from the University at Albany. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Mike was the GIS Coordinator for the University at Albany, where he developed a campus-wide system of infrastructure. He also has experience as an urban planning consultant, working to create more sustainable regions and places. He is responsible for coordinating watershed communities and organizations to develop and implement green infrastructure projects. In his free time, Mike likes to explore new areas of Pittsburgh, hang out with his dog, and find fresh food at a farmer’s market.
1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A basketball or football player.
2. What is the last thing that you ate?
At the time of this interview, the last thing Mike had ate was a breakfast burrito with a side of grapes. This was thanks to an office wide breakfast burrito party that morning!
3. What is your most memorable NMRWA moment?
The first time Mike planted a tree in the watershed stood out to him. Mike has continued to plant many trees throughout the watershed during GreenLinks’ tree planting events as well as cared for many others during the tree care events.
4. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.
5. If you were a Superhero, what powers would you want to have?
To be able to fly.