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Urban Stormwater Conditions and
the Multiple Benefits of Green
Infrastructure in Providence
2016 RIFMA Conference: Incenti...
Urban Landscapes and Green Infrastructure:
Setting the Scene
• Non-traditional “flooding”/distinctly urban stormwater issu...
Old industrial Providence
Urban context presents specific challenges: Providence is
an old, largely impervious city with aging infrastructure
and co...
Current estimates calculate 59% impervious surface.* The Jewelry District,
pictured below, is an area of the city that has...
Jewelry District Parking Lots
The Woonasquatucket River runs through intensely industrialized
neighborhoods. Much of the river is channelized, infrastru...
As a post-industrial city that is also a port city, Providence must
contend with contaminated soils and hazardous material...
Considerable gains have been made from a water quality perspective,
but it’s clearly not enough – and a brief downpour tha...
In the past, we’ve thought of cities as paved places, as unnatural
environments, but the confluence of factors suggests we...
Green Infrastructure and the “multi-benefit” approach:
While removing hard surfaces and installing rain gardens, vegetated...
Bucklin/Dexter existing conditions (before GI intervention)
Bucklin/Dexter “After” conceptual rendering (not the final plan – trees are desired both to aid
in infiltration and evapot...
A number of post-industrial cities have started programs based primarily on
“greening vacant lots” – often with stormwater...
Providence has 500-600 vacant properties and many over-paved lots
• In addition to reestablishing housing, GI sites can he...
A combination of factors (provision of on-site parking in the absence of on-street
parking, zoning variances, scofflaws, a...
Parks provide green infrastructure opportunities too
• GI projects have been completed in Roger Williams Park, minimizing ...
Thanks to organizations including the Green Infrastructure Coalition, the
Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, Groundw...
Challenges and Food for thought:
• In addition to obvious and measurable impacts on water quality, absorption
and flood co...
finis
deverett@providenceri.com
David Everett
Urban Stormwater Conditions and the Multiple Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Providence_RIFMA2016
Urban Stormwater Conditions and the Multiple Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Providence_RIFMA2016
Urban Stormwater Conditions and the Multiple Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Providence_RIFMA2016
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Urban Stormwater Conditions and the Multiple Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Providence_RIFMA2016

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Everett

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Urban Stormwater Conditions and the Multiple Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Providence_RIFMA2016

  1. 1. Urban Stormwater Conditions and the Multiple Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Providence 2016 RIFMA Conference: Incentivizing Actionable Resilience to Flooding, April 7, 2016 David Everett, Principal Planner/Environmental Coordinator
  2. 2. Urban Landscapes and Green Infrastructure: Setting the Scene • Non-traditional “flooding”/distinctly urban stormwater issues • Climate Disorder • Resource/Capacity Deficiencies • Green Approaches to Stormwater Management • Multiple Benefits • Challenges and Food for Thought
  3. 3. Old industrial Providence
  4. 4. Urban context presents specific challenges: Providence is an old, largely impervious city with aging infrastructure and considerable “deferred maintenance”
  5. 5. Current estimates calculate 59% impervious surface.* The Jewelry District, pictured below, is an area of the city that has a particularly high percentage of impervious surface and is situated adjacent to the Providence River near the head of Narragansett Bay. *Providence Division of Forestry, i-Tree Eco System Analysis 2014
  6. 6. Jewelry District Parking Lots
  7. 7. The Woonasquatucket River runs through intensely industrialized neighborhoods. Much of the river is channelized, infrastructure is in disrepair, and impermeable surface is widespread. Climate change and the increasing intensity of storms only exacerbate the situation… Photographs by Bruce G. Hooke, courtesy of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council
  8. 8. As a post-industrial city that is also a port city, Providence must contend with contaminated soils and hazardous materials close to the water’s edge. These conditions pose storm impacts on water quality and limit infiltration and diversion options to mitigate flooding. Allens Avenue from the Providence River, David Everett
  9. 9. Considerable gains have been made from a water quality perspective, but it’s clearly not enough – and a brief downpour that used to have minimal consequences may now cause considerable localized flooding – flooding that, in turn, has water quality impacts… • The Narragansett Bay Commission Combined Sewer Overflow abatement project has greatly improved the quality of water in our rivers and the bay • …but continued water quality regulation non-compliance and increasing flooding led to ongoing efforts to institute an Upper Narragansett Bay stormwater utility district • …municipalities are under-funded and ill-equipped to address these issues under the current scenario: relatively simple operations and maintenance tasks such as catch-basin cleaning and street-sweeping are deferred, causing streets to back up with water even during minor storms (and contribute to runoff pollution)
  10. 10. In the past, we’ve thought of cities as paved places, as unnatural environments, but the confluence of factors suggests we need to think about new ways of doing things. Providence and other cities have begun to do just that: • Higher per lot permeability standards • On-street parking (what a concept!) • Improved transit and expanded transit options • Improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure • Creative Depaving and Green Infrastructure pilot projects
  11. 11. Green Infrastructure and the “multi-benefit” approach: While removing hard surfaces and installing rain gardens, vegetated swales, green roofs and other green infrastructure in cities, it’s important to do so with multiple benefits in mind: •Open space/green space •Recreation •Health •Connection to nature •Urban agriculture/community gardens/farmers markets •Traffic calming •Art space •Gathering space/community-building/inclusion •Habitat •Economic development
  12. 12. Bucklin/Dexter existing conditions (before GI intervention)
  13. 13. Bucklin/Dexter “After” conceptual rendering (not the final plan – trees are desired both to aid in infiltration and evapotranspiration and to provide heat island mitigation but they are expensive and must have sufficient minimum canopy height to ensure sightlines – the final plan is likely to have a few trees and more low-lying plants)
  14. 14. A number of post-industrial cities have started programs based primarily on “greening vacant lots” – often with stormwater management in mind - while achieving multiple benefits in the process. These include: • Baltimore’s Growing Green Design Competition: variety of uses sought for vacant lots; proposals included a combination garden/bio-swale, green parking, displayed art, flower growing, recreation and open space • Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Greening Vacant Lots: driven by CSO control compliance/consent decree, 30% green infrastructure to complement the “gray,” removal of hundreds of structures and pavement, disconnection of pipes, retention of trees, removal of invasives, employment of formerly incarcerated workforce….”green” demos with multiple benefits to the community • Cleveland Botanical Garden/Green Corps: started with urban agriculture; scattered vacant sites, green infrastructure, lots with slope and stormwater capture prioritized; low-maintenance lawns surrounding bio-retention areas; coordinated with downspout disconnects; informal uses/play sites
  15. 15. Providence has 500-600 vacant properties and many over-paved lots • In addition to reestablishing housing, GI sites can help with localized and overall stormwater management while providing many of the benefits cited • Many lots were over-paved, ostensibly to provide parking on-site, as well as to minimize maintenance. With on-street parking now available by permit, change has not come quickly – without incentives, why change? (esp. if you are an absentee landlord)
  16. 16. A combination of factors (provision of on-site parking in the absence of on-street parking, zoning variances, scofflaws, and minimal lot maintenance) have led to grossly over-paved conditions and, to date, incentives are not in place to depave.
  17. 17. Parks provide green infrastructure opportunities too • GI projects have been completed in Roger Williams Park, minimizing impermeable surface and runoff to ponds • Proposed citizen-led plans to remake “River Road” along the Seekonk initially responded to erosion and stormwater concerns, along with quality of life issues, and have inherently taken a multi-benefit approach: bike/ped, fishing, kayaking, amenities, ecological restoration, and stormwater management
  18. 18. Thanks to organizations including the Green Infrastructure Coalition, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, Groundwork Providence, Brown University’s TRI-Lab, City departments, and collaborative efforts including all of these entities, small GI projects are now being implemented in various parts of the city.
  19. 19. Challenges and Food for thought: • In addition to obvious and measurable impacts on water quality, absorption and flood control, and along with the multiple benefits that green infrastructure can provide – and as this becomes a common way of thinking – we should also be thinking about the maintenance and aesthetics of green infrastructure. – Adopt-a-GI site? – New site planning and park design typologies? – Incentivizing depaving – Stormwater retention credits
  20. 20. finis deverett@providenceri.com David Everett

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