We need a lot more rain than we’re getting, but it’s flooding... so what’s a girl to do?
Well, she’s to write about stormwater mitigation. Again.
This morning, the Penn State Center and a bunch of public officials held a ceremony to mark the completion of a 600-foot stormwater mitigation installation along Saline Street in a little pocket of Greenfield that residents call Four Mile Run.
It gets hammered when it rains hard, and so the city and Penn State Center teamed up to create a roadside bioswale as a demonstration model that could be replicated in larger and smaller ways elsewhere.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, City Councilman Corey O’Connor and Penn State Center Director Deno De Ciantis assembled with other leaders and just folks to cut a ribbon at the site, near the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 95, which helped volunteers and others plant 12 sweet bay magnolia and serviceberry trees, courtesy of TreeVitalize; Penn State students and Center staff planted perennials, grasses and shrubs.
Local 95 is maintaining the site.
Deno explained that it’s “basically a rain garden along the road, 600 feet of pervious sidewalk and a bioswale, with curb channels that are about 9 inches wide. The water runs down the street and gets funneled into the bioswale. It should pick up 85 percent of the water that’s running down the street. That’s hundreds of thousands of gallons over the course of a year, which is nothing when we talk about multiple millions, but ...”
But, this is one project.
Everywhere I walk, I can identify large sloping areas of asphalt that cry out for rain catchment. One spot is the sweeping sidewalk in front of the Federal Street post office just north of the train overpass that drips water on people walking toward PNC Park.
Deno said the center is also talking to the munis of Baldwin, Brentwood and Whitehall about planting a 300-400 foot bioswale along Route 51, where there’s a ton of water and a ton of traffic, maybe in the spring.
“Some folks in the city were saying we can’t do bioswales because there’s no precedent," he said. "This establishes the precedent.”
The Saline Street bioswale has educational signs — plant information, an explanation of how bioswales work — and is an aesthetic new feature for the neighborhood.
“It’s been a very cool experience, working with both the science and the community,” said Jillian Zankowski, a Penn State intern who is collecting rainwater samples from the project. “It’s a great asset to the neighborhood.”
Bryan Materials Group donated the concrete and trained public works crews to install it.
It is imperative, and a key duty of government, to catch stormwater before it becomes flood water, to prevent streams and storm drains from overflowing. Flooding and stream contamination are hugely expensive to government, which means hugely expensive to us. Infrastructure is one of government’s basic reasons for being.
Deno said the demonstration at Four Mile Run is nothing when we talk multiple millions, and of course it’s almost nothhing, sort of like 15 people having rain barrels. But if this were to be done in 10, 50, 100, 200 places around Alcosan’s service area and if 15 more and then 100 more people had rain barrels... it wouldn’t be nothing.
Deno said he is in the process of figuring out what Saline Street’s bioswale would have cost without all the in-kind donations and volunteers. Corey O’Connor donated $6,000 for plants, which makes this 300,000-gallon-a-year stormwater mitigation project an astonishing bargain.
*Free images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net