On February 8, 2019, over sixty leaders and stakeholders from around North Carolina and the Triangle assembled to work towards facilitating a partnership for green schools in Wake County at the Green Schools Symposium. This event, hosted by the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) and funded by the Conservation Fund, saw representation from the public and private sectors, government agencies, and non-profits. Represented parties included but were not limited to:
- The City of Raleigh
- WakeUP Wake County
- NC Conservation Network
- North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
- Wake County Government
- NC GreenPower
- American Rivers
- Wake County Public School System (WCPSS)
In fact, the green schools conversation has been happening for many years in Wake County—and many of the innovators behind existing green school work in the area took time to attend the symposium. The day was intended to bring together representatives from parallel green school efforts occurring across the county, and to have one conversation that could include many voices. Although the EFC did its best to reach as many of those individuals as possible, in the end, there were more registrants than the space and food could accommodate! The day included many meaningful connections, sparked enthusiasm and innovative ideas, and continued a conversation that will hopefully be continuing over the next few months to put in place some of the clear cut goals and outcomes discussed below… Continue reading
A Caribbean getaway is often on the wish list of summer plans. The warm tropical weather, accessibility to beaches, and lush rainforests beckon. But these very factors often lead to a myriad of challenges when it comes to water resource management on small islands. Increased flooding in Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago can be linked to development and behavioral practices that encourage erosion and the blocking of water channels. Continue reading
Many local governments have been creating programs to improve water quality by addressing non-point sources of pollution. Over the years the approach itself has had different names. Terms such as “low impact development,” and “environmental site design” seem to have given way to the name “green infrastructure” (GI) lately. GI often takes the form of multiple efforts ranging from green roof installations on city hall, to encouraging rain garden installations in private front yards. Oftentimes though, there is an umbrella name for the program that covers all of these related efforts. In researching how cities and counties have financed these programs, I could not help but start a list of some of the creative names that have been devised.
My interest in Green Infrastructure (GI) sparked several years ago, when I worked as a college intern with the City of Greensboro, NC Stormwater Department. Back then, no one really talked about “green infrastructure”, but the city was invested in managing its stormwater. As part of that experience, I was given my first look at stormwater management in practice as I tagged along with city staff to inspect Greensboro’s Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) – features like constructed wetlands, forested stream buffers, and rain gardens, that are designed to remove pollutants from urban runoff.
This week I was reminded just how much things have changed since that first internship experience. For one, “green infrastructure” has emerged as the preferred term for these kinds of features, and has also grown as an accepted stormwater management practice among communities across the country. Even at the federal level, acceptance of GI is very clear. For example, the 2014 amendments to the Clean Water Act now include section 603(c)(5): “for measures to manage, reduce, treat, or recapture stormwater or subsurface drainage water;” language which the EPA interprets as including “green roofs, rain gardens, roadside plantings, porous pavement, and rainwater harvesting.” EPA’s recent Community Summit on Green Infrastructure in Cleveland, Ohio highlighted this shift and offered an unparalleled opportunity to capture conversations from those on the ground about lessons learned and emerging implementation issues.
Green Infrastructure (GI), a common term to refer to a range of different types of small and mid-scale installations that support water management and other environmental goals, has become a growing component of many local government’s environmental stewardship strategies. Rain gardens, restored urban water-ways, increased tree plantings, permeable pavement and other distributed “nature mimicking” infrastructure installations are making their way into Green Infrastructure plans across the country (like one recently created in Durham, NC). While many local governments are making strides in implementing these installations, other local governments are still in the pilot phase – experimenting with demonstration projects but nowhere near scale with their investing, at least compared to other types of their infrastructure investing. As these installations become an accepted part of a local government’s infrastructure investment portfolio, the inevitable “How to pay for it?” questions will arise. While many smaller scale demonstration projects across the country have attracted external grant funding, full scale implementation will require a robust financing approach. Continue reading