Citizens as Partners in Environmental Site Design and Green Infrastructure

In the world of conventional development project planning, citizens and community groups are often an irritant. Sometimes, we forego our usual fly-in-the-ointment role, and provide a supportive voice, helping to smooth the way for a desired local project. In the new world of green building and green infrastructure, we citizens play more active roles: as partners with design and development firms, and with local councils and agencies, in the establishment and funding of green building and stormwater laws, and in neighborhood outreach, site designs and plan reviews.  NRDC published Stormwater Strategies, a catalog of stormwater programs in 1999 (that I co-authored) and reissued it in 2001; many of the local programs we highlighted are still national leaders.

Civic activists in the greater Washington, D.C. region, where I live and work, have caught the vision of verdant cities shaded by large, healthy trees; green walls with flowery vines, pocket rain gardens and accessible green roofs. We know that our cherished urban waters – including the Anacostia River – require a massive effort to apply these green tools everywhere, as in the report unveiled yesterday by DC Appleseed on the Anacostia’s revitalization. Working through coalitions like the Montgomery County Stormwater Partners that I co-chair, we are using tools like the new American Rivers/ Center for Neighborhood Technology green benefits framework to show local officials the 360˚ of benefits of expanded street tree programs, green roofs, and bioretention.

Throughout this Spring, our Prince George’s County Clean Water Coalition has been working for improved redevelopment stormwater requirements – and we need green designers to vocally support this effort. And, we are actively opposing the undue granting of waivers and exemptions from Maryland’s new Environmental Site Design requirements.

On May 11, 2011, from 7 to 9 pm, I will co-present with Bruce Gilmore a workshop in Chevy Chase, Maryland, at the Audubon Naturalist Society – Woodend mansion, on Environmental Site Design and green infrastructure legal and technical principles, practices, and case studies.  Bruce and I helped draft the 2007 Maryland stormwater law that requires Environmental Site Design, and we commented in detail on the statewide ESD regulations. Our case studies will include a school project where citizens sought to protect a magnificent forest that surrounds the existing site’s footprint – and educated local officials about the Regenerative Stormwater Conveyance technique as an alternative to a conventional stormwater pipe outfall.  We welcome designers, planners and engineers to attend this workshop, and encourage them to bring instructive case studies of their own to share. To register, email [email protected].

Diane Cameron is the Conservation Program Director for Audubon Naturalist Society.  She specializes in watershed restoration advocacy for regulations requiring the use of green infrastructure techniques, with a special focus on restoring the Anacostia River.  With degrees in geology and environmental engineering, Diane served as a Senior Scientist on the Water Program staff of the Natural Resources Defense Council from 1989 to 1998; she now consults to NRDC on stormwater issues.  Diane founded the Stormwater Partners Network, comprised of 24 organizations supporting clean water in Montgomery County.  Starting in late 2005, the Stormwater Partners worked with the County Council and state and local agencies to draft a nationally-recognized municipal stormwater permit under the federal Clean Water Act.  In late 2010, Diane convened a new Anacostia-wide coalition of advocates working to accelerate the river’s restoration.  Her favorite activities include quilting, singing and “log-walking.”

Image: A. Dragulis Furnituremaker

One comment

  1. Am from Kasese – Uganda , working with Anamed (Action for natural medicine) and environment conservation, looking for how I can be helped by getting funds for this project.

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