Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster Challenges + Opportunties Tour

The August 6th Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster Challenges + Opportunities Tour was attended by a cross-section of people concerned about stormwater management and watershed health.  Representatives from watershed groups, municipalities, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, institutions and more participated, either riding the bus or visiting one of the five tour stops.  Participants toured existing and proposed stormwater management projects and discussed what is needed to scale up restoration projects to address broader watershed health issues and concerns.

Lillian Mittleman, a resident of Haverford Township and the Cobbs Creek Watershed, had a rain garden installed in her front yard as part of the Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC) and Eastern Delaware County Stormwater Collaborative rain garden campaign. This campaign and others in the region seek to establish rain gardens as a normative practice for both private and public landowners. Ms. Mittleman’s rain garden manages runoff from her house and yard, and serves as an educational point of interest for areas residents and students of adjacent Haverford High School. Ms. Mittleman and other participants in the rain garden campaign are also available to educate, advise, and support other community member interested in constructing rain gardens.

Ms. Mittleman and PRC representatives describe rain garden campaign.

Ms. Mittleman and PRC representatives describe rain garden campaign.

Jim Blanch, Engineer for Whitpain Township in the Wissahickon Watershed, has overseen several basin retrofit projects for the Township. The tour visited the Village Circle basin retrofit project scheduled for construction fall of 2015. This basin naturalization project will slow and infiltrate runoff from the adjacent Village Circle sub-division. A major goal of the project is to reduce erosion occurring just downstream of the basin along a headwater tributary. A key discussion point during this site visit was how to ramp up basin retrofit strategies to a watershed scale. Such strategies could deploy a range of retrofit techniques from lower cost naturalization and outlet structure modification practices that slow and infiltrate runoff, to higher cost grading project that increase the volume of stormwater managed.

Jim Blanch (in background) explains Village Circle basin retrofit project.

Jim Blanch (in background) explains Village Circle basin retrofit project.

Laura Toran, Temple University, details monitoring at Village Circle basin.

Laura Toran, Temple University, details monitoring at Village Circle basin.

Laura Toran, Professor at Temple University, presented on water quality monitoring initiated at two restoration projects, the Village Circle basin retrofit and the Abington Friends School stream restoration. Laura displayed various instruments that are being deployed to monitor before and after water quality conditions at restoration projects. For example, data loggers have been installed to collect records on pollutant concentrations such as nitrate and physical conditions such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. Both Temple and Villanova Universities are conducting monitoring and modeling to measure and predict the impact of stormwater control measure projects at the project, sub-basin and watershed scale.

Mike LeFevre (Abington Township Manager) and Paul Leonard (Upper Dublin Township Manager) and members of their staff joined the tour at Roslyn Elementary School on Sandy Run, Wissahickon Watershed. The Managers discussed complexities associated with Sandy Run stormwater management and stream restoration issues. This major tributary originates in Abington and flows into Upper Dublin where it passes Fort Washington Industrial Park before discharging to the main-stem of Wissahickon Creek. Both Townships have sought to reduce Sandy Run flooding issues, and both now are addressing regulatory requirements to reduce sediment and nutrient loadings (total maximum daily loads) to the creek. The tour visited channelized portions of Sandy Run and considered existing and proposed stormwater management and stream restoration projects.

Tour group visits channelized section of Sandy Run, Abington Township

Tour group visits channelized section of Sandy Run, Abington Township

Julie Slavet and Rosanne Mistretta show Jenkintown Creek headwaters buffer at Abington Friends School.

Julie Slavet and Rosanne Mistretta show Jenkintown Creek headwaters buffer at Abington Friends School.

Rosanne Mistretta, a teacher at the Abington Friends School, welcomed the tour to the Jenkintown Creek headwaters stream restoration project, in the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed. This two phase project will include riparian buffers, two rain gardens, a bioretention area, a meadow, and stream bank stabilization. Ms. Mistretta is incorporating aspects of the restoration work into the Friends’ School science curriculum both inside and outside the classroom. Broader community watershed education events are also being organized, including inviting elected officials so they can better understand their constituent’s stormwater management and healthy watershed needs. As this headwaters project is implemented work is already underway to identify close-by downstream projects so that sub-basin and broader watershed scale water quality and aquatic life improvements can be secured.

For full details on the tour at Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster Partners Host Watershed Tour

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