Temple and Villanova Monitoring Programs Seek to Document Watershed Health Improvements

 

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Temple’s Emily Arnold sampling sediment in Tookany Creek.

Temple and Villanova Monitoring Programs Seek to Document Watershed Health Improvements

A key objective of the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) is to document improvements in watershed health resulting from conservation, stream restoration, and stormwater management projects. Temple and Villanova Universities support this effort in the DRWI Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster through the deployment of a suite of monitoring and modeling initiatives.

Temple and Villanova Universities are developing and deploying rigorous stormwater monitoring programs in upstream suburban Philadelphia watersheds. Their overall goal is to measure the effectiveness of stormwater and stream restoration projects in reducing water pollution and restoring watershed health. The two Universities are also using monitoring data to support hydraulic and hydrological modeling that predicts the effects of stormwater projects and identifies the best sites for future projects.

Much of this effort is focused on prioritized headwaters and sub-basins where partners seek to install clusters of restoration projects. By concentrating restoration efforts, DWRI stakeholders look to detect reductions in runoff volumes and improvements in water quality at the project and sub-basin scale. The two Universities are teamed up to develop stormwater monitoring plans for up to 6 headwater project areas, enabling them to compare and contrast different stream reaches that have various levels of project implementation. Before- and after-project samples are being paired upstream and downstream of project sites, to evaluate the success of projects and/or project clusters in “moving the needle” towards healthier watershed.

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Ultrasonic flow meter installed at Narberth measuring flow at headwaters of East Branch of the Indian Creek.

Temple and Villanova monitoring networks, including continuous data loggers, collect data such as temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. Nutrient monitoring has been conducted on a limited basis using a nitrate logger, and there are plans to add additional nutrient loggers. In addition to their own monitoring, the Universities coordinate with and support watershed groups with water quality sampling and citizen “StreamKeepers” with visual stream assessments. This includes developing a crowd sourcing smart phone app (currently being beta tested) that when launched will enable Streamkeepers to document their observations creek side.

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Villanova’s Sarah Rife standing next to flow meter communication box at Abington Friends School

Examples of project monitoring include Villanova University’s design, in conjunction with the project consultants, of instrumentation to monitor inflows, outflows, infiltration, and water quality changes at stormwater projects being installed at Abington Friends School (on Jenkintown Creek headwater to Tookany Creek) and College Settlement (on headwater to Pennypack Creek). This instrumentation is in the process of being installed with careful coordination with the project designers and contractors.

Pre-construction monitoring at an additional project site in Narberth Park has also been on-going for nearly a year. Villanova is working with the designers to ensure that the monitoring instrumentation is compatible with the rain garden and bioswales slated for design and construction at the Narberth Library and adjacent Windsor Avenue Green Street.

Villanova’s effort includes the installation of weather stations at project sites to collect rain fall and other meteorological data that supports their monitoring and modeling efforts. See the below Villanova University link for information on DRWI and other stormwater control measure research. http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/engineering/research/centers/vcase/vusp1/research/DRWI.html

The high quality “Tier 1” data sets collected by the Universities are being supplemented with the complimentary watershed organization and StreamKeeper data. The Academy of Natural Sciences and Stroud Water Research Center are also collecting baseline data including water quality, habitat assessment, and flora and fauna such as macroinvertebrates, algae, and fish. Collectively these monitoring data are being used for assessment, outreach and project implementation efforts that contribute to clean water, restored fish and wildlife habitat, and overall healthier watersheds.

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Weather station on the roof of Abington Friends School

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Person in the Spotlight: Andrea L. Welker, PhD, PE

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For the winter newsletter, the Watershed Alliance of Southeast Pennsylvania had the opportunity to sit down and hear about Dr. Welker’s stormwater monitoring work. Andrea L. Welker, PhD, PE is a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Villanova University. She is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Pennsylvania. Dr. Welker teaches undergraduate soil mechanics, soil mechanics laboratory, geology, foundation design, and capstone design and graduate level courses in geoenvironmental engineering and geosynthetics. She is the Associate Director of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership. Most of Dr. Welker’s research focuses on studying the geotechnical aspects of stormwater control measures (SCMs) including rain gardens and permeable pavements. Dr. Welker is currently part of a multi-state, multi-year effort supported by the William Penn Foundation to ensure plentiful, clean water in the Delaware River Watershed.

What led you to start researching/ implementing sustainable stormwater management practices?
It started as a conversation by the water cooler with Rob Traver about how to obtain pore water samples in the unsaturated zone of our oldest rain garden.

How has the field of engineering evolved to include sustainable stormwater management practices?
A decade ago we were in the process of proving that these practices work, now we are trying to improve our understanding how they work to improve design.

What role does Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership play into the greater William Penn Foundation’s initiative on improving water quality?
We are extremely fortunate to be part of the Upstream Suburban Philadelphia. This particular cluster is unique amongst the other DRWI clusters as we have a strong focus on restoration and monitoring. This varied group works well together to achieve the goal of improving water quality in the region. Specifically, Villanova will be monitoring stormwater control measures (SCMs) and we are working with Temple to model these SCMs and the watersheds. In addition, we have been working with Temple, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Lower Merion Conservancy, and Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association to develop outreach and education programs.

How has research and data transformed the way people manage stormwater?
I believe it has allowed us to move from proving these control measures work to figuring out how to improve designs. We need to be careful, however, that we don’t over complicate things and scare people away. The key thing is that it is all about restoring the hydrologic cycle and you can talk about that to anyone!
How do you coordinate with municipal governments and non-profits to implement stormwater management?
William Penn’s DRWI really helped to provide a forum for this type of coordination to occur. For example, the VUSP worked very closely with the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership to implement and instrument a rain garden at Abington Friends School. In addition, the Municipal Workshop that we just held in October on Villanova’s campus was planned by PEC (specifically Paul Racette and Susan Myerov), Jan Bowers of Chester County, and Villanova’s Urban Stormwater Partnership. This event brought more than a hundred municipal officials together to learn about how to implement and pay for stormwater management.

Through your research, how has Villanova’s curriculum changed to include sustainable stormwater management practices?
We are so fortunate to have so many highly instrumented stormwater control measures on campus. The professors in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department incorporate these into our classes as much as possible. For example, freshman analyzed phosphorous concentrations in our oldest rain garden, sophomores considered how stormwater controls could be implemented as part of a redevelopment project on Villanova’s campus, juniors tour our demonstration park, and seniors design stormwater controls from the bottom up. Our graduate students see fresh data from our research sites in many classes as well. It’s everywhere!

What advice would you give to people hoping to pursue a similar career in stormwater research and monitoring?
We are getting much smarter about monitoring – we are now using it to improve designs and to let us know when maintenance needs to occur. There are so many unanswered questions and there is a lot of work to be done. I think we have to remember that there is room for many levels of sophistication in stormwater management and that more complicated isn’t always better.

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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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William Penn Foundation 2015 Grants for Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster Projects

Watershed restoration projects along Wissahickon and Tookany Creeks are receiving funding under the second round of the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative. Awardees include the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, Upper Gwynedd Township, and the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership.

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF):

TTF received $129,850 for two projects on Jenkintown Creek. The first project will expand on Phase 1 restoration work already initiated along the Creek’s headwaters at Abington Friends School. The Phase 1 work (a riparian buffer and rain garden) will be supplemented by Phase 2 restoration including a bioretention area, meadow, buffer, stream bank stabilization, and a second rain garden below the Abington Monthly Meeting parking lot. The restoration work is being incorporated into the Friends’ School science curriculum and broader community watershed education.

Jenkintown Creek Riparian Plantings at Abington Friends School (PEC)

Jenkintown Creek Riparian Plantings at Abington Friends School (PEC)

TTF also received funding for stream bank restoration, buffer and vernal pool installation at McKinley Elementary School further downstream on Jenkintown Creek. TTF and partners are exploring additional projects along this Tacony Creek tributary on larger parcels (e.g. Alverthorpe Park and Abington Art Center) that offer both stream restoration and green infrastructure project opportunities. Monitoring and modeling by Temple and Villanova Universities is also being conducted to help demonstrate how restoration focused on a headwater reach can “move the needle” on water quality improvements.

Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA):

WVWA received $190,000 for a stream restoration project along the PECO Right of Way in the main-stem headwaters area of Wissahickon Creek. The grant award will be used to launch a flood plain reconnection project to address eroded stream banks and aquatic life impairments found in the stream reach. The goal of the project is to re-grade the stream to reconnect it to the flood plain, allowing for inundations that store/infiltrate water during high flow conditions. This Phase 1 funding will be used to create concept and construction drawings for the restoration of 4,300 linear feet of the creek including three flood plain connections/inundations, with more detailed design drawings and permit applications for approximately 1,800 linear feet within this reach.

Stream impairments in main-stem Wissahickon headwaters (by WVWA)

Stream impairments in main-stem Wissahickon headwaters (by WVWA)

Upper Gwynedd Township Projects:

Upper Gwynedd Township received funding to support 4 projects in the Wissahickon Creek headwaters area. Project summaries prepared by Gregory Duncan of T&M Associates, a Township consulting engineer, are as follows:

1-Riparian buffer restoration [Grannery Lane]

Project Concept & Description: Proposed along this township-owned property is riparian buffer restoration near Grannery Lane along the Wissahickon Creek.

Output measures: Water quality, habitat restoration

2-Bio-retention facility [Grannery Lane]

Project Concept & Description: This proposed project is in concert with the above riparian buffer restoration along Grannery Lane. It includes the construction of a bioretention area in-line with the Wissahickon Creek. Contributing drainage areas include adjacent residential development as well as roadway drainage.

Output measures: Water quality, volume control, rate control

3-Raingarden [Ivy Lane]

Project Concept & Description: This proposed project includes the construction of a raingarden near Ivy Lane along the Wissahickon Creek. Contributing drainage areas include adjacent residential development as well as roadway drainage.

Output measures: Water quality, volume control, rate control

4-Constructed Wetland [Sumneytown Pike]

Project Concept & Description: The proposed project includes the construction of a wetland near Sumneytown Pike along the Wissahickon Creek. Contributing drainage areas include residential development as well as roadway drainage.

Output measures: Water quality, volume control, rate control, habitat restoration

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Proposed PAG-13 Updates Leading Toward More Individual Permits

 PA DEP SW manual parking lot BMP photo 1Pervious parking lot with stone backup edge, PA BMP Manual

Proposed Updates to Pennsylvania General Permit (PAG-13) for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewers (MS4s) are pointing toward an increase in the number of municipalities requiring individual permits.

Current PAG-13 regulations require individual permits for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) municipalities discharging to “Special Protection” waters (that is, high quality or exceptional value waters). The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) proposed PAG-13 updates in May 2015; public comments submitted through August are now being reviewed. The proposed regulations will require individual permits for MS4 municipalities that have been assigned Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) waste load allocations (WLA’s) approved by EPA for sediment and/or nutrients. The proposed regulations also require pollutant reduction plans for MS4 municipalities with nutrient, sediment, PCB, and bacteria water quality impairments that do not yet have a TMDL.

PADEP published an MS4 Requirements Table that lists MS4 municipalities, water bodies with TMDLs, and where individual permits are required. Overall, more MS4 communities will be required to submit individual permits under the propose rule. Municipalities are encouraged to review the MS4 Requirements Table and identify any errors made regarding where they discharge stormwater.

Key differences between the individual and general permit programs are as follows:

• The individual permits cost more; there is an initial permit application fee plus an annual fee.

• There is more flexibility in the individual permit program. Municipalities have the option to propose alternative Minimum Control Measures (MCMs) that are at least as protective as the Appendix A MCM requirements defined by PADEP.

• Currently the Appendix A MCM requirements for individual and general permits are similar. The key difference is that the individual permit has anti-degradation requirements for special protection waters under MCMs 4 and 5.

• The proposed regulations require that municipalities with sediment and/or nutrient waste load allocations submit a TMDL plan as part of their individual permit. The TMDL Plan should be designed to achieve pollutant reductions that align with the municipalities waste load allocation requirements. PADEP provided draft Guidelines for how to create TMDL plans.

• Municipalities that discharge to impaired water bodies that do not yet have a TMDL can still apply for the general permit. But the newly proposed regulations require that these MS4 municipalities develop Pollutant Reduction Plans for sediment, nutrient, PCB, and bacteria impaired water bodies.  See the Appendices in Proposed PAG-13 for pollutant reduction plan requirements.

In summary, the proposed PADEP regulations will require more municipalities to apply for individual MS4 permits. Individual permits allow for more flexibility, but have higher costs. Municipalities should consider the new requirements for sediment and/or nutrient TMDL plans (for individual permits) and pollutant reduction plans (for general permits), and explore ways to collaborate with other municipalities on the development of more cost effective sub basin or watershed scale plans.

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Meet New Poquessing Monitoring Coordinator! Meghan Rogalus sits down and discusses watershed management within Bucks County.

Meghan Rogalus: Bucks County Watershed Specialist

Meghan Rogalus: Bucks County Watershed Specialist

For the June issue of the Watershed Alliance, Meghan Rogalus had the chance to sit down and share her role as the watershed specialist for the Bucks County Conservation District (BCCD). In addition she has recently taken on a new role as the Poquessing Creek Watershed Monitoring Coordinator.

We hear you have a new role as Poquessing Watershed Coordinator, what are you doing in the Poquessing?

The Poquessing Creek is located in the Upstream Philadelphia cluster of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), a project spearheaded by the William Penn Foundation. As the Poquessing Monitoring Coordinator, I am working with PEC, the Friends of the Poquessing Watershed (FOPW), and other cluster partners to ensure that the Poquessing completes the project requirements to collect water quality samples quarterly, macroinvertebrate samples annually and to engage the Poquessing Streamkeepers in visual monitoring of the watershed. Once restoration projects are completed we hope to see big improvements by comparing before and after water quality and macroinvertebrate community sampling up and downstream of project sites!

What is your role with the Poquessing Streamkeepers?
My role is to keep in touch with the Streamkeepers who are conducting visual monitoring at locations along the tributaries and main stem of the Poquessing and follow up where possible on issues they identify. The volunteers’ information is critical to obtain an overall impression of the health of the entire watershed. In addition I notify the volunteers of upcoming educational and work opportunities.

What else does a Conservation District Watershed Specialist do?
The duties of a Conservation District Watershed Specialist vary based on the needs/major sources of stream impairments within each county and the direction of each district’s board of directors. In general, the focus of the Watershed Specialist position is to improve the quality and quantity of the Commonwealth’s surface and groundwater resources through education and outreach, monitoring and implementation of restoration projects.

In Bucks County I provide technical assistance and information to individual residents, municipalities, nonprofits and school groups. A big focus of that is providing support and guidance to a number of watershed associations around the county and advising landowners on potential solutions and possible permit requirements for addressing streambank erosion. On behalf of BCCD, I apply and manage grant-funded environmentally beneficial projects. I also work closely with Mary Ellen Noonan, BCCD’s Environmental Educator, to support the district’s education and outreach efforts. Finally, I am the Bucks County point of contact for TreeVitalize Watersheds program, which provides funding for riparian forest restoration and basin naturalization projects throughout southeastern PA.

What environmental impacts are Bucks County watersheds facing?
The main environmental impacts facing Bucks County and the southeastern region are sedimentation of the stream channel and stormwater runoff due to increasing development pressures. Bucks County’s historic development patterns included infrastructure designed to move rainwater as quickly as possible away from houses to the nearest streams. This type of stormwater management results in “flashy” stream systems, which causes streambank erosion, impaired water quality and flooding concerns. Also, the removal of riparian vegetation and the threat of invasive plant species places additional stress. Streams lose protection from streambank erosion, are unable to filter pollutants and lack natural cooling and shading from natural riparian vegetation.

What can people do to help improve watersheds in their area?
There are a number of things people can do such as conserve water, capture and reuse rainwater with cisterns and rain barrels, reduce their use of fertilizers and pesticides and landscape with native plants. But the biggest thing anyone can do to improve their local watershed is to get involved! Volunteer sometime for environmental projects (e.g. stream monitoring, stream cleanups, tree planting), or better yet, take an active role on a board or committee of your local watershed association. Watershed organizations need people with diverse skill sets – even if one does not have an environmental background as long as the passion and commitment is there they can be a great asset.

What inspired you to work in this field?
As far back as I can remember I have spent my entire summer outside –playing in the dirt, canoeing in the Neshaminy Creek; which instilled in me a desire to protect the environment. In addition I have always enjoyed helping people.

I first focused on watershed management specifically as a potential career when completing a capstone project. I loved completing the field work and analysis, but the best part of all was seeing the community’s response and interest in me and my classmates’ recommendations. In 2008 I learned about the BCCD Watershed Specialist position opening and seemed like a natural fit for me; what better place to work than my native Bucks County!

Where is your favorite outdoor place to visit in Bucks County?
I love getting out to Nockamixon State Park, especially paddling in the lake! It is located in such a beautiful area of the county.

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Rain Garden Campaign Launched in Eastern Delaware County

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Located in Norwood. These photos show the construction phase of a rain garden.Norwood3

Rain Gardens are an excellent way for residents, businesses, and municipalities to manage stormwater on their properties. Rain gardens slow and soak up runoff from roofs, driveways, and parking lots. They help keep streams clean, beautifying properties at the same time.

The Eastern Delaware County Stormwater Collaborative (Stormwater Collaborative) and Pennsylvania Resources Council are in the midst of an initiative to construct rain gardens on both public and private lands.  Spring 2015 educational workshops attracted 125 attendees interested in learning more about rain barrels, rain gardens, and other steps residents can take to help control stormwater runoff and pollution to our waterways.

The initiative includes funds for rain garden construction provided by the William Penn Foundation via a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, and additional funding from the Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Foundation and the Royal Bank of Canada as well as in-kind support in the form of staff time and equipment from the eight municipal members of the Stormwater Collaborative.

A framework was developed with the Haverford Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) to target residential homeowners interested in constructing a rain garden on their property. Properties were identified in the fall of 2014. Each prospective property was visited by the rain garden team that consists of members of the Haverford EAC, the Stormwater Collaborative, the Pennsylvania Resources Council and the Haverford Township Parks Department. Properties were analyzed for suitability based on location and soils.

Rain garden construction has started! The first two rain gardens were installed the weekend of May 18th including a public garden at the Norwood Fire House and a private garden for a Mill Road resident in Haverford Township. The June construction schedule includes a Sharon Hill Borough rain garden and three private rain gardens in Haverford Township. Additional fall 2015 and spring 2016 construction is planned to meet or surpass the initiative’s goal of 5 public and 10 private rain gardens.

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Participants in Mill Creek work on completing a rain garden.

The rain garden construction framework will be transferred to the other municipalities within the Collaborative to create a trained team of knowledgeable volunteers who can assist private homeowners in constructing rain gardens. The Haverford EAC is a key supporter with its own program to create 100 rain gardens in the Township over the next 10 years.

The rain garden initiative is a great opportunity to engage private citizens, municipal staff, and elected officials. It is providing an avenue to seed private and public rain gardens into the eight Stormwater Collaborative municipalities, which in turn can be used to leverage further expansion of the rain garden footprint.

The program also helps municipalities meet their stormwater permit requirements, and will also support new pollutant reduction plans (PRP’s) just proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which are expected to require mandatory reductions in pollution to our waterways beginning in 2017. The bottom line is cleaner and healthier streams, greener landscape features that attract birds and butterflies, and attractive new garden features which are quickly becoming a popular landscaping practice.

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