That’s how Mayor Bill Peduto described the problem to City Council today, at a special meeting on flooding called by Councilor Darlene Harris. Peduto came prepared with a preliminary “green first” stormwater plan and the backing of about eight Departmental officials.
By the end of this year, they intend to finalize a plan that will both “keep water from ever being able to get into the system, and make our rivers cleaner.”
The plan consists of engineering in seven primary “action areas” including Negley Run, Four Mile Run, Sawmill Run and Streets Run for increased green infrastructure: restoring streams and lakes, wetlands, rain gardens and bioswales, while skirting both development and future development. In addition to mitigating flooding, it is supposed to help the Alcosan comply with a 2007 federal order to separate wastewater from stormwater.
The plan would take 5-10 years to implement, and the price would be born largely by water ratepayers — at some eye-popping figures:
Washington Boulevard/Negley Run
- Moderate Control: 234 impervious acres managed, $76 – $100 million
- High Control: 614 impervious acres managed, $200 – $260 million
Four Mile Run/Junction Hollow
- Moderate Control: 78 impervious acres managed, $25 – $34 million
- High Control: 218 impervious acres managed, $70- $90 million
Some of those ratepayers already had advocates waving signs and signaling discontent over the expense.
Councilor O’Connor focused remarks on how the work would help spur over 1,000 jobs, many of them permanent — and how there are universities and nonprofits ready to partner in some of the work. The Almono development, for example, appears poised to deal with some of the runoff from Four Mile Run.
Councilor Gross pointed out that unlike some other cities, our City Code does not yet address green infrastructure — meaning, in addition to public investments, a lot of the necessary stormwater might be dealt with by residents and businesses if they are required to provide a little basic stormwater management.
Left unasked was the degree to which the costs of this “green-first” approach might realize offsets and savings from Alcosan’s original “gray-first” stormwater plans, consisting mainly of vast underground holding tanks, by pursuing a greener track instead. Although much of the storm water in the region drains towards Pittsburgh, Alcosan has limited power to mandate or organize work in any of the surrounding municipalities, making green-first a challenge.
NOTE: The storm water issue is mostly separate from the drinking water issue.