The Pittsburgh region is under an EPA consent decree to implement a stormwater management plan that addresses the region's combined sewer overflow problem. To date, in Pittsburgh, there has not been an extensive analysis as to the economic impact of green infrastructure as an alternative to gray infrastructure solutions. The Northside neighborhood, where an existing sustainability initiative (One Northside) was underway, presented an ideal opportunity to build public awareness of the benefits of green infrastructure and to pilot demonstration projects.
GTECH Strategies, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces and Livability Solutions' designated provider of technical assistance (Center for Neighborhood Technology), developed a technical assistance approach that would accomplish the following objectives:
1. Improving green infrastructure (GI) education initiatives in the Northside and Pittsburgh by building technical skills of professional staff and developing new partnerships.
2. Increasing support for and understanding of the benefits of GI, with a specific focus on how GI can yield economic, environmental and social health benefits.
3. Readying Northside for the development of a long-term plan for green infrastructure.
4. Evaluating the Green Infrastructure Valuation Guide and the Green Infrastructure Portfolio Standard to determine which is most compatible with the Northside community.
The technical assistance was delivered via a half day workshop held in the Northside neighborhood. GTECH Strategies organized the workshop and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) was responsible for the workshop's content. The workshop was attended by approximately 70 people with a range of backgrounds, including academia, local and regional government, non-profit organizations, and private engineering and other consulting firms. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA), the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works, and key elected officials and professionals from the City and County participated in the workshop.
The workshop began with a PWSA provided overview of stormwater issues in Northside and the greater Pittsburgh area. (Making stormwater problems relatable to residents is an important part of building public support for green infrastructure.) CNT followed the overview with an hour-long presentation on the Green Infrastructure Valuation Guide. The presentation was interactive and CNT entertained questions from the audience. The workshop continued with a representative of Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc., presenting on a local example of green infrastructure, the Sampsonia Way Green Alley Project.
The workshop concluded with small group discussions on the five topics: Education, Implementation, Funding, Partnerships, and Co-benefits. Each group was challenged to identify: near term actions, challenges, and opportunities for implementing GI projects in Northside. These discussions informed CNT's recommendations found in the post workshop technical memo.
In late 2016 a PWSA report endorsed a "Green First" approach to addressing the city's annual 3 billion gallons of sewer system overflows. The report found green infrastructure strategies such as rain gardens, permeable pavement and wetlands to be cost effective solutions to reducing sewer overflow events. The report recommends GI pilot projects at the highest-yield stormwater locations.