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Vermont kicks off —Green Infrastructure Initiative—

BURLINGTON, VT. — At a meeting for municipal public works employees and environmental engineers on innovative approaches to stormwater management, the Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, Deb Markowitz, and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, David Mears, announced the kick-off of the “Vermont Green Infrastructure Initiative.” They also announced the receipt of a $245,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service grant that will help the state in this effort. The Green Infrastructure Initiative provides a coordinated mechanism for implementing green infrastructure practices throughout Vermont.

Secretary Markowitz said, “One of the most significant causes of pollution in our rivers and lakes is stormwater runoff. Traditional engineered approaches to clean stormwater before it reaches our waterways have been challenging and costly to implement. For that reason the administration is kicking off a project to promote and implement innovative, green infrastructure approaches to stormwater management.”

Green infrastructure are systems that mimic natural processes that reduce the amount and slow down the flow of stormwater so that it can seep into the ground rather than run off into ditches and brooks that ultimately wash pollution into our rivers, lakes and ponds. Green infrastructure practices may include rain gardens, porous pavements, green roofs, infiltration planters, trees and tree boxes, and rain water harvesting.

Commissioner Mears said, “When we use green infrastructure techniques to manage stormwater and reduce water pollution we see many other benefits to the environment and to our community. Green infrastructure can help reduce flood damage, conserve energy and improve air quality." He also noted that, "green infrastructure can create beauty within our communities.”

The Green Infrastructure Initiative began with an executive order signed this past summer by Governor Shumlin that requires all state agencies to use green infrastructure practices to manage stormwater runoff to minimize pollution and directs the Agency of Natural Resources to convene an interagency group to implement this goal. The first meeting of this group will be held on Oct. 26, with representatives from the Agency of Natural Resources, the Agency of Transportation, the Agency of Commerce & Community Development and the Department of Buildings and General Services. “By creating a process that addresses stormwater runoff strategically, we can work to minimize the kind of flood damage and water quality issues we saw as the result of Tropical Storm Irene” said Brian Searles, Secretary of VTrans.

The USDA Forest Service grant for $246,500 will be used to encourage municipalities to implement green infrastructure practices by offering technical and financial help. It will also help municipalities calculate the economic benefits of utilizing trees and other green infrastructure for stormwater management. $101,500 of the grant will be going to The Vermont Association of Planning and Development Agencies to provide assistance to municipalities.

The Initiative enjoys far-reaching support within the environmental community. Kim Greenwood, Water Program Director for the Vermont Natural Resource Council stated that, “VNRC applauds the Agency for taking such a leadership role on green infrastructure. Vermont government is leading by example, demonstrating some simple steps we can all take to keep our waterways clean.”

Vermont municipalities also see the benefit of this effort. “In St. Albans City, we saw our downtown streetscape project as an opportunity to add some innovative stormwater management techniques,” says Chip Sawyer, the City’s Director of Planning & Development. “Vermont ANR helped us with various funding sources and consultation to not only design the project but also install new features that absorb stormwater run-off and improve our tree canopy.”

The Green Infrastructure Initiative will create an important coordination role with the state in providing green infrastructure resources to business owners, homeowners, municipalities and professionals statewide. It will expand efforts that began in the state in 2009 that have already shown results.

For more information see www.vtwaterquality.org/stormwater/htm/sw_green_infrastructure.htm.