Green Infrastructure 2016 Annual Reports
In March 2012, Governor Shumlin signed an Executive Order forming an Inter-agency Green Infrastructure Council. The Council, composed of representatives from the state agencies of Administration, Commerce and Community Development, Natural Resources, and Transportation, is charged with integrating green stormwater infrastructure into state agency programs though coordination, planning, and inter-agency information sharing.
Below are the links to the 2016 Annual Progress Reports for each Agency’s current GSI-related initiatives, challenges for change and short-term opportunities and strategies:
- Agency of Transportation
- Agency of Commerce and Community Development
- Agency of Natural Resources
- Department of Buildings and General Services
An Analysis of Stormwater Education and Outreach Efforts
After analyzing, evaluating, and contacting multiple stormwater-focused organizations around the country, the successes and failures of various programs and projects were recorded. Each organization has their own initiatives, programs, and educational tools to encourage local residents to learn about stormwater. The organizations ranged in size from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to small organizations with limited staff.
In order to obtain the information from each organization, a set of questions specific to their efforts was asked of them, either by phone, e-mail, or in person interview. The questions were focused on topics like outreach, media use, advertising, funding, and how they reached their target audience. Most organizations seemed to focus on internet advertising and other types of technology to get the public’s attention, while some used letters and face-to-face interactions. The information and knowledge gained from each program is essential when determining the types of efforts to utilize in Vermont.
Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan
In 2010, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VTANR) convened a small group of public and private sector entities to discuss an emerging set of stormwater management techniques commonly referred to as low impact development (LID) and green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). Both techniques were gaining popularity as an alternative to the traditional approach of managing stormwater runoff using gray infrastructure (networks of catch basins, pipes, ponds). Recognizing the applicability and benefits of LID and GSI in Vermont, the group decided to meet on a regular basis to discuss various strategies for promoting and overcoming barriers to LID and GSI. The group is now referred to as the Green Infrastructure Roundtable (Roundtable).
In a four-year span, the Roundtable was able to accomplish a great deal, most notably by developing the Vermont Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan 2011-2013. The plan laid the groundwork for the creation of Vermont’s Green Infrastructure Initiative within the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Ecosystem Restoration Program, employing a dedicated Green Infrastructure Coordinator, and the signing of Executive Order 06-12 which asks State Agencies to act as role models for LID and GSI adoption. Additional outcomes included:
- Increased training and networking opportunities for design professionals
- Focused and targeted efforts to raise municipal awareness of LID principles
- Action by non-profit groups to educate the public about stormwater issues
- Inclusion of additional LID principles and GSI practices as part of the Vermont Stormwater Manual revision process
Recognizing that there is still much to do, the Roundtable developed a new five-year strategy: The Vermont Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan 2014 – 2019.
As with the 2011-2013 plan, VGISP 2014-2019 places a heavy focus on actions targeted at specific audiences. VGISP 2014-2019 draws attention to five audiences: citizens, municipalities, organizations, professionals, and state agencies. While almost all of the actions identified in the plan span multiple audiences, it is important to recognize that each audience has a unique relationship with the topic of green infrastructure. By identifying differences in target audiences and adapting efforts appropriately, goals are more likely to be achieved.
VGISP 2014-2019 identifies seven strategic objectives and outlines key actions to meet them. In this way, VGISP 2014-2019 and the previous plan are very similar. However, whereas the previous plan centered on the development of a programmatic structure for the Green Infrastructure Initiative, VGISP 2014-2019 centers on the Roundtable itself and the specific actions it will take as a collaborative body over the next five years.
2011-2013 Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan Performance Report
The Green Infrastructure Initiative (GII), an Agency of Natural Resources undertaking with support from the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Ecosystem Restoration Program and the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, adopted the Vermont Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan 2011‐2013 (the “Plan”) in late 2011. The plan was developed with assistance from the Green Infrastructure Roundtable (the “Roundtable”) and lays out a vision for the promotion, adoption, and implementation of LID and GSI in Vermont.
The Plan has one overarching goal: to restore and maintain the pre‐development hydrology of the State’s watersheds through the use of LID principles and GSI practices. To achieve this goal, four key audiences are targeted: stormwater professionals (i.e. design engineers, landscape architects), municipal governments, property owners, and State agencies. For each target audience, the Plan identifies a set of challenges and describes the objectives and tactics needed to address those challenges.
Over the course of three years, the GII and the Roundtable collaborated to further the objectives outlined in the Plan. These efforts encompass the work of many individuals and entities throughout Vermont. This collective work has allowed the achievement of significant progress towards sustainable stormwater management in the state.
The 2011-2013 Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan Performance Report provides a qualitative evaluation of efforts over those three years.
2011-2013 Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan
The Vermont Green Infrastructure Initiative’s 2011-2013 Strategic Plan has one overarching goal: to restore and maintain the pre-development hydrology of the State’s watersheds through the use of green structure practices. To achieve this goal, four key audiences are targeted: stormwater professionals (i.e. design engineers, landscape architects), municipal governments, existing property owners, and State agencies. For each target audience, the Strategic Plan identifies the current challenges to widespread adoption of GSI and describes a set of objectives and tactics to address those challenges.
In considering the needs of design professionals, it became clear that the primary barrier was the lack of clarity in how GSI could be successfully employed to meet site needs and regulatory requirement and, in particular, compliance with the Vermont Stormwater Management Manual. Work on this issue has already begun with two training opportunities offered during the summer of 2011.
In the case of municipalities, non-MS4 communities are often not aware of the impacts of stormwater runoff, or the options available to address them. As a result, many have existing ordinances that may actually exacerbate runoff problems. Efforts to reach this audience will include support for review of existing zoning and land-use policies, assistance with development review to include the use GSI, and non-regulatory incentives for GSI adoption.
In most cases, individual property owners are unaware that a problem even exists, let alone how their properties are contributing. To address this target audience, we will work to identify gaps in messaging and education, work with partners to resolve those gaps and provide access to technical information and incentives to employ GSI.
None of these objectives can be met without the cooperation and active participation of State Agencies. Dedicated resources should be provided as part of the Green Infratsructure Initiative in order to address the issues facing each target audience, and ensure the implementation of this Strategic Plan. Additionally, the State has a unique opportunity in their own development projects to demonstrate GSI on new and existing properties. This Strategic Plan provides clear mechanisms for both of these Agency related issues to be resolved.
2014 ANR Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Work Plan Annual Report
With the signing of Executive Order 06-12 by Governor Shumlin in 2012, the State of Vermont recognized the important role that green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) plays in enhancing and protecting water quality. Stormwater runoff is a significant source of nonpoint pollution and GSI provides a mechanism through which that runoff volume and quality can be managed in a sustainable way using natural processes. In addition, GSI also provides myriad other benefits such as carbon sequestration, economic vitality, improved air quality, and aesthetic quality. Unfortunately, GSI is a fairly new concept in Vermont and faces many barriers to statewide adoption and implementation including a low level of awareness, a lack of technical details, limited incentives, and regulatory barriers at the local and state level.
The Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and its fellow agencies made an effort to overcome many of these barriers through the development of Agency-specific five-year Implementation Work Plans. The Work Plans identify the tasks each Agency will take to promote GSI within its ranks. Since the finalization of the Work Plans in July 2013, ANR has made steady progress toward achieving its individual goals, as indicated in the 2014 ANR Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Work Plan Annual Report.
Much credit is due to the administration for their support in identifying GSI’s role as a priority towards sustainability, and to Green Infrastructure Coordinator Justin Kenney in the Department of Environmental Conservation. Mr. Kenney is coordinating ANR's efforts to raise the level of awareness, identify needs and opportunities, and institutionalize GSI in policy, procedures and practice within ANR, other state agencies and the many partners statewide. ANR has worked over the past year to embed these principles into a multitude of programs and initiatives, and to act as a role model on its own properties.
It is evident that the role of GSI will only expand in future years as the State faces increased challenges associated with extreme weather patterns and as it works to identify and act on opportunities to limit nonpoint source pollution loads to receiving water bodies such as Lake Champlain. GSI is keystone to Vermont’s adaptation planning and implementation efforts as we strive to balance our impacts on natural resources, improve social capital and economic vitality, and maximize the myriad of benefits natural systems provide.
ANR is forging a progressive way forward, but more work needs to be done to reach our desired future condition where GSI plays center stage. This document provides a brief review of the major accomplishments by ANR to date and adds additional detail to the items listed in the ANR Implementation Work Plan Task List. ANR looks forward to working on these tasks and becoming a role model for sustainable development and stormwater management.
State Agency Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Work Plans
Stormwater runoff from roads, buildings, parking lots and other impervious surfaces degrades the water quality of the state’s surface waters.
Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is an efficient, effective, and sustainable method of reducing and capturing stormwater runoff. GSI is comprised of natural and engineered landscape elements that provide or mimic natural hydrologic function. Using GSI, stormwater is slowed down, spread out, and absorbed as close to the source as possible. This decentralized approach is in contrast to the more traditional method of stormwater management, which uses “grey stormwater infrastructure” (ditches, pipes, and catch-basins) to capture, channel, and convey stormwater runoff to another location.
In March 2012, Governor Shumlin signed an Executive Order forming an Inter-agency Green Infrastructure Council. The Council, composed of representatives from the Agency of Administration, Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Agency of Natural Resources, and the Agency of Transportation, is charged with integrating GSI into Agency programs though coordination, planning, and inter-agency information sharing. One of the Council’s first assignments was to compile each Agency’s current GSI-related initiatives, challenges for change and short-term opportunities and strategies. The results of this effort are included in the attached Agencies’ reports.
ANR Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Work Plan
Stormwater runoff, caused by precipitation running off impervious surfaces and developed lands, is a leading cause of surface water pollution in Vermont. Impervious surfaces generate hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated runoff per year resulting in various negative affects to streambank stability, aquatic habitat, and infrastructure. Managing the quality and quantity of this runoff in a sustainable way is of utmost importance for the health of our communities and the protection of natural resources.
The traditional approach to managing stormwater runoff is with “gray infrastructure,” a network of pipes, storm drains, and concrete tanks where collected runoff is conveyed and then discharged to receiving waters. Time has shown that this approach is very effective at moving water but does little to mitigate volume and pollutant loads. In fact, this traditional method can cause, and has caused, additional issues downstream from outlets and end-of-pipe structures.
An alternative approach is to use green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), which relies on natural and semi-natural systems to infiltrate, evaporate, and store water in dispersed locations throughout the landscape. This decentralized approach deals with stormwater as close to the source as possible. Groundwater recharge, flow control, and filtration are all inherent features of GSI. As a result, GSI has many benefits including reduced and delayed stormwater runoff volumes, enhanced groundwater recharge, stormwater pollutant reductions, reduced sewer overflows, urban heat island mitigation, improved air quality, additional wildlife habitat and recreational space, improved human health, and increased land values.
In light of these facts, ANR has chosen to embrace the use of GSI as an effective means of avoiding, mitigating, and managing stormwater. ANR is proud of the efforts put forth to date in regards to GSI and recognizes that there are many challenges ahead. The following work plan will bring many of those challenges to light and look at a variety of ways to address them over the course of the coming year.