City Announces Green Infrastructure Plan
Big changes to adapt to climate change and increase in damaging rainstorms.
We are living in an era of early climate change and the City of Milwaukee is trying to adapt.
The plan sets out a series of goals for the next year to change the regulatory framework in the city to substantially increase use of green infrastructure in order to capture greater amounts of stormwater and make development more sustainable as Milwaukee and the state continue to get warmer and wetter as a result of global climate change.
The vast majority of climate modeling for the State of Wisconsin predicts this future. A powerpoint released by Michael Notaro an associate climate scientist with the Center for Climate Research at UW-Madison states that the modeling points to a future Wisconsin with “more frequent heavy precipitation events.”
In 2010, a flooding task force called for more comprehensive and sustainable stormwater plans and in 2013 the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District called for an additional 735 million gallons of stormwater capacity by 2035.
“To address the risk and the realist of climate change, we need to make sure that our policies align with our goals,” Barrett said.
This is where green infrastructure can play a role. Since 2002, roughly 36 million gallons of green infrastructure has been added in the city. The mayor’s new green infrastructure framework is part of the city’s climate adaptation plan as laid out by the Environmental Collaboration Office. And as Kevin Shafer, executive director of MMSD said, “Green infrastructure is just one element, it won’t do everything that we want it to do. We’ll have to marry that with some of the other initiatives.”
What the mayor has proposed, with support of the council, will be a systematic change to green infrastructure policy in the city. A big part of this will be new regulatory mechanisms to require developers to design properties that capture the first half-inch of stormwater in green infrastructure on all properties of an acre or more, or whenever a stormwater management plan is required. It also lowers the regulatory requirement that triggers the necessity for a stormwater management plan from one-half acre of impervious surface area to .12 acres of impervious surface area on a project.
To nudge residents in the right direction, the city will be providing one-time grants to property owners to help defray the costs of installing green infrastructure. And in a big step, the city is partnering with Milwaukee Public Schools to redevelop blacktop schoolyards into functional green space and learning environments. Under the plan four to five schoolyards will be redeveloped each year. “Not only does this directly benefit the environment, it directly benefits our students,” Barrett said.
The school yard piece of the project adds a pleasant, kids-friendly layer to this proposal, which is ultimately a small component of a major American city’s attempt to adapt to a future global climate that is quickly making our current urban environment unsustainable and dangerous.
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