Growing Green Streets to Go With the Flow
November 1, 2009 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
When I was in Portland, Oregon last year for the Wordstock Festival, I almost didn’t care that it was raining the whole time. I was amazed, not only by the friendliness of the people, but of the friendliness of the city’s design and of it’s commitment to sustainable development. It’s no wonder the city is considered by many to be America’s greenest city: Half its power comes from renewable sources, a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool, or public transportation, and it has 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Yeah, it rains a lot there–about 40 inches a year. But the city uses the rain to its advantage. Portland is a leader in utilizing strategies that manage stormwater runoff to enhance community and neighborhood livability at the same time strengthening the local economy. One of these sustainable strategies is the use of “green streets” that use vegetated facilities to manage stormwater runoff. A Green Street meets regulatory compliance and resource protection goals by using a natural systems approach to manage stormwater, reduce flows, improve water quality and enhance watershed health. And they are pretty good looking.
Portland’s comprehensive Green Street approach has been implemented as an important development strategy to:
• Reduce polluted stormwater entering Portland’s rivers and streams
• Improve pedestrian and bicycle safety
• Divert stormwater from the sewer system and reduce basement flooding, sewer backups and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to the Willamette River
• Reduce impervious surface so stormwater can infiltrate to recharge groundwater and surface water
• Increase urban green space
• Improve air quality and reduce air temperatures
• Reduce demand on the city’s sewer collection system and the cost of constructing expensive pipe systems
• Address requirements of federal and state regulations to protect public health and restore and protect watershed health
• Increase opportunities for industry professionals.