Partners in Progress

by Tom Damm

In a room inside Talen Energy Stadium normally reserved for Philadelphia Union soccer player interviews, EPA and a group of partners had a game-changing announcement to make earlier this year.

It had nothing to do with soccer but a lot to do with goals – goals for the City of Chester, Pennsylvania to prevent flooding in its neighborhoods, revive its economy, and reduce stormwater pollution impacting its local creeks and the Delaware River.

EPA was joined by Chester, state, and private sector officials to announce a Community-Based Public-Private Partnership, or CBP3, to plan, finance, build and maintain up to $50 million in green stormwater infrastructure in Chester.

The Chester Stormwater Authority and its private partner, Corvias, have plans to transform the face of the city, turning hundreds of acres of hard surfaces into absorbent green spaces and working with small, minority-owned businesses to generate hundreds of local jobs in the process.

Green Infrastructure not only helps prevent stormwater runoff and localized flooding, it creates safe walkable communities that enhance the quality of life for the people who live there. The green features will mimic nature and allow stormwater to soak in rather than rush into streets and nearby waters carrying trash, bacteria, heavy metals and other pollutants.

As the speakers took turns at the podium, the launch of the partnership was met with great joy, appreciation and more than a few Amens from Chester residents.

Chester officials called it an opportunity to “turn the page” in their distressed city.  Corvias praised the city’s “courage” to try a new approach.  And the state infrastructure finance agency, PENNVEST, confirmed a $1 million grant to kick-start the effort.

EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region provided technical and planning assistance to help design and develop the partnership, led by our Water Protection Division Deputy Director Dominique Lueckenhoff.   She was instrumental in developing the prototype for the concept – the successful CBP3 in Prince George’s County, Maryland – and has written a playbook for other local governments to follow.

Since the launch event, the Chester Stormwater Authority Partnership has developed a Long-Term Implementation Plan and conducted six community meetings to roll out the plan, with significant local attendance and input.  Five more meetings are scheduled in the coming months.  Feedback from the meetings is being used to determine the priority order of projects.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

[Read More …]