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Portland’s Innovative Wet Weather Program Raises Community Awareness

The City of Portland’s Innovative Wet Weather Program (IWWP) run by the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) is a prime example of government-based leadership through action, in implementing a vast array of green infrastructure that focus’ primarily on stormwater management in an attempt to clean the rivers around Portland. Though focused on stormwater management, the IWWP also provides additional ecological services including the reduction of greenhouse gases and the urban heat island effect through an increase in vegetative cover; an increase in wildlife habitat through the reduction in first flush as well as residual pollutants reaching nearby streams and rivers and the increase in planting; and among others, an increase in human health and well-being through providing “traffic-calming, bike parking, place-making and community-building” projects (BES). Additional programs run by the BES as well as other outside organizations and community groups help to address additional green infrastructure necessities in the Portland area such as the removal of invasive species and the replanting of natives, the removal of culverts to restore more natural habitats around those areas, and the purchase of land for conservation and the preservation of “watershed and floodplain functions” (BES).

“Between 2002 and 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted the city $3.4 million to fund over 30 innovative public and private projects throughout Portland [including downspout disconnect, ecoroof, green street, infiltration planter, pavement removal and tree planting, pervious pavement, rain garden, vegetated planters, vegetated swales, and planning projects] that demonstrate sustainable, low-impact, stormwater management solutions” (BES). As stated, these projects allow Portland to provide examples to residents, and market green infrastructure to the public both in Portland, as well as other cities looking to incorporate similar green infrastructure practices. Portland has demonstrated an ability to provide effective, infrastructure cost-saving, aesthetically pleasing stormwater management solutions that are encouraging acting to engage residents and encourage an increase in the use of these systems both residentially and commercially.  “The city has received a wealth of positive feedback about the green street installations because of their beauty – they are valued by residents as an amenity, and this is one of the most important rewarding reasons to use green approaches whenever possible” (WERF).

To further raise awareness the IWWP also provides free workshops for both the lay person and professional alike interested in learning about and implementing green infrastructure projects into their homes, businesses, and designs. The IWWP also utilizes interpretive signs at stormwater management sites such as the rain garden at Portland Community College’s CLIMB Center for Advancement (BES).

By implementing these demonstration projects, Portland is able to then conduct research on the effects of these projects (reducing pollutants, sequestering greenhouse gases, etc.), in turn making improvements to the projects where research shows is to be necessary. The monitoring of these projects also allows the BES to quantify benefits and reduce the costs of maintenance (BES). This allows to city to make continual improvements and recommendations to other residents, businesses, or cities looking to implement similar projects.

Portland’s Innovative Wet Weather Program, working through action-based leadership is helping to (besides all the valuable ecological services its providing) strengthen the connection between the ecological processes of the city and its people through its programs; raise awareness and appreciation for green infrastructure projects, and encourage Portlander’s to embrace green infrastructure and make their own contributions. These efforts are not going unnoticed. Portland is a city that many aspiring “green” cities can look to for guidance, and the Innovative Wet Weather Program is a great example of a way to bring the public mindset into play with the benefits of implementing green infrastructure practices.

Image of NE Siskiyou Green Street Project, Portland, Oregon (BES)




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