Using Green Infrastructure to Fight Polluted Runoff
1000 Friends is working with municipalities in southeast WI to help them clean up our waterways by using “green designs.” While we know that we can do a better job of reducing stormwater pollution by using strategies like bio-swales and green roofs, many communities have local laws that make it very difficult to use these and other kinds of green infrastructure.
With the help of a major grant from the Fund for Lake Michigan, we are reviewing local codes and ordinances to identify those laws which create barriers to implementing green infrastructure. Our project, “Prioritizing Codes and Ordinances in the Menomonee Watershed for Green Infrastructure” addresses one of the key barriers: municipal codes and ordinances that limit the implementation of green infrastructure.
Green infrastructure is a proven and effective means to improve water quality and habitat by reducing stormwater pollution that flows into our waterways, but there remain critical barriers to its implementation.
Municipal codes and ordinances have a broad impact, as they govern and can incentivize or deter green infrastructure implementation by both the private and public sectors. Modifications to local codes, ordinances, and review processes can encourage municipalities, builders and developers as well as property owners to implement green infrastructure practices.
Our program partners include Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Milwaukee County Department of Environmental Services, and Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust. The municipal partners for this project include: Germantown, Menomonee Falls, Brookfield, Elm Grove, Germantown, Wauwatosa, Butler, West Milwaukee, and the City of Milwaukee. Juli Beth Hinds of Birchline Planning, a nationally recognized expert, is our consultant for the project.
The project consists of 3 phases:
Phase 1 – conduct update to Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s 2005 audit of codes and ordinances;
Phase 2 – prioritize codes and ordinances needing revision by aligning with the needs of the watershed restoration plan and GIS analysis;
Phase 3 – meet with our municipal partners to discuss recommendations and develop strategies to move prioritized revisions forward in their communities.
This project builds local capacity and brings technical assistance for this work at a time when municipalities are facing restricted budgets and reductions in personnel. By prioritizing needed revisions with the watershed restoration implementation plan and GIS analysis, the project will guide the efforts of municipal staff to undertake the work of code revisions where those changes will have the largest impact.
Three central objectives of the project:
1) clearly outline barriers to green infrastructure that exist in current codes and ordinances that either prohibit or inhibit greater adoption of green infrastructure;
2) increase the potential for revisions of green infrastructure-friendly codes by prioritizing codes for municipalities;
3) further enhance the ability of the municipality to advance codes/ordinance revisions by providing new language for the revisions tailored to their needs.
While the project focuses on the Menomonee River watershed municipalities, the approach will be replicable and will help to facilitate the development of strategic code and ordinance revisions in other communities within watersheds draining to Lake Michigan. This would lead to greater widespread adoption and implementation of green infrastructure practices.
Read a powerpoint presentation by Kate Morgan, Water Policy Director regarding the project.