Stormwater

EPA is Ready to Launch New Water Finance Program

By Joel Beauvais

There’s a lot of discussion right now about the need to reinvest in America’s infrastructure, and there’s no question that our aging water infrastructure needs to be at the top of the list. EPA’s surveys of communities across the country show that the U.S. needs about $660 billion in investments for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure over the next 20 years.  This infrastructure is critical to the protection of public health and the environment, and to the functioning of every aspect of our national economy.  As a country, we need to invest more in modernizing this infrastructure, we need to make our dollars work smarter and harder, and we need to do it in a way that supports all communities across the country.

Many people don’t know that EPA plays a central role in supporting water infrastructure development in large and small communities nationwide.  We administer the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs which, life-to-date, have supported over$151 billion in low-interest loans and other critical support for water infrastructure. FY 2016 alone accounted for $9.5 billion of such support. We also provide millions of dollars each year in training, technical assistance and direct support for small communities and communities in need.  In 2015, we set up a Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Finance Center, that serves as a “think-and-do” tank to spur innovation in water infrastructure finance and support communities in need.

Now, we’re getting ready to implement an innovative new program that could provide billions of additional dollars to support water infrastructure investment across the country.  The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) of 2014 created a new federal loan and guarantee program at EPA to accelerate investment in our nation’s water infrastructure. It was designed after the proven and highly successful TIFIA infrastructure loan program at the US Department of Transportation. WIFIA authorizes EPA to provide long-term, low-cost rate loans, at U.S. Treasury rates, for up to 49 percent of eligible project costs for projects that will cost at least $20 million for large communities and $5 million for small communities (population of 25,000 or less).  WIFIA is structured to work hand-in-hand with the State Revolving Funds – giving states and prospective borrowers the opportunity to decide which program is best to support a given project, or whether both together should do so.  The President’s FY17 Budget Proposal called for a $20 million investment in this program, which – because of the innovative way in which it’s structured – would be expected to support nearly $1 billion in loans for new water projects.

Over the past two years, EPA has been working hard to lay the foundations for this new program, so that we’re ready to implement it when Congress appropriates funding. We’ve made significant progress.  We’ve brought on new staff with the expertise and background to run the program effectively. This week we’re taking another big step, by issuing two rules to provide the administrative structure for the program.  The WIFIA Implementation Rule outlines the WIFIA program’s administrative framework, including the eligibility requirements, application process, project priorities and federal requirements for borrowers. It also explains the criteria EPA will use to select among project applicants, as well as EPA’s key priorities in this program, including adaptation to extreme weather and climate change, enhanced energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and repair rehabilitation, and replacement of aging infrastructure and conveyance systems.

The second rule we’re announcing today proposes fees to reimburse the agency for the cost of retaining financial, engineering and legal expertise needed to administer the program and underwrite loans effectively.  Congress provided for these fees when it enacted WIFIA, and this rule will ensure the program can be run sustainably. Next, we’ll publish a “Borrower’s Handbook” to help prospective borrowers determine whether WIFIA loans are the right choice for their projects and better understand the application process and program requirements.

WIFIA has the potential to substantially expand available federal funding for water infrastructure, and we at EPA are excited about this new opportunity.  This is about supporting our communities and the safe drinking water and clean water services upon which our public health and economic vitality depends.  We’re ready to get this program off the ground and begin providing low-cost loans for regionally and nationally significant projects.

For more information about the WIFIA program, visit www.epa.gov/wifia or contact WIFIA@EPA.GOV.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Mattapoisett rallies to prepare for weather ahead

By Amy Miller

Jeri Weiss, a drinking water specialist at EPA New England, has been working with the people of Mattapoisett this year, making trips and calls to this southeastern Massachusetts town sitting on the edge of Buzzards Bay. Weiss has consulted with officials and residents about the best ways to MattapIMGTEST5_2499prepare for climate change, and she has seen what a community can do when its best minds work together.

Recently, Jeri made the trip down the coast with Regional Administrator Curt Spalding. She hoped that he too could get a look at how Mattapoisett’s officials and Boy Scouts, educators and planners and citizens have come together to help ensure Mattapoisett will weather the weather ahead.

Accompanied by Jane Downing, chief of EPA’s drinking water program, Spalding met with the fire and police chief, the town manager, the water supervisor and citizens, including Nick Nicholson, former town drinking water superintendent, all of whom were proud to present their work.

“It meant a lot to me that [Curt and others from EPA] took the time to come to our town,” said Nicholson in a follow-up note to Jeri.

A cable TV crew talks to a Boy Scout about his flood preparation project.

A cable TV crew talks to a Boy Scout about his flood preparation project.

Because its pumping station is at sea level, Mattapoisett’s wastewater and drinking water systems may be at great risk if, or when, heavy rains come or sea levels rise. The town has been able to take advantage of funding provided by EPA’s Regional Applied Research and Regional Sustainable Environmental Research programs. These funds are allowing Mattapoisett to look at its challenges and identify actions to take if an evacuation was needed.

As project manager, Jeri worked with the town to make sure the community played a part in coming up with solutions.

“This community is so unbelievably fantastic,” Jeri said. “They really took on this project and ran with it.”

One of the things a core group of townspeople did as soon as the project began was to collect stories and pictures of how the town reacted to past extreme weather conditions. Community members were happy to tell their stories and share their memories. Curt heard from them how water flowed over the Route 6 dam during Hurricane Bob in 1991, inundating a drinking water well field. And he was told about a video the town is creating in which more than a dozen people, many in their 80s and 90s, recall how hard the town was hit in the 1938 hurricane.

In another video being produced by the local cable TV station, Old Rochester Cable TV, police and fire officials warn townspeople about how important it is to be prepared and to have evacuation plans in place.

While Boy Scouts in other towns may be forging trails or building benches, Boy Scout Jared Watson in Mattapoisett is helping his community envision their world after a major flood. The visualization, an Eagle Scout project, involves putting rings on utility poles to show how high water reached in past floods.

The Cable TV station has assigned an intern to take pictures comparing different spots before and after storms. And employees at the library, a beautifully rebuilt historic building where Curt met with the community, are collecting information on flooding and preparedness and putting up displays.

EPA’s role in this is to offer Mattapoisett options for protecting their drinking and wastewater plants – perhaps a wall, or relocation, or modifications on existing infrastructure. The point is to give the town alternatives.

From Jeri’s point of view, Mattapoisett is a model for how communities can work together to prepare.

As impressive as all the planning is, she found the attitude of the town leaders most extraordinary. Town Manager Mike Gagne told her Mattapoisett’s water and wastewater assets are important, but it’s the town’s people that really impress him.

“That,” said Jeri said, “is both admirable and true.”

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Amy Miller is in the Office of Public Affairs at EPA’s New England office.

For more about climate adaptations in Mattapoisett:

http://buzzardsbayaction.org/BBAC_CZM-Resilience-Grants_01282016.pdf

 

http://www.mattapoisett.net/public-health-nursing-services/pages/emergency-preparedness-residents-info

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Investing in America’s Water Infrastructure – Answering the “How to Pay?” Question

By Jim Gebhardt, CFA

Clean and reliable water is critical for life and, as our Administrator recently said, “needs to be available to everyone—no matter what part of the country you live, no matter how much money you make, and no matter the color of your skin.” Yet, despite the notion of water as an inalienable right and that most Americans value well-run drinking water and wastewater delivery systems, communities across the country continue to struggle with setting up adequate and sustainable revenue structures required to support needed infrastructure investment and system management.

That’s why we launched our Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center last year to explore leading-edge solutions to funding and revenue challenges, and identify and support best practices.

As I blogged about earlier, EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund has provided more than $141 billion in low-interest loans to state and local water infrastructure projects since 1987. Today these state-run programs operate with almost $60 billion in program equity that will continue to be available to support sustainable lending programs.

Looking ahead, we see lots of opportunities for states to support market-based solutions that address stormwater mitigation challenges, source water protection, on-site wastewater management, and marketplaces for nutrient pollution credit trading. It’s also encouraging to see some states exploring how their triple-A credit rating can be used to guarantee debt and provide additional credit access to stimulate these kind of water quality investments.

But we aren’t stopping there.

We’re looking at emerging and promising finance mechanisms that address water quality and quantity challenges such as Pay for Success, Pay for Performance, green bonds, energy and water performance contracting, water quality trading, and conservation financing strategies.

We’re researching procurement and funding strategies associated with public-private and public-public partnerships in the water sector.

We’re working with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina to develop public-private and public-public project (P3) profiles and an evaluation tool to help local officials determine if there is value in pursuing P3 opportunities in their community.

We’re busy developing a water finance information clearinghouse. The first portal will provide up to date information on stormwater management frameworks, funding and revenue solutions. We plan to launch the portal this fall.

No matter where you live, we are here to help. We also invite you to attend one of our upcoming engagement opportunities:

EPA Twitter Chat: On July 27 at 2 pm EST EPA experts will be answering your water infrastructure finance questions. Direct your questions to @EPAwater and use the hashtag #WaterFinance.

Environmental Financial Advisory Board meeting: On August 9 and 10 the Environmental Financial Advisory Board will meet in Denver, Colorado, to discuss ideas and advice to provide EPA on ways to lower the costs of and increase investments in environmental and public health protection.

Regional Finance Forums: EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center will continue hosting regional forums across the country to bring together communities with water infrastructure financing needs to network, hear local success stories from peers, and have an opportunity to meet key regional funding and technical assistance contacts. Check out our website for upcoming dates and locations.

About the author: Jim Gebhardt is the director for EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center. The Center identifies financing approaches for public health and environmental goals by providing financial expertise to help communities make better-informed decisions about drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Time to Invest in America’s Water Infrastructure is Now

By Jim Gebhardt, CFA

Communities across the country are facing the immediate challenges of aging and inadequate drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Most of our country’s underground water infrastructure was built 50 or more years ago, and in some older cities, water mains are a century old. The implications of deteriorating infrastructure can be felt nationwide— each year our country experiences about 240,000 water main breaks, $2.6 billion is lost as our water mains leak trillions of gallons of treated drinking water, and billions of gallons of raw sewage are discharged into local surface waters from aging sewer overflows.

Despite significant federal, state, and local expenditures, infrastructure investment has fallen short. Further, the cumulative investment gap is expected to widen substantially over the next 20 years with federal investments occupying a smaller space. EPA’s Clean Watershed Needs Survey and Drinking Water Needs Survey show that over $655 billion dollars in water infrastructure is needed over the next 20 years to keep pace with projected investment needs.

Over the years EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund have both been very successful at addressing important water quality and public health needs of communities across the country. With these funds we have supported state and local water infrastructure investment that provides essential services and reduces pollution in our waterways.

While our state revolving funds have been highly successful, there are still too many communities facing infrastructure challenges caused by inadequate revenue and investment.

That’s why in 2015 we launched EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center to identify and promote best management practices that can help local leaders to make informed decisions for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure that are consistent with local needs. The Center promotes the effective use of federal funds, identifies new approaches for procuring infrastructure services and capital investment for local and state governments, and employs strategies that can better serve small and lower income communities.

To explore the unique funding and financing challenges of these communities, EPA will be hosting a national convening on July 19 in Washington, DC, where state, local, and federal leaders will share best practices in coordinating funding and showcase innovative local financing solutions. I’m confident that the robust representation of states, utilities, NGOs, academics, and others will produce meaningful and productive conversations and solutions. Watch for a blog that details the conversations and next steps from the event.

The time to act is now.

About the author: Jim Gebhardt is the Director for EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center. The Center identifies financing approaches for public health and environmental goals by providing financial expertise to help communities make better-informed decisions about drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Green Streets Make a Visible Difference in Norfolk

by Andrew Wynne

EPA’s Building Blocks program is helping to turn streets - like this one in Norfolk’s Chesterfield Heights neighborhood – into green streets

EPA’s Building Blocks program is helping to turn streets – like this one in Norfolk’s Chesterfield Heights neighborhood – into green streets.

The occasional pop-up shower or thunderstorm is commonplace here in the mid-Atlantic during the spring season. While these dreary, rainy days can seem to linger and provide ample time for a good book or movie marathon, they also provide important resources for our gardens, lawns, and trees. In more urban environments, green infrastructure helps to mitigate stormwater runoff and flooding, while providing environmental, social, and economic benefits.

In low-lying communities and those with high percentages of impervious surface cover, even mild storm events can wreak havoc, leading to storm sewer overflows and flooding. Sitting at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and bound by numerous tributaries, Norfolk, Virginia is already beginning to feel the effects of a changing climate, as rising sea levels and tidal waters combine to create a wet and potent cocktail for the coastal city.

EPA is collaborating with Norfolk city leaders and local stakeholders to build community and infrastructure capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change, improve water quality, and enhance quality of life in neighborhoods. Recently, EPA’s mid-Atlantic office coordinated with the City of Norfolk on a Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities technical assistance workshop as part of the Making a Visible Difference (MVD) in Communities effort.

The workshop brought together community members and various city departments to identify and implement green and complete streets, seeing green infrastructure practices as opportunities to manage stormwater, reduce flooding and pollution, increase green space, and lower demand on the city’s stormwater drainage system, while also making roadways safer, more inviting, and able to accommodate multiple users and modes of transportation. These practices are integral to the city’s plans to address resilience and prepare for sea level rise.

Interested in learning more about how you can incorporate green infrastructure practices into your own home or community? Check out EPA’s Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWIZ) tool and additional green infrastructure resources, including fact sheets, design and implementation guides, and funding opportunities. You can find out more about our work in Norfolk and other communities around the mid-Atlantic region via our EPA Smart Growth webpage.

 

About the author: Andrew Wynne works in EPA Region 3’s Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division on community-based sustainability and climate adaptation programs. An avid traveler and road-tripper, he enjoys exploring unique environments through SCUBA diving and cross-country skiing.

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Green Streets: A Road to Clean Water

by Tom Damm

As seen from my cubicle, the project is nearing completion.

As seen from my cubicle, the project is nearing completion.

The busy backhoe operating outside my cubicle window in Center City Philadelphia offers the latest and, for me, the loudest evidence of the work communities are doing to turn their main streets into more absorbent green streets.

In this case, the far sidewalk along the signature Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 16th to 19th streets near City Hall is getting churned up as the Philadelphia Water Department makes room for a greener walkway with a system to capture stormwater in a series of underground storage and infiltration trenches.

When completed, rain from a storm will flow into a “green inlet” that leads to the underground trenches and either infiltrate through the natural subsoil or be stored and then released back slowly into the sewer system.  The trenches will help prevent the combined sewage/stormwater system from getting inundated and spilling its contents into local waters.

Green streets are catching on in the mid-Atlantic region as a way to alleviate flooding, prevent sewer overflows and give an economic and aesthetic lift to downtown blocks.

EPA and its state and non-profit partners are helping to create green streets in big cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore and the District of Columbia, and smaller communities like the port towns along the Anacostia River.

The Borough of Etna, just outside Pittsburgh, last week earned a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for its Green Streetscape Initiative.  That project, supported with EPA funds, is transforming the borough’s flood-prone downtown with green techniques to intercept runoff from rooftops and paved surfaces.  The borough manager says she no longer introduces herself at meetings as Mary Ellen from “Wetna.”

Other communities are tapping into the novel Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) program – an EPA partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Trust, supported by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  In its first five years, the G3 program has provided more than $6 million and leveraged an equal amount in matching funds for green street design, construction and research.

Check out this new EPA video highlighting a few of the existing green streets projects and the people behind them.

 

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

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Green Infrastructure: Innovative Solutions to Stormwater Pollution

By Barbara Pualani

EPA identifies stormwater as the number one threat to our waterways. Stormwater pollution is the result of development and the heavy use of impervious materials, such as concrete and metals, in our everyday construction. These surfaces discourage water from soaking into the ground, so when it rains, stormwater runs off these surfaces and into our water bodies, carrying solid waste and pollution with it. Green infrastructure provides an effective solution to the stormwater pollution problem by taking advantage of nature’s inherent properties. By using pervious surfaces that allow water to soak into the ground, pollutants can be filtered out before entering waterways. In a joint project, Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation produced an educational film “Stormwater Pollution and Green Infrastructure” (shown below), in order to highlight this very important issue. Director of the Clean Water Division at EPA Region 2, Joan Matthews, featured in the video, touts the success of green infrastructure projects everywhere – “green infrastructure works and it helps to reduce pollutants.” Watch, learn, enjoy – we all have a role to play in reducing stormwater pollution.

To learn more and for more stormwater education resources, visit: www.NassauSWCD.org

About the author: Barbara Pualani serves as a speechwriter for EPA Region 2. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She resides in Brooklyn and is a graduate of University of Northern Colorado and Columbia University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Go With the Flow—Green Infrastructure in Your Neighborhood

By Chris Kloss

Ten years ago, we didn’t see much green infrastructure for water resources around our neighborhoods. It was more of a novelty than a focused approach to sustainable development and construction. A few cities started using and experimenting with green infrastructure techniques such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, and bioswales which are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The green was a complement to the gray infrastructure, the established system of underground tunnels and sewers. Together, green and gray infrastructure provided a holistic approach to manage stormwater for cleaner water.

Tools, Strategies and Lessons Learned from EPA Green Infrastructure Assistance Projects booklet coverAs the word spread about the early successes of these communities, a growing cadre of public works pioneers joined the movement to apply its principles and techniques to managing their water resources. EPA joined in their discussions, providing support to these pioneers through our technical assistance program. Today, EPA is releasing a summary report of the results from this program that we hope leads to even greater growth in green infrastructure.

Tools, Strategies and Lessons Learned from EPA Green Infrastructure Assistance Projects 

Many of the green infrastructure thinking and practices we see today are not new. Gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavement were standard practices for harnessing and managing water hundreds of years ago. They were old-time technology that let water do what it naturally does —seep back into the earth where it can flow back naturally to streams and rivers, replenish groundwater, or be absorbed by plants and trees.

Communities are now relearning these techniques, and green infrastructure is working for communities across the urban spectrum, from smaller cities like Clarksville, Georgia to midsized, midwestern cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin and large metropolitan regions like Los Angeles, California.

The summary document outlines how these and other community green infrastructure projects are successful. It also highlights benefits, offering examples for city managers to think creatively about how they can design their communities for better health, abundant water resources and improved quality of life.

We can all be part of better design for our communities. It just takes a different way of looking at things. When I’m out with my kids, I talk about how when it rains the water runs off streets, parking lots and other hard surfaces and flows down the stormwater drains into the sewer systems where it can’t be used for anything else. Now armed with the information, they’re always on the lookout for the missed opportunities in our neighborhood for letting the water go where it wants to, where it can do the most good for the watershed where they live.

I hope this report contributes to a movement where green infrastructure becomes standard practice. Every time we set out to design or build, repair or remodel our water systems let’s remember to think green infrastructure and let water do what it naturally does.

Learn more at www.epa.gov/greeninfrastructure and check out the 2016 Green Infrastructure Webcast Series for in-depth presentations throughout the year.

About the Author: Chris Kloss is Acting Chief of the Municipal Branch in EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management. The branch oversees the wet-weather permitting programs (stormwater, combined sewer systems, and sanitary sewer systems) and the green infrastructure program. Chris has nearly 20 years of experience in the clean water field including time in the private and nonprofit sectors prior to joining EPA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Waterways, wetlands, and winter wonder

by Jennie Saxe

The Schuylkill Center’s Rain Yard.

The Schuylkill Center’s rain yard

It’s true: autumn is drawing to a close. But don’t let the thought of a deeper chill in the air keep you inside all winter long! There are still some great places that you can go to experience the outdoors and learn more about the waterways right here in the Philadelphia area.

In the hilly Roxborough section of the city, on the edge of the Schuylkill River, you’ll find The Schuylkill Center. A conservation and environmental education fixture for 50 years, The Schuylkill Center is a peaceful refuge in the middle of an urban area, with miles of hiking trails. In the center’s rain garden, you can simulate a rainy day by using a functional sculpture that pulls rainwater from the roof and directs it to different types of landcover – like asphalt, lawns, and meadows – to test the infiltration of stormwater runoff. If the cold air is just too much to handle, head inside to experience an art installation inspired by a pocket of marshy land in New Jersey’s Meadowlands. The natural cedar forest habitat of the area was destroyed, but it is evolving into a unique ecosystem, ringed by shopping centers with a world-famous skyline as its backdrop.

A view across the impoundment at America's First Urban Refuge.

A view across the impoundment at America’s First Urban Refuge

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is another great waterside recreation spot for hikers, bikers, and dog-walkers. The tidal marshes and native plants at America’s First Urban Refuge are critical habitat for birds, fish, turtles, and more. The trail that circles the 145-acre impoundment offers many opportunities to spot flora and fauna in this rich habitat. The refuge is open year-round; even in December you’re likely to spot a variety of wildlife, while “birds” of a different kind take off from the airport, just a stone’s throw away.

And in the heart of Center City Philadelphia, take a stroll through Sister Cities Park. The design inspiration for this park came from the nearby Wissahickon Valley. Children and adults alike can climb a trail snaking along a miniature stream that is planted with native species. The park’s café is topped with a green roof that helps cool the building and soaks up rainwater.

Grab your gloves and lace up your boots – a winter wonderland of woods, wetlands, and waterways awaits!

 

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs. The gallery show, Hackensack Dreaming, will be at The Schuylkill Center until December 19.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Walk your waterway today!

by Virginia Thompson

A view from the trail, high above the Schuylkill River

A view from the trail, high above the Schuylkill River

There’s nothing better than going for a walk in the fall to take in the cool, crisp autumn air.  We are fortunate that Southeastern Pennsylvania has an abundance of trails along the region’s waterways that make it fun and easy to explore a wide variety of scenic, historic, and cultural resources.

Along the Schuylkill River, the Cynwyd Heritage Trail demonstrates that these trails offer more than waterfront recreation: they also provide economic development, opportunities for regional coordination, and improved air quality.  The recently opened Manayunk Bridge, connecting the Cynwyd Heritage Trail – an abandoned portion of a rail line – to the Manayunk section of Philadelphia, now offers residents in both areas easier access to restaurants, parks, shops, and services, along with a breathtaking view from high above the river.  What used to be an area of manufacturing on both sides of the Schuylkill River (including the road that would become the Schuylkill Expressway) has given way to growing communities of residents, recreational opportunities, restaurants, and more. A weekly farmers’ market is now located on the Cynwyd side of the bridge, accessible to both city and suburban residents. Interpretive signs along the trail provide photos and descriptions of the history and geography of the area with information from the Lower Merion Historical Society.  The trail even incorporates green infrastructure: the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will plant a rain garden of native flowers and shrubs in a striking palette of colors to help prevent stormwater run-off.

The trail provides easy access to all of these amenities without use of a car!  Perfect for walkers, bikers, and strollers, the trail is such a direct path between Cynwyd and Manyunk that it is now shorter and easier to walk or bike than drive between the two areas. Less traffic means cleaner air. And as we’ve blogged before, cleaner air contributes to cleaner water, too.

The Cynwyd Heritage Trail is one of many that connect to a large regional trail network that is part of the East Coast Greenway. Many of the Pennsylvania segments of this trail network snake along waterways like Darby Creek, Cobbs Creek, and the Delaware River. As more trails are built and connect to this network, more travelers can choose to walk or bike, further reducing the number of automobile trips and helping to clean our air.

I am looking forward to more walks–in all seasons–to explore the rich trail system and the waterways of the Philadelphia area.

 

About the Author:  Virginia Thompson works at EPA Region 3 to help protect the natural resources of our country.  She enjoys walking and biking whenever and wherever she can.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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