Spartanburg Creek Restoration Rethinks Stormwater Management
At first glance, Harvest Park doesn’t look like much. There’s a café and a farmers market. An urban farmer tends to some green plants growing in a small plot. At the end of the block, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine stands taller than the rest of the buildings. But they are all pieces in a long-term plan to transform a community. The Northside Initiative is a multifaceted approach to building a sustainable community, including affordable housing, access to healthy foods, job training programs, and linear park designed for more appearance. South Carolina Public Radio’s Vince Kolb-Lugo speaks with Community Service director Mitch Kennedy, Stormwater Manager, Jay Squires, and Senior Project Manager, Ward Marrotti about recreating a stream and making a more resilient community.
“This project is a project that we have been working on for the last three years. We finally got approval in May of 2016,” says Squires.
It encompasses an urban mitigation area about 2,000ft. long, and 100ft. to 150ft. wide at some points. The stream restoration is funded largely through a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to offset the unavoidable impacts to the environment per section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
Similar to other parts of the state, Spartanburg sits in an impaired watershed with lots of impervious surfaces covering what was once its historic floodplain. Now, as part of an effort to make more communities resilient to future storm events, new building standards are being incorporated into the Northside Initiative’s redevelopment plan.
Squires says, "we want to make sure that the local residents and other folks understand the ramifications of water quality and mitigation efforts, and how that impacts them locally."
In order to recreate the stream, the city of Spartanburg is going to daylight nearly 1,100ft of storm drains stretching a couple of city blocks. Unlike the straight channel, which was designed to convey water away and out of sites as quickly as possible, the new streambed will introduce meandering bends. This ebb and flow helps to address two major issues with runoff.
The serpentine shape enable the water flowing through it to brush against the banks where it can filter through the root systems of the vegetation growing in the riparian corridor. Additional BMPS, or best management practices, will filter pollutants out of the water, improving water quality, decreasing turbidity, and boosting the local ecology.
What's more, development is prohibited in the riparian buffers. The idea is simple: keep property out of areas with the highest risk of flooding. Now, instead of water creeping into the crawl space of a home, it will spread out over open space before infiltrating back into the ground.
The plan also calls for trails to encourage residents and visitors to walk the redeveloped community. And along those paths, signs will illustrate how restoring the streambed affects water quality.
Squires says the project is part stormwater management, part education.
“We want to make sure that the local residents and other folks understand the ramifications, of water quality and mitigation efforts and how that impacts them locally.”