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Ongoing coverage of South Carolina's recovery from the flooding of 2015.What had been Lindsay Langdale's Columbia home October 3, 2015 was a flooded ruin the next day.This coverage is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In October of 2015, South Carolina received rainfall in unprecedented amounts over just a few days time. By the time the rain began to slacken, the National Weather Service reported that the event had dumped more than two feet of water on the state. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the subsequent flooding was the worst in 75 years.

Spartanburg Creek Restoration Rethinks Stormwater Management

Ward Marotti cuts through thick vegetation. Beneath him rest drain pipes that will be daylighted as part of the Northside Linear Park creek restoration.
Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
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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. 

More on this story.

“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."

Conceptual design of the Greenville Branch Restoration and Northside Linear Park. The park will include a trail and educational signs about how the stream affects water quality.
Credit WK Dickson
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Conceptual design of the Greenville Branch Restoration and Northside Linear Park. The park will include a trail and educational signs about how the stream affects water quality.

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. 

Ward Marotti stands in the middle of the schannel where the new streambed will rest. The walls of the channel are heavily eroded because high volumes of channelized water pass through it, taking sediment in its current as it moves downstream.
Credit Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
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Ward Marotti stands in the middle of the channel where the new streambed will rest. The walls of the channel are heavily eroded because high volumes of channelized water pass through it, taking sediment in its current as it moves downstream.

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.”