April 26, 2014

Mayor Emanuel Unveils First Projects to Be Funded Under Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, New Grant Funding From EPA

New EPA Funding Will Add to the City’s Green Infrastructure Fund

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Water Management (DWM) today announced the first round of green stormwater management projects to be funded by the Mayor’s $50 million Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy.

“Without green space to absorb rainfall, Chicago’s sewer system is forced to handle large volumes of stormwater, which often lead to flooding events that can damage homes and disrupt lives,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Incorporating green infrastructure into existing and ongoing capital projects will help to reduce flooding, protect the environment and strengthen our neighborhoods.”

As part of the Mayor’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, which is one of the largest voluntary investments in this type of infrastructure by an American City, DWM has worked with City agencies to identify opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure into existing and ongoing capital projects. For 2014, DWM has identified 39 such projects, which include four schoolyard projects, five complete streets projects and 30 traffic calming projects. In sum, these 39 projects will receive $6.1 million in funding from DWM and will leverage nearly $18 million in additional funding from Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and other partners.

“In addition to improving the management of rainfall and runoff, green stormwater infrastructure has significant environmental benefits, enhancing air quality and improving biodiversity,” said DWM Commissioner Tom Powers, P.E. “Under the Mayor’s direction, the Department of Water Management will continue to work with sister agencies and City departments to identify additional opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure technologies into various City projects.”

Working with CPS and MWRD, DWM will provide funding to the Space to Grow program, an initiative by Openlands and Healthy Schools Campaign to convert public school asphalt schoolyards into green playgrounds. Donald Morrill Math & Science Elementary School, Virgil Grissom Elementary School, George Leland Elementary School and Theophilus Schmid Elementary School are currently in the design phase, with construction anticipated to begin this summer. These projects will contain several green infrastructure components, including rain gardens, bioswales and permeable pavement to help absorb rainfall.

CDOT and DWM are also collaborating to include green infrastructure for approximately 30 traffic calming bumpouts at various locations throughout the City. DWM and CDOT will also incorporate green infrastructure into five complete streets projects this year, which will include infiltration planters, tree pits, permeable pavement and bioswale. These projects will be at the following locations:

• Argyle between Broadway and Sheridan
• Cottage Grove between 77th and 83rd
• Leland between Clark and the Lakefront
• State Street between 35th and 55th
• Oak Park Avenue between Irving Park Road and Forest Preserve Drive

Additionally, Mayor Emanuel, Senator Dick Durbin and Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley announced that the City has received two Shoreline Cities grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) totaling $1 million under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to support green infrastructure. The first grant will help CDOT install green infrastructure along a 1-mile segment of Leland Avenue on the City’s north side as part of the Leland Avenue Neighborhood Greenway project. This work will include the installation of traffic-control measures that will incorporate green infrastructure like bioswales and infiltration planters. It is estimated that, once complete, this project will prevent approximately 868,000 gallons of untreated stormwater from entering the City’s combined sewer system each year, helping to reduce the likelihood of combined sewer system overflows into Lake Michigan.

The second EPA grant will help the Chicago Park District to install green infrastructure, including vegetated bioswales and permeable pavers) at a 200,000 square foot parking lot in Lincoln Park. Currently, this parking lot discharges its stormwater to more than 25 catch basins and 3,200 linear feet of sewer that flows into Chicago’s combined sewer system. The redesigned parking lot will allow for the retention and infiltration of more than four million gallons of water on average per year, greatly reducing the amount of untreated stormwater that would otherwise be discharged into the City’s combined sewer system and cause sewer system overflows into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. This resulting reduction in stormwater runoff entering the City’s sewer system will also prevent basement flooding in the homes of nearby residents.

Last fall, Mayor Emanuel announced that $50 million of current spending on upgrades and improvements to the City’s water and sewer infrastructure over the next five years will be dedicated to investments in green stormwater management. The goals outlined in the green stormwater infrastructure strategy, which was formally released today and can be viewed at http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/env/ChicagoGreenStormwaterInfrastructureStrategy.pdf, fall in line with the goals outlined in Sustainable Chicago 2015, as well as with the commitments made through Building a New Chicago.