A new storm water management credit trading program resulting from a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Metropolitan Planning Council hasn't gotten a lot of attention since it was announced back in June (see our story on page 6), which is kind of a shame.
We get it. Storm water management discussions don't generally draw a crowd – unless it rains a whole heck of a lot and your basement floods. Then there's the usual complaining about how sewers don't work and questions about why some mythical Deep Tunnel tender slept through the flooding and forgot to flip the magic "floodgate" switch.
But real solutions for storm water management – building green infrastructure to direct rain water runoff away from the sewer system – that doesn't have the same je ne sais quoi as asking the village to help me pay to install a check valve in front of my house.
We did a little asking around about what village officials thought of this new credit trading program – it's a little arcane but you can find out more about it at metroplanning.org/news/8875/StormStore-MWRD-Pilot-in-Cook-County – and we didn't sense a great amount of enthusiasm.
It's not for single-family properties. It's for larger scale development, both private and public and it's a way to both create capacity for storm water and provide a way to buy credits for capacity, because there isn't the ability to create it in a specific location.
The pilot program, which is being rolled out in the Lower Des Plaines River Watershed (that's us) and the Little Calumet River Watershed, is seen as a way to get desirable developments built while creating incentives to build storm water capacity in a sustainable fashion.
Maybe this is going to take a little time and education – the MPC and TNC are reportedly going to launch educational webinars about the program soon – but we see this as a real opportunity for local governments – municipalities, school districts, libraries, park districts – to initiate green infrastructure projects and actively include them in renovation projects and new projects.
They can encourage, as part of the plan review process, private developers to consider adding green infrastructure to their projects, with the added benefit of being able to sell any excess capacity in the form of credits to other developers.
If the last decade has taught us anything, it's that these heavy rain events are becoming more frequent and more intense. In communities like Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside where the traditional storm water infrastructure is a century or more old, systems just don't have the capacity to handle all of that runoff, hence the flooded streets, yards and basements.
Municipalities have the opportunity here to be leaders in the field of storm water management, and the beneficiaries will be residents looking for relief. This isn't going to happen overnight and no initiative is going to eliminate flooding completely, but this is an opportunity to change the thinking a bit.
We encourage our local governments to explore these opportunities when they present themselves, and maybe they'll just catch on.