News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 24, 2011

Riverscape to tout ‘green’ infrastructure in Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE — Environmental design specialists told local community leaders Wednesday that “green” infrastructure improvements can help Terre Haute meet federal clean water mandates.

Design specialists from two Indianapolis-based firms talked to members of Wabash River Development and Beautification – better known as Riverscape – and others Wednesday morning about green infrastructure projects currently in the planning or development stages in various U.S. cities.

Green infrastructure, or GI, includes such things as “rain gardens,” porous sidewalks and other methods of collecting and managing stormwater.

Stormwater storage methods using GI is “a lot less expensive” than traditional stormwater management systems, said Ted Blahnik, an engineer with Williams Creek, an Indianapolis-based firm specializing in ecological engineering and consulting. John Jackson, an environmental design specialist with Ratio Architects of Indianapolis also took part in the meeting.

Indiana State University is looking at ways to take all 55 of its campus buildings off of the city’s combined stormwater and wastewater system, said Kevin Runion, associate vice president for facilities management at ISU. That could reduce the amount of combined rain and stormwater overflow (CSO) that the Terre Haute wastewater treatment system would be required to handle, he said.

“We’re doing things like this already,” Runion said of green infrastructure projects.

Terre Haute’s long-term CSO plan, which was submitted to state environmental officials earlier this month for final approval, takes future green infrastructure improvements into account, said Chuck Ennis, city engineer, who is also a member of the Riverscape committee. In fact, an approximately 2-million gallon underground storage tank planned for construction near First and Spruce streets could be significantly reduced in size, or even eliminated, if enough green infrastructure projects are completed in the next 15 - 20 years, he said. Construction of that tank was intentionally delayed until the end of the two-decade project to allow green infrastructure to have an impact, Ennis said.

The more than one-hour meeting, which took place in the Vigo County Annex beginning at 7 a.m., did not include more than brief mention of a proposed holding pond for CSO on property formerly owned by International Paper. According to the city’s CSO plan, that pond will store CSO – combined storm and wastewater – temporarily after a large rain event. John Mutchner, president and chairman of Riverscape, noted after the meeting that he remains opposed to using the pond for CSO storage. A riverfront plan developed by HNTB, a local engineering firm, calls for using that area for recreation, he said.

The goal of Wednesday morning’s meeting, which was attended by about 25 people, was to allow ISU to show the potential of green infrastructure improvements for reducing the need for stormwater storage, said Fred Nation, a member of Riverscape. That model could then be extended to the rest of the city “making our community a greener and more sustainable environment,” he said.

The City of Terre Haute plans to continue to make green infrastructure improvements, Ennis said after the meeting. In the past three years, the city has constructed a “green” parking lot at Memorial Park and at the trailhead at Blakely Avenue and Locust Street, he said. The widening of Margaret Avenue is also being constructed to prevent stormwater from entering the sewer system, Ennis said.

“There’s a lot of agreement” between the city’s CSO control plan and those seeking more green infrastructure, Ennis said.

Mayor Duke Bennett, who did not attend the meeting, said the city will continue to tighten its rainwater collection requirements for new construction projects. He also said future green improvements will change the city’s CSO storage requirements. “Over the next 20 years that [CSO] plan will continue to evolve,” Bennett said.

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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