June 5, 2020 in Insights, Projects, and Sustainability

GMC and UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant release new tools for stormwater management

GMC Environmental, in partnership with the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, developed photo-based operations, inspection and maintenance tools for stormwater green infrastructure practices in coastal Georgia. The newly created resources, designed for stormwater managers, maintenance professionals/public works staff and environmental design professionals (engineers, landscape architects, planners, environmental designers), include a six-minute video highlighting permeable pavement maintenance and the role of stormwater green infrastructure in coastal Georgia, inspection checklists with photos of varying levels of performance, as well as fact sheets on coastal Georgia’s most common stormwater green infrastructure practices.

Without proper maintenance, stormwater green infrastructure/low impact development (GI/LID) practices will not perform as designed. While a fully functioning stormwater infrastructure system is essential to public health and safety, communities often lack the resources to determine maintenance needs and requirements for GI/LID practices. The tools and resources were created to ensure proper maintenance is occurring in order to address the range of pollutants associated with coastal nonpoint sources.

A picture is worth a thousand words
The idea for this project started in 2017 when GMC’s Savannah/Brunswick team (formerly Ecological Planning Group), facilitated a series of focus groups for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division to identify barriers for implementing the Coastal Stormwater Supplement of the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual, specifically GI/LID practices. Operations and maintenance guidance for GI/LID practices was a popular topic and common barrier for implementation. Participants expressed that inspectors often do not know what they are looking at when performing inspections, making it difficult to identify problems. Operations and maintenance guidance tools that provide more visual examples would help those inspecting and maintaining GI/LID practices to improve their understanding of what to look for and how certain conditions impact performance.

Maintenance guidance available in Appendix E of the 2016 Georgia Stormwater Management Manual and 2009 Coastal Stormwater Supplement is very wordy with few visual aids. These documents lack guidance on what indicates a maintenance need and how the listed rating categories of good, marginal, or poor should be defined.

In 2017, GMC was also working on a project with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to inventory and assess all GI/LID practices in coastal Georgia, which totaled more than 270 practices. Utilizing the photo database and other resources of the LID Inventory Project, as well as the technical expertise of Dr. Rob Brown, P.E., in GMC’s Brunswick office, UGA sought grant funding to enhance GI/LID operations, inspection and maintenance tools, and to offer two, one-day workshops in coastal Georgia.

Given the green light
These new GI/LID tools were revealed during two workshops held in February, and received  very positive response; 68% of workshop participants stated the Green Infrastructure Inspection and Maintenance Training “exceeded expectations,” and 95% “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that within 12 months, they planned to put into practice something they learned from the training.

Additionally, as a result of these training events, both the City of Brunswick and Glynn County have included the tools as recommended resources for inspection, operations and maintenance in their GI/LID plan updates as part of their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. The cities of Savannah and Garden City indicated that they would be updating their GI/LID plans to reference the tools as well. Based on requests to date, the tools have also been shared with the stormwater programs in the City of Atlanta, Athens-Clarke County and the City of Augusta.

Resources
These resources can be found on the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant website under “Stormwater Operation, Inspection and Maintenance Tools.”