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When it comes to flooding, could green solutions help? Villag mulls green infrastructure to alleviate stormwater problems

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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media Engineers, officials and local residents at a meeting outlining possible green infrastructure solutions to the village's flooding problems. Pictured are Michelle Mormile (far left) and Donna Verna (second from left) from Crawford and Associates, and Village Trustee Nancy Warner (center).
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media A meeting at the Ravena Village Hall outlined the possibilities of green infrastructure to address the long-standing stormwater flooding issues in the village. Pictured (far right) is Ravena Mayor Bill Misuraca.
February 13, 2018 12:15 am

RAVENA — Heavy rainfall can lead to big flooding problems in the village of Ravena. In fact, in some areas it can reach up to a building’s doorway.

While new pipes and drainage infrastructure would address the issue, that is a pricey proposition — which could cost millions of dollars.

So in an attempt to relieve at least some of the problem in a much less costly manner, the village of Ravena is looking at green infrastructure that would include “natural” ways to deal with stormwater, rather than piping it away.

In December 2017, the village was awarded a grant to complete a green infrastructure feasibility study that would look at ways the village could, relatively inexpensively, address the flooding issue by adding natural elements like rain gardens, bioretention areas, green roofs, cisterns and rain barrels, planters (either above or below ground), porous pavements that absorb water, and the like.

On Feb. 1, the village held a meeting with the firm hired to conduct the study, Crawford and Associates Engineering and Land Surveying, to see what was possible.

“We are looking to identify opportunities to use green infrastructure to manage storm water and relieve pressure on the undersized stormwater system and reduce the occurrence of stormwater entering the village’s sanitary system,” said General Manager Donna Verna from Crawford and Associates.

The study looked at areas that experience flooding following heavy rains in the village.

“We are looking at municipally-owned properties like sidewalks, but some are privately owned, like St. Patrick’s Church, Faith Plaza, the senior center, and Pieter B. Coeymans Elementary School,” Verna said.

The grant was funded by the Department of Environmental Conservation and came at no cost to the village.

“Crawford and Associates applied for a grant on behalf of the village, and the village was awarded $40,000 to conduct a study of green infrastructure opportunities,” Village Trustee Nancy Warner said.

Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soil and other elements and practices to restore some of the natural processes that manage water.

There are some areas in the village that have more problems with stormwater than others, and areas where flooding can be a real problem. While green infrastructure would not completely solve the problem, it would be a step in the right direction, officials said.

“We are hoping to begin the process of alleviating flooding we experience from the old creek bed on Bruno Boulevard, Russell Avenue and Clement Avenue,” Mayor Bill Misuraca said. “The floodwaters can get really high. It’s been happening for a long time, and we are just hoping to address it.”

As part of the study, Crawford and Associates looked at flooding in the village and its causes, including the drainage system, previous studies, and ways the capacity of the drainage system could be increased.

Part of the problem is a familiar one to village residents — aging pipes.

“As years went by, the pipes that were put in years ago are now undersized,” Verna said.

But putting in new stormwater pipes would be very expensive. “It would be over $5 million to replace the pipes in the village,” according to Verna.

While state grant money is available for infrastructure projects, it usually goes to water supply pipes, “but not so much for stormwater,” Verna said.

With new pipes such a costly project, the idea for green infrastructure as a way of at least alleviating the problem came up.

“We thought green infrastructure could be a way to deal with this and reduce pressure on the existing stormwater system,” Verna said. “Green infrastructure won’t solve the problem of flooding in the village, but it may reduce pressure somewhat, and it can help add to the aesthetics of the village with more green space.”

Engineer Michelle Mormile, of Crawford and Associates, explained how these types of projects work.

“Green infrastructure is a way to manage more frequent rainfall events,” Mormile said. “It can be retrofitted into existing communities and still have aesthetic value… It can be part of the community and add value, while at the same time treating stormwater.”

Over the next few months, Crawford and Associates is expected to assess various properties to identify areas that would be appropriate for green infrastructure.

Some potential sites, Mormile said, could include the village municipal building, the Ravena Fire Department, the Ravena Rescue Squad and Senior Projects building, St. Patrick’s Church, the Faith Plaza parking lot, Main Street, Orchard Avenue, the elementary school, Cottage Street and more.

“Our study will look at municipal and private properties, and look at sites that are good for green infrastructure that would qualify for grant funding,” Mormile said.

Applications for the next round of grant funding that could be used to implement a green infrastructure plan would be due in July of this year, according to Verna. Grant decisions would be made in December.

Verna and Mormile stressed that green infrastructure would not completely resolve flooding issues in the village, but it could help.

“Green infrastructure won’t solve the entire problem, but as you add more green infrastructure to the village, it will slow it down,” Mormile said, adding it would also eliminate some sources of flood water.

“This won’t be a fix-all, but it shows we are serious and we want to move forward to address the problem,” Village Trustee Nancy Warner said.

There are already 10 rain gardens in Albany County, including one by the Ravena VFW building in Mosher Park, according to Peter Bayzon from Albany County Soil and Water.