Thursday 6th June, 2013
9:30am to 10:00am
The Staten Island Bluebelt, one of the largest watershed-level stormwater BMP programs in the U.S., employs waterways and wetlands as a natural means of providing stormwater management, flood control, and water quality improvement over a 12,000-acre region of Staten Island, N.Y. By preserving and enhancing the natural ecology of the watershed area, the Bluebelt Program has transformed existing degraded areas into ecological gems, while providing much-needed drainage infrastructure. Since the construction of the first BMPs by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) and New York City Department of Design and Construction (NYCDDC) in 1997, the performance of the Bluebelt System has been exemplary and demonstrates that large-scale “green” stormwater infrastructure is cost-effective and environmentally sustainable.
The system has now survived numerous major storm events, including Hurricane Sandy last fall, and has continued to perform excellently. While there was massive property damage up and down the coast of Staten Island, there was minimal impact to any Bluebelt properties other than debris. This presentation will describe in detail how the Bluebelt has performed during major storm events and hurricanes, and how the BMPs continue to be essential to improving the quality of life for the residents of Staten Island.
Storm sewers are to be built in all the legal streets, discharging to the BMPs which primarily serve as detention basins for storm water while the tide gates are closed during high tide. When the tide goes out, the gates open and the stored storm water in the BMPs is released. In order to achieve this flow, the orifice/weir structures in these BMPs are designed for drawdown during a 6 hour tidal cycle, rather than the traditional 24 hour detention. The BMPs, which will have water quality and wildlife habitat benefits, will be extensively landscaped with native wetland and upland plantings.
Climate change poses a significant threat to the proposed system. The destruction in the area caused by the storm surge of Sandy has served to amply the need to plan for the side effects of climate change. While the Bluebelt wetlands do limit the number of people exposed to tremendous storm surges like that brought by Sandy, the Bluebelt drainage plan is designed to handle a conventional rain storm, not another Sandy. The Mid-Island Bluebelt itself is an example of a flexible, green infrastructure program that is adaptive to climate change as opposed to a completely grey infrastructure approach with fixed pipes. The Bluebelt wetlands preserve open space, thereby limiting housing construction in vulnerable coastal locations while providing a first barrier during storm surge events.
Associate, Hazen & Sawyer
Dahlia Thompson, PE is an associate at Hazen and Sawyer with over 10 years of experience. Her work experience includes design and management of the Staten Island Bluebelt, the groundbreaking stormwater management project in NYC and design and management of a number of green infrastructure practices as part of NYCDEP’s projects to reduce combined sewer overflows, including the right-of-way bioswales for the Neighborhood Demonstration Areas. In addition, Ms. Thompson participated in the Green Codes Task Force, a task force to green the New York City building codes, and was a contributing writer of Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering and Design, a textbook published by Wiley in 2010.
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