WMEAC Named Great Lakes Green Infrastructure Champion

By: Elaine Sterrett Isely, Director of Water Programs

This summer, the Great Lakes Commission launched the Great Lakes Green Infrastructure Champions Pilot Program, which includes a new peer-to-peer network and a mini-grant program to promote green infrastructure implementation in communities throughout the Great Lakes basin. In September, it announced its first round of grant awards, one of which is to the Michigan City Sanitary District (MCSD) to work with WMEAC to adapt its Rainwater Rewards stormwater calculator to include data specific to Michigan City, Indiana.

Rain barrel on house

Green infrastructure includes a number of stormwater management practices that allow rainwater to soak into the ground close to where it falls. Last fall, municipal officials and stormwater managers from Michigan City came to Grand Rapids to learn more about green infrastructure implementation, policy, and collaboration. WMEAC introduced a number of its collaborative water quality projects and programming initiatives, including the Annual Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup, Rain Barrel stormwater education, 15 to the River Public Service Announcement, stormwater planning and oversight, and the Rainwater Rewards stormwater calculator.

Rainwater Rewards was developed with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds from the USDA – Forest Service to help communities better understand the investment value of implementing green infrastructure beyond dollars and cents by looking at the value of flood risk reduction, water and air pollution, property value increases, CO2 storage, and energy savings. WMEAC has given a number of training workshops on how to successfully use and implement the findings from the calculator in West Michigan, Detroit, Bellaire, Milwaukee, and Sandusky (OH). Representatives from MCSD attended one of these workshops in May, and were very interested in how the calculator might be adapted for use within Michigan City. This grant program is allowing that to happen.

As a Great Lakes Green Infrastructure Champion, WMEAC will be sharing its expertise and experience with MCSD and its partners in Michigan City, Indiana. Rainwater Rewards will be updated to include data specific to Michigan City, and WMEAC will offer its support and guidance on other best practices and policies for implementation of green infrastructure.

For more information about the Great Lakes Green Infrastructure Champions Pilot program, visit www.glc.org/work/champions. For more information about Rainwater Rewards, visit: www.wmeac.org/water/rain-water-rewards/; the calculator tool can be found at www.rainwaterrewards.com.

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