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Detroit green infrastructure mapping project kicks off


A coalition of City of Detroit leaders is working to build a database and mapping system to track the growing number of green infrastructure projects in the city.

Members of the Blue-Green Infrastructure Workgroup are starting by developing consistent definitions for green infrastructure (GI) types in the city. That will allow the group to develop a tool for users to enter data about their projects into a standard mapping system. 
 
The project is led by The Nature Conservancy, Greening of Detroit and Issue Media Group, publisher of Model D, and is funded by the Erb Family Foundation.

The Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology defines GI as "a network of decentralized stormwater management practices, such as green roofs, trees, rain gardens, and permeable pavement, that can capture and infiltrate rain where it falls, thus reducing stormwater runoff and improving the health of surrounding waterways."

The project aims to create a baseline understanding of the universe of GI projects in the city. It will also serve to coordinate actions among partners and property owners, according to project coordinator Valerie Strassberg. Strassberg directs The Nature Conservancy's Detroit City Program.

The idea for the project emerged from meetings of the Blue-Green Infrastructure Workgroup. The Erb Family Foundation facilitates the group for funding recipients implementing green infrastructure projects across the city.

"Those meetings were a catalyst for keeping everyone abreast of what was going on," says Strassberg. "We realized that if Erb weren't convening the group, how would we ever know who's doing what? There was a clear need for mapping."

The group is taking a phased approach to the project. In the first phase, the definitions and structure of the database will be developed with the input of multiple stakeholders. Ultimately, the group aims to develop a common web portal to allow users to view projects in their neighborhood and input their project data.

The data may become important as the City of Detroit moves towards implementing stormwater drainage fees. The Detroit Free Press reports that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will allow ratepayers to use green infrastructure to earn credit towards their stormwater drainage bills.

Strassberg says it's not yet clear who will be the ultimate steward of the database and website once the project is completed.

"Ideally it would be the city which maintains the database in the long run," she says. "But to get it off the ground, we are developing this project in partnership with the city."

Strassberg is hopeful that additional funding beyond this first phase will help garner commitment from the city for long-term ownership of the project.

The Blue-Green Infrastructure Workgroup includes representatives from the following organizations:

City of Detroit
Tetra Tech
Detroit Future City
Detroit Greenways Coalition
Detroit Water and Sewerage Department
Erb Family Foundation
Greening of Detroit
Issue Media Group
Michigan Community Resources
Michigan State University
SEMCOG
Sierra Club
The Nature Conservancy
The University of Michigan
Wayne State University

Read more articles by Nina Ignaczak.

Nina Ignaczak is a metro Detroit-based writer and the editor of Metromode. Follow her on Twitter @ninaignaczak.
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