At Landis Homes, a naturalized stormwater conveyance system offers habitat benefits as well as water quality improvement.The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay partnered with LandStudies Inc. to host a tour of innovative green infrastructure sites throughout Lancaster County, PA on June 30th. The three-year program is an effort generously funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

LandStudies, an ecological design build firm, worked with the Alliance to tailor their signature Healthy Watersheds Tour of innovative water quality practices to the needs of the Blair County MS4 workgroup, who are at the planning stage of implementing green infrastructure in their municipalities. The firm created the Healthy Watersheds Tour that showcases roughly 30 green infrastructure sites with up to 18 years of performance history, near their home base in Lititz, PA. Many of the sites are a demonstration of how these practices have functioned and changed over time, giving those embarking on new efforts data on cost effectiveness and pollution reduction. Ben Ehrhart, LandStudies engineer and Director of Design, describes the challenges and innovation approaches to a floodplain restoration area at the newly developed Rock Lititz.A group of municipal staff, engineers, landscape architects and elected officials attended the two day bus tour that stopped in Lancaster City and surrounding municipalities.  The tour featured eight sites, and included projects like urban rain garden bumpouts, stream and floodplain restoration projects, and environmentally progressive retrofits to existing stormwater basins. A few of the tour highlights include Landis Homes, Lancaster Brewing Company, Rock Lititz, and the Warwick Township Municipal campus. Lancaster City and the surrounding area is well-known for being at the forefront of the environmentally friendly stormwater movement in central Pennsylvania, and seeing these sites offered tour participants an experience that cannot be achieved through classroom-only training.

The Alliance is working with Blair County municipalities, county departments, and elected officials to focus their water quality improvements through green infrastructure and a regional, multi-municipal, watershed approach. For many resource-strapped smaller Pennsylvania communities, the task of addressing stormwater regulations can seem daunting. The regional, partnership-heavy approach has been proven to alleviate many of the burdens that the MS4-permittees would otherwise face alone. Road side stormwater bumpouts, outside of the Lancaster Brewing Company, control excess runoff and also slow traffic to make the area more pedestrian friendly.Kelly Gutshall, President of Landstudies, led the tour and several local champions came out to talk about project benefits, permit and construction process, education and outreach efforts, how projects have changed over time, and more.

Dan Zimmerman, Warwick’s Township Manager, likened a watershed to a living organism. When a watershed is impaired, it is not so unlike a person being sick and going to the hospital. If the patient is running a fever, their temperature needs to be brought down. If streams are too warm for their natural ecosystems, increasing riparian buffers may be the cure. Water quality improvement facilities, like rain gardens and wetlands, are the livers and kidneys of the watersheds that actively wash away dangerous nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, metals, and chemicals. This also reinforces the need for effective monitoring efforts to understand where the problematic areas in the small watersheds are and what actions should be taken to improve them.

Over the next several months, the Alliance will continue working with our Blair County partners to bring additional training and technical assistance, while moving toward a design competition that will implement innovative stormwater best management practices in the greater Altoona area.For additional information about the on-going stormwater efforts in Lancaster City, check out this recent video produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program:[vimeo id=”45368867″ width=”600″ height=”350″ ][/vimeo]