Pittsburgh’s $2 billion plan to restore watersheds & enhance urban greenspace

A massive stormwater system upgrade is underway in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County.

Thanks to a push from local leaders and environmental advocates, the largest public works project in county history could incorporate “green” solutions as part of the plan.

And if the region is serious about going green, a few scattered municipalities planting trees or fitting homes with rain barrels won’t be enough, said Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy, director of the Clean Rivers Campaign. Officials from the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit believe eco-conscious resolutions must be implemented regionwide to improve stormwater runoff and make communities more livable.

Green infrastructure is something people are thinking can be a viable solution,” Rafanan Kennedy said. “This is our opportunity to get it right.

The $2 billion stormwater control effort is set to reduce an estimated 9 billion gallons of sewage flowing into area waterways during heavy rainfalls.

That’s the exciting thing about these projects,” said Kennedy. “You can have a great pocket park that also has a stormwater function.

Though “gray” infrastructure — including enormous subterranean storage tunnels — will be part of the plan, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and other government leaders have emphasized “green first” as the slogan moving forward.

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