Environmental Practice

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ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS AND CASE STUDIES: Building Green Infrastructure via Citizen Participation: A Six-Year Study in the Shepherd Creek (Ohio)

Audrey L. Mayera1 c1, William D. Shustera2, Jake J. Beaulieua3, Matthew E. Hoptona4, Lee K. Rheaa5, Allison H. Roya6 and Hale W. Thurstona7

a1 School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science & Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan

a2 United States (US) Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Cincinnati, Ohio

a3 US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Cincinnati, Ohio

a4 US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Cincinnati, Ohio

a5 US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Cincinnati, Ohio

a6 Kutztown University, Department of Biology, Kutztown, Pennsylvania, US Geological Survey, Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

a7 US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Cincinnati, Ohio

Abstract

Green infrastructure at the parcel scale provides critical ecosystem goods and services when these services (such as flood mitigation) must be provided locally. Here we report on an approach that encourages suburban landowners to mitigate impervious surfaces on their properties through a voluntary auction mechanism. We used an economic incentive to place rain gardens and rain barrels onto parcels in a 1.8-km2 watershed near Cincinnati, Ohio. A comprehensive hydrologic, water-quality, and ecological monitoring campaign documented environmental conditions before and after treatment. In 2007 and 2008, we engaged private landowners through a reverse auction to encourage placement of one rain garden and up to four rain barrels on their property. The program led to the installation of 83 rain gardens and 176 rain barrels onto more than 20% of the properties, and preliminary analyses indicate that the overall discharge regime was altered by the treatments. The length of the study (six years) may have precluded observation of treatment effects on water quality and aquatic biological communities, as we would expect these conditions to respond more slowly to management changes. These distributed storm-water installations contributed to ecosystem services such as flood protection, water supply, and water infiltration; provided benefits to the local residents; and reduced the need for larger, expensive, centralized retrofits (such as deep tunnel storage).

Environmental Practice 14:57–67 (2012)

(Received August 23 2011)

(Revised October 24 2011)

(Accepted November 02 2011)

(Online publication March 09 2012)

Correspondence

c1 Audrey L. Mayer, Michigan Technological University, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science & Department of Social Sciences, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931; (phone) 1-906-487-3448; (e-mail) almayer@mtu.edu

Audrey L. Mayer is an assistant professor at Michigan Technological University, with joint appointments in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, and the Department of Social Sciences. She received her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, and completed postdoctoral positions in landscape ecology at the University of Cincinnati and sustainability science at the National Risk Management Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), in Cincinnati, Ohio. She worked as an ecologist at the USEPA for five years and then spent three years as a senior researcher in Finland at the University of Tampere and the University of Helsinki. Audrey's research generally addresses the development and use of indicators and indices for sustainable systems management and policy, often at the landscape scale.

William D. Shuster is a research hydrologist (PhD, 2000, Environmental Science, Ohio State University) with the National Risk Management Research Laboratory (Office of Research and Development, US Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, Ohio) and studies the social, economic, and environmental aspects of urban ecosystem management with an emphasis on integration of green infrastructure techniques into US communities for storm-water quantity control and the provision of ecosystem services.

Jake J. Beaulieu is an ecologist in the National Risk Management Research Laboratory at the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). He earned his PhD in aquatic ecology from the University of Notre Dame and completed his postdoctoral training at the USEPA. Jake's research generally addresses the sustainable management of streams and rivers in human-dominated landscapes, with an emphasis on nitrogen biogeochemistry.

Matthew E. Hopton is an ecologist at the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in the National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio, Matt is coleader of the Regional Environmental Management research group, a multidisciplinary group that consists of ecologists, economists, engineers, geographers, and physical scientists. His current research on sustainability has two foci: one is examining the ecological function and service provided by green infrastructure in urban systems and the other is measuring and managing sustainability in regional systems. Matt started at the EPA as a Natural Resources Commission Postdoctoral Research Associate in 2006 in the Sustainable Environments Branch. He has a PhD in Biology from University of Cincinnati, where he examined the relationship between environmental heterogeneity and biological diversity.

Lee K. Rhea recently joined the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in the National Risk Management Research Laboratory as a postdoctoral ecohydrologist. He graduated with a PhD in Forestry from the North Carolina State University in 2011, an MS in Hydrology from the University of New Hampshire in 1994, and a BS in Earth Science from Penn State in 1990. His research focus is the interaction between plant and anthropogenic influences on hydrology. Prior to returning to graduate school at North Carolina State University, he worked as a consulting hydrogeologist.

Allison H. Roy is an assistant professor of Biology at Kutztown University in eastern Pennsylvania. She received her BS in Biology and Environmental Science from Allegheny College, her MS in Entomology from the University of Georgia, and her PhD in Ecology from the University of Georgia. She spent five years as a postdoctoral researcher with the US Environmental Protection Agency's National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her research involves characterizing anthropogenic impacts on streams (primarily fishes and macroinvertebrates) and assessing responses to various management strategies.

Hale W. Thurston is an economist in the Environmental Protection Agency's National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. He earned his PhD in Economics from the University of New Mexico, a master's degree in International Affairs from Ohio University, and a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. His research currently focuses on nonmarket valuation of natural resources in the policy arena and the use of market incentives to promote low-impact development. Hale worked on a reforestation campaign and a beekeeping project in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic in the late 1980s. He enjoys scrapbooking and hiking. He currently resides in Cincinnati with his wife and two kids.