Assessing Green Infrastructure Needs in Hampton Roads, Virginia and Identifying the Role of Virginia Cooperative Extension
Robinson, Daniel J.
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The Hampton Roads region of southeast Virginia is largely defined by its abundant water resources. These water resources are also a source of unique issues for the region. Specifically, water quality challenges related to the Chesapeake Bay and recurrent flooding are the major concerns. Green infrastructure (GI) has emerged in recent years as an alternative to traditional stormwater conveyance and detention focused systems. GI practices focus on integrating infiltration, evapotranspiration, and other components of the water cycle into more conventional stormwater management systems. These systems provide several positive benefits, including local water quality and quantity control, community revitalization, and various public health benefits. In addition, GI implementation has seen strong levels of support from the Cooperative Extension System, with Extension faculty and staff around the U.S. supporting local municipalities through GI research, promotion, and program development. Despite widespread interest, GI has been slow to be adopted due to various barriers to its implementation. This study sought to identify the major barriers to the implementation of GI practices in Hampton Roads by conducting a needs assessment. Municipal stormwater staff were invited to participate in an online survey aimed at identifying the most significant barriers in the region. At the same time, local staff with Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) were interviewed to explore their potential to become involved in promoting GI adoption in Hampton Roads. Survey respondents and interview participants found common ground in identifying costs, funding, and maintenance issues as the most significant barriers to GI implementation in Hampton Roads. In addition, VCE staff were found to be well suited to support widespread GI adoption in the region, having familiarity with the GI concept and access to unique resources in the form of knowledgeable Master Gardener volunteers and connections to Virginia Tech. Recommendations for VCE involvement in promoting GI in Hampton Roads include conducting cost studies, developing and hosting maintenance training programs, and taking advantage of partnerships to identify and obtain funding from diverse sources. By focusing on these widely acknowledged challenges at the regional scale, VCE can support GI implementation throughout all of Hampton Roads.
General Audience Abstract
Hampton Roads is a region with a history and economy tied to its local waters. Today, the region is facing significant challenges related to these waters, including frequent flooding impacts on residents and pollution control needs for the nearby Chesapeake Bay. Green infrastructure (GI), a relatively new approach to managing water in cities, could help local governments address these challenges. Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), an organization formed through a partnership between federal and local governments and land grant universities in Virginia, seeks to meet community needs through community outreach and educational programs. As a community-centered organization with a history of advancing environmental education, VCE may also be an important partner for municipalities in Hampton Roads interested in adopting GI practices. To identify the barriers to GI in Hampton Roads and the potential role of VCE in addressing them, a needs assessment of municipalities in the region with stormwater permits was conducted. Based collected documents, surveys of municipal staff, and interviews with VCE personnel, three major barriers to GI adoption were identified. Permitted municipalities in Hampton Roads are uncertain of GI costs, have limited funds to support GI practices, and lack the knowledge and resources needed to maintain GI practices over time. VCE can help municipalities address these challenges using its many resources. Through its connection to Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, VCE can help in developing cost research studies for Hampton Roads. As an educational organization, VCE can also help municipalities win funding for GI projects that they would otherwise not have access to. Finally, local Virginia Tech faculty at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center and experienced Master Gardener volunteers can work to develop GI maintenance training resources for maintenance staff throughout the region. With its strong background, expert knowledge, and existing connections in the region, VCE can play an important role in addressing the GI adoption challenges in Hampton Roads.
- Masters Theses