For immediate release June 7, 2010
(RICHMOND, Va.) – Starting this summer, a series of “green” construction projects designed to help reduce stormwater runoff will begin on and around Richmond’s Capitol Square making it one of the most environmentally friendly capitols in the nation. Representatives from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of General Services, the City of Richmond and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay have developed a project that will retrofit the capitol grounds and select Richmond streets and alleys to reduce pollution to the James River. The project is funded by a $798,988 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Several low impact development techniques will let stormwater slowly infiltrate rather than flow over the ground and into the James River. These practices will be used for this “Greening Virginia’s Capitol” project.
Some of the projects designed for downtown Richmond are rain gardens and pervious pavement, both of which allow stormwater to filter through them. This filtering of the water helps to clean it before it reaches groundwater below. The rain gardens will also beautify the capitol grounds and city streets.
“This project really ended up being a win-win-win situation,” said Bert Jones, director of the Division of Engineering and Buildings for DGS. “With this opportunity, DGS is able to accomplish work identified in the Capitol Square Landscape Master Plan, DCR can model ways to reduce stormwater runoff, and the City of Richmond becomes more beautiful for Virginia citizens.”
“We’ve been kicking an idea like this around for many years, but the funding program targeting innovative stormwater management from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency really helped focus ideas and engage partners,” said Nissa Dean, manager of the Richmond Regional Soil and Water Office for DCR.
The project begins with the greening of alleyways at 5th and 12th streets. Bob Steidel, Richmond City’s deputy director of water and wastewater, said, “The two green alleys will serve as models for improving stormwater impact on our combined sewer overflow and they are just one innovative approach the city is taking as part of its overall green initiative.”
Additional projects will be on and around Capitol Square. Rain gardens will be installed on the bus loop and on portions of 9th and 10th streets. Another rain garden will be installed at the Bell Tower. In addition, the steps leading down the hill from the Washington Equestrian Statue will be replaced with pervious paving that match Richmond’s historic brickwork. A new sidewalk will also be installed that will run by the front of the Edgar Allen Poe statue.
Once installed, it is estimated that the practices in downtown Richmond will reduce the overall amount of stormwater runoff from Capitol Square proper by 64 percent. The phosphorus in that runoff will be reduced by 69 percent, and nitrogen will be reduced by 70 percent.
The Greening Virginia’s Capitol project has also been selected as one of the first landscapes to participate in Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™). This initiative is a new program testing the nation’s first rating system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance.
This project will join more than 150 other projects from 34 states, as well as from Canada, Iceland and Spain, as part of an international pilot project program to evaluate the new SITES rating system for sustainable landscapes. Sustainable landscapes can clean water, reduce pollution and restore habitats, while providing significant economic and social benefits to land owners and municipalities.
SITES, a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden, selected the Greening Virginia’s Capitol project based on its extensive environmentally friendly elements.
It is anticipated that construction on the Greening Virginia’s Capitol projects will start in the summer of 2010. The entire project should be complete by spring of 2011. For more information about this project, please visit www.greenvacapitol.org.
This project received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), via grant number NFWF-1544-P02.