Margaret Tanner, deputy commissioner of Atlanta’s Office of Watershed Protection, told the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods her office is encouraging the use of “green” infrastructure to manage the influx.
“This year is an extremely wet year,” Tanner told the council at its monthly meeting Thursday night at Peachtree Presbyterian Church. “Our normal rainfall is 25 inches. So far, we’ve exceeded 50 inches. We’ve had more days of rain this year than all of last year.”
Tanner said this uncommonly high rainfall is leading to extreme erosion and stormwater issues. The best way for residents and business owners to address the problem is to look at using a variety of structural alternatives, like rain gardens and cisterns, to reduce overflow, she said.
Retrofitting the city’s aging stormwater pipes is not an option, as it would cause more erosion, streams to deepen and widen and overall degradation of the ecosystem, Tanner said.
“Using green infrastructure is a way in which we can mimic the natural cycle,” Tanner said, noting the approach emphasizes infiltration and reuse of water, as well as evapotranspiration by plants.
The use of “green” infrastructure reduces the total volume of water going into stormwater systems while also enhancing the look of the community, she said.
“There’s nothing natural about downtown Atlanta,” Tanner said. “We're looking at ways we can mimic that natural infrastructure.”
Not only does the green approach help the city, it also better complies with the city’s post-development stormwater management ordinance, which was amended by the Atlanta City Council effective Feb. 13. The amended ordinance requires new projects to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff with green infrastructure and a consultation with city staff prior to approval to ensure green techniques are being utilized, among other changes.
Tanner said the changes are applicable to both commercial and residential projects, whether they are new projects or, depending on the size, part of a redevelopment.
In other news, Yolanda Adrean, the city council’s District 8 representative, updated the council on the city council’s recently approved film ordinance that establishes the Atlanta Office of Entertainment, which is charged with managing the city’s dealings with the local film industry.
Adrean said the first iteration of the ordinance “really left the neighborhoods out” and did not allow residents much say in how a nearby film shoot may impact their neighborhood.
“I’m in favor of the business, but I also need the neighborhoods to be protected,” she said.
Adrean told the council the approved ordinance calls for a 24/7 hotline for both residents and industry professionals to report issues or concerns.
“It’s not perfect, but it did have some pretty substantial rewrites to take into consideration the neighborhoods,” she said. “If you have a filming event in your neighborhood and try the number and feel [the response you get] is not adequate, please let me know.”
Adrean said she still had questions about whether someone had been selected to lead the office and when the department would begin operating.