Syracuse, NY has invested $25 million on more than 100 green infrastructure projects and now it is being held up as a model for what other cities could be doing.
"We've helped to rebuild city parks, we've helped to make improvements to libraries, we've helped to turn regular city streets into green streets that capture millions of gallons of storm water, we've put a green roof on our convention center," Syracuse Mayoral Chief of Staff Matthew Millea said, "So we've just got a great collection of green infrastructure strategies that we've tried all over the city and we're seeing a great return on our investment."
Millea was in town Wednesday to offer advice on environmentally friendly infrastructure as part of Chatham University's Sustainability and the Environment School's "Beyond Tunnel Vision" campaign.
"I think any urbanized area that has lots of impervious surface is a great candidate for softening the edges and adding some elements where storm water can be captured, rather than transported and treated."
Millea said although cities are investing in infrastructure more, there's still work to be done in order to comply with the Clean Water Act (CWA).
"We're still a ways away from achieving the overall objective of the Clean Water Act, which is fishable and swimmable waters of all of the water bodies in the United States," Millea said. "The closer we get to our fiscal capabilities, we still seem to be a bit farther away from the overall compliance objectives of the Clean Water Act."
CWA regulates the nation's water pollution and prohibits dumping toxins into waterways. The goal of the 1972 law was to make water recreation, like swimming and fishing, possible by 1985. CWA does not specifically address storm water drainage.
"There's many challenges, but as we've done in Syracuse, as we've seen happen in New York City, as we've seen in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland, people working together toward this objective can get there and start making some really worthwhile investments in green infrastructure as they march toward their compliance deadlines," Millea said.