Contrary to the name, 100-year floods do not unleash their wrath once each century. As Ambler Borough residents and their neighbors can attest numerous 100-year flood events in recent years — including Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 — have resulted in extensive damage and flooded homes through the region.
With support from a $60,000 grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for Sustainable Communities at Temple University Ambler is developing a stormwater management plan for three urban watersheds in Ambler Borough and Whitpain and Upper Dublin Townships — Rose Valley, Honey Run/Stuart Farm and Tannery Run.
The Center plan will identify and prioritize stormwater improvements to “mitigate water quality and flooding issues that the municipalities have faced for many years,” according to Mahbubur Meenar, Assistant Director of GIS Operations and Research with the Center for Sustainable Communities who is serving as the Principal Investigator for the project.
“Our research will include field data collection and verification, modeling, stormwater management facilities inventory, and assessment of stormwater improvements, their impact on water quality, and their implementation strategies,” said Meenar. “We will develop new floodplain maps and high quality GIS database that will be available to township engineers and other interest groups. Community engagement is essential for this project — we need to know what the residents, business owners, landlords, municipal officials have experienced during these recent major flood events.”
In October, the Center for Sustainable Communities held a town meeting addressing “Flood Mitigation and Stormwater Management in Ambler Watersheds." The meeting, held in partnership with the Borough of Ambler, Whitpain Township, Upper Dublin Township, the Ambler Environmental Advisor Council, the Upper Dublin Environmental Protection Advisory Board and area civic groups, was attended by more than 100 residents, business owners and municipal officials.
“The first step in acquiring funding to fix flooding and stormwater management issues is to get a clear picture of where those problems are,” said Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities and co-Principal Investigator for the flooding mitigation project. “The people who lived through these storms know best how they affect them and their communities — there is a great deal of invaluable information to learn from their firsthand experiences. We want to gain a greater understanding of community problems and priorities.”
The Ambler-area study builds upon comprehensive research conducted by the Center on the 64-square-mile Wissahickon Creek Watershed, of which the Rose Valley, Honey Run/Stuart Farm and Tannery Run tributaries are a part. In August, the Center received a competitive research grant of $60,000 from U.S. EPA. Out of 600 applications, the EPA’s Urban Waters Small Grant program selected 46 organizations nationwide, including just two in Pennsylvania. The Center’s research in the Ambler area is also supported by funding from local municipalities, Montgomery County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Based on prior research in this region, we strongly endorse the use of stormwater Best Management Practices, or BMPs, as the preferred means to achieve improved water quality and flood-loss reduction through groundwater recharge and retention, stream bank protection and volume control,” said Dr. Featherstone. “As this watershed is essentially built-out, the team will concentrate much of its research on identifying opportunities for retrofitting existing stormwater facilities and finding locations for new BMPs in areas that are not currently served by them.”
To learn more about the project, visit amblerwatersheds.wordpress.com.