A landmark project for the Bay Area aimed at reducing the amount of polluted water draining into San Francisco Bay has broke ground in Berkeley.
The San Francisco Estuary Partnership has developed a program for implementing green street projects in four East Bay cities along the highly-used San Pablo Avenue corridor.
Dubbed the “Green Stormwater Spine,” the project will see the construction of bio-swales, rain gardens and the placement of special soil mixes to clean polluted runoff before it reaches San Francisco Bay.
As rain falls on hard surfaces, it picks up particulates along the way that can contain oil from cars, pesticides, herbicides, metals and other synthetic and volatile organic chemicals. That material ends up draining into creeks and the Bay where it damages water quality and hurts sensitive ecosystems.
In all, the year-long construction project will treat 6 acres of impervious surface runoff. The work will result in thousands of gallons of water draining into soils where toxics are trapped and broken down by natural processes before the water migrates into drains and to the bay.
“These projects are also designed to also improve the pedestrian experience with thoughtful landscape designs and plantings,” said Josh Bradt, San Francisco Estuary Partnership project manager. “And as more of these types of projects are constructed within a particular watershed and around the Bay Area, other green infrastructure benefits accrue, such as reductions in local flooding.”
Each of the project sites are individually designed to showcase innovative green infrastructure techniques. The project will also underscore the sustainability of Bay-friendly landscapes for the public and local government.
In addition to Berkley, Oakland, Emeryville and El Cerrito, will participate.
The project begins at a time when the State Water Resources Control Board is mandating municipalities submit green infrastructure master plans for implementation on public lands.
“Incorporating green infrastructure into larger, planned street and road improvement projects is critical for keeping costs down and ensuring the master plans are realized,” Bradt said.
Municipal codes already require similar green methods to address runoff for new development and redevelopment projects.
The $4 million project is sponsored by the San Francisco Estuary Partnership/Association of Bay Area Governments. About half of the construction funding comes from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, with the balance coming from Caltrans and a State Natural Resources Agency Strategic Growth Council grant.
The Estuary Partnership is an ABAG program staffed by MTC working to increase the health and resiliency of the San Francisco Bay Estuary.