Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with societal, environmental, and other issues. Our student Mr. Hennigan makes this connection here…

The New York Times reported “Creek Restoration Keys Cincinnati’s Battle Against Urban Blight, Storm water” in the Energy & Environment section on August 22, 2011. This story relates to water resources engineering by reporting on a Cincinnati’s neighborhoods problematic combined sewer overflow (CSO) and solutions for its replacement. The neighborhood is South Fairmount, which is in much decline, located outside the city, due to urban flight. The combined sewer overflow is problematic because it discharges 1.7 billion gallons of the city’s overflow into a nearby creek, a quarter of it is raw sewage. This is important issue because the sewage is causing polluted waters and possible health hazards. The EPA has ordered Cincinnati to reduce their combined sewage overflow 85% by 2018. A plan for a new separate sewer pipe was submitted by the EPA at a cost of $244 million dollars, but also said they would entertain alternative solutions. In response, the city suggested restoring / recreating the Lick Run stream, which will run through South Fairmount, rather than building a new sewer pipe system. This project will draw storm water away from the overflows, which will reduce the amount of water and sewage that gets discharged into the nearby creek. In addition the predicted cost for reconstruction of the stream is far less than the suggested replacement pipe system.

Figure of balancing sediment size, amount, water flow, and slope in stream restoration. Taken from D. Rosgen and http://www.fgmorph.com

This CSO and creek restoration issue is important because it is a test for the viability of green infrastructure in a declining city. Many supporters believe that a restored stream section passing through the neighborhood can make it more vibrant and robust. However, there is opposition to the project. Building owners that own property in the path of the old stream do not know what to do with their properties during the decision process of the project. They do not want to invest in their properties if their buildings will just be bought by the city and torn down. This creates a stand still for their businesses. Other opposition consists is found within the historical society and preservationist community. They feel that many of the buildings that will be destroyed in the process should be saved for historic reasons, and these costs of moving buildings have not been calculated in the estimate for the recreation of the stream.

Figure of channel degradation via incision and recovery at a lower elevation, illustrating the channel evolution model. Taken from http://www.fgmorph.com

Regardless of the details in the final plan, the city must address the over-stressed combined sewer overflow and reduce pollution. By reducing pollution the city will likely increase recreation. If the design does include restoration of the South Fairmount city stream, this will be a chance to showcase how a naturalization project saves a dying neighborhood.