Fact sheets, checklists and a video created by faculty at the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are helping coastal communities invest in green infrastructure that protect areas from flooding and pollution from stormwater runoff.

In the first year of their development, eight communities, or 44% of the municipalities in coastal Georgia that are regulated to protect water bodies, have used the tools created by Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, a UGA public service and outreach unit.

With funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist at the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant office in Brunswick, partnered with Goodwyn Mills Cawood, an architecture and engineering firm, to produce a video highlighting the role of green infrastructure in coastal Georgia, factsheets on the most common green infrastructure practices, and inspection checklists to be used by professionals who maintain those practices.

“There is a lack of visual guidance and local, coastal examples of green stormwater infrastructure,” Brown said. “These tools help bridge that gap.”

Roads, buildings and parking lots that are impervious can lead to stormwater runoff and exacerbate flooding issues on the coast. When communities invest in green infrastructure, like installing permeable pavement or creating neighborhood rain gardens, they become more resilient.

According to the 2017 Coastal Georgia Low Impact Development Inventory, there are 220 green infrastructure practices in Georgia’s 11 coastal counties that manage 89.3 million gallons of stormwater annually. More than 94% of those green infrastructure practices are in the eight municipalities that are using the tools.

“We’re having to really rethink how we’re planning for our communities for the long haul,” said Jackie Jackson, director of advance planning and special projects with the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission. “In Chatham County we’re faced with planning for saltwater intrusion, we’re seeing things that are impacting our waterways and tree canopies, and we throw that on top of huge issues with localized flooding and more and more storms.”

“We’re kind of at that tipping point where we’ve got to start doing something different, and these are tools that we can use to start making some of those important changes.”

Constructed bioswale at Marshall’s Run apartments in Garden City, Georgia.

Since the work is often carried out by maintenance staff in public works departments, Brown, created the user-friendly tools with them in mind. Jackson helped Brown gather feedback from public works staff as the factsheets and checklists were being developed. She then worked with the cities of Bloomingdale and Garden City to incorporate the resources into their stormwater management plans, which led to the tools being approved by the state of Georgia for these coastal communities.

“All inspection forms have to be approved by the state and the state agreed that these tools will work,” Jackson said. “The end product is something that the state of Georgia actually permits communities to implement, so it becomes a win-win for everybody.”

The tools are free and available to anyone interested in learning about or implementing green infrastructure practices. They are available at https://gacoast.uga.edu/stormwater-management/

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348 ext. 107
Contact: Jessica Brown, jtrbrown@uga.edu, 912-264-7341