Next week I’ll be attending Stormcon in South Carolina. Yes, Stormcon does not immediately suggest community planning, resilience, green infrastructure or public engagement. But that is exactly what happens here.
My relationship with Stormcon goes back about 12 years now. At the time, my colleagues at EPA and I viewed the conference suspiciously given its heavy emphasis on proprietary devices. These commercial devices are installed to filter and store stormwater runoff. We believed that devices gave communities a pass to tear down trees and sprawl as much as they wanted to because there were always gadgets available.
However, all conferences have exhibitors and have to cover costs. Moreover, the move towards “tech in the city” includes a lot of gadgets for tight urban areas. The real action is in the workshops and sessions. This is where both the Stormcon conference sponsors and the magazine StormWater reached out to get material in the hands of their audience and readers.
That audience tends to be engineers and consultants who rarely attend planning and smart growth conferences. Stormcon is basically doing a lot of work for better planning and I think this point deserves attention in the planning world. Moreover, as engineers, they are focusing on data and effectiveness. Now that “big data” is big, they are important allies in a field that we frankly don’t know as well as they do.
I will write more on individual sessions, but it is worth noting several of the tracks assembled and what they mean. From the program page (emphasis mine):
Green Infrastructure: This track—previously called the Low-Impact Development track—includes low-impact development (LID) techniques as well as smart growth and other green infrastructure practices.
Coastal Protection Symposium: This specialty symposium, taking place concurrently with StormCon, focuses on infrastructure protection in coastal cities, ports, and industrial complexes in the face of sea level rise and potential shoreline changes. (This is big because engineers tend to be conservative by nature. If climate change and resilience professionals were smart, conservative coastal engineers would be a powerful pool of spokespeople to talk to climate deniers and fence-sitters).
Advanced Research Topics This technical track includes academic research; methods for testing the effectiveness of best management practices and comparing different Best Management Practices (BMPs); and topics and trends in stormwater research, such as standardizing testing protocols and standards for measuring the effectiveness of BMPs.
Of note, the keynoter is Ed Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania. According to the conference program, “After 34 years of public service, he continues to pursue many of the same issues he was passionate about while serving: making America a cleaner, more efficient place and fostering investment in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.”
I realize the topics are REALLY technical, but given the giant role stormwater regulations play in community form, everyone in planning needs to dig deeper into the concepts of TMDLs, erosion control, nutrient control, and retention.
Even if you cannot attend this year, take a look at the program - it is helpful to see how leaders in various disciplines are framing and tackling overarching topics. If your head starts hurting, just pay attention to the Green Infrastructure and Coastal Protection tracks. In addition, Stormwater magazine is free and allows that dive into water quality planning.
Follow tweets at #stormcon or follow @stormcon. For a good introduction to TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads), see this Citizens Guide to the Chesapeake Bay’s TMDL.