Lighting the Fire - Making the Business Case and Building a Diverse Funding Portfolio for Green Infrastructure
The City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) of San Mateo County embarked on strategic efforts to quantify stormwater quality improvements needed to meet Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) in the Municipal Regional Stormwater Permit (MRP) and develop plans to pursue a portfolio of funding options to meet implementation costs. This presentation will summarize those strategic effort and the lessons learned and successes of initiating the building of a funding portfolio.
First, C/CAG developed a Stormwater Resource Plan that identified thousands of stormwater capture opportunities throughout the County, including green infrastructure (GI) within street rights-of-way and on publicly owned parcels, and larger regional capture projects at schools and parks. In addition, C/CAG created 22 project concepts for regional, green street, and on-site stormwater capture.
Next, to support GI Plans required by the MRP, C/CAG performed a Reasonable Assurance Analysis (RAA) that included modeling to: (1) characterize pollutant loading of all County watersheds, (2) predict stormwater capture/infiltration and pollutant reduction resulting from implementing GI and regional projects, and (3) optimize the most cost-effective implementation scenario in each jurisdiction. The RAA included multiple scenarios to inform funding decisions, including analysis of alternative compliance and implementation strategies. These efforts and tools provide an important analytical framework for C/CAG member agencies to understand funding needs and explore alternative mechanisms to build momentum for large-scale implementation.
Building the funding portfolio started with the 22 project concepts to demonstrate to the public the purpose and benefits of green infrastructure and stormwater capture. Caltrans partnered with the City of South San Francisco and Town of Atherton to fund large regional retention projects at public parks. The Cities of San Mateo and Redwood City secured Proposition 1 stormwater grants from the State Water Board for green street and parking lot projects.
With funding secured for these projects, in combination with modeling that demonstrated the benefits and overall cost savings of regional projects over other project alternatives, additional cities are identifying regional project opportunities to begin discussions with potential funding partners and elected officials. C/CAG is developing multiple additional project conceptual designs to facilitate these discussions to support funding decisions.
The RAA is also being used to investigate countywide funding and implementation alternatives, including costs and number of projects needed if (1) the County and each of the 21 cities individually met TMDL pollutant reduction goals; or (2) all agencies worked jointly to meet the TMDL goals. Scenario 1 quantified stormwater capture projects needed within each jurisdiction. Scenario 2 shifted implementation to the most favorable areas, with more GI in some cities than in Scenario 1, and less in others, although the total GI capacity and countywide costs are reduced. The scenarios support C/CAG member agency discussions related to a potential county-wide funding strategy, versus each city and the county pursuing funding on their own.
To further support funding for green street projects, C/CAG is developing a Countywide Sustainable Streets Master Plan to prioritize street segments for implementation of green infrastructure and transportation improvements, such as bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Green infrastructure in roadways can be implemented most cost-effectively when integrated with other planned investments. The Master Plan will enable C/CAG’s member agencies to more readily compete for State grant funds for building integrated stormwater/transportation projects, provide a prioritized plan of implementation for their own Capital Improvement Program budget, and further support individual agency GI Plans.