Rain Gardens Can Help Protect Lackawanna River

September 2, 2018

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association seeks participation in its rain garden outreach program. The program is open to homeowners and small-business owners residing in one of the “urban stormwater municipalities” in the Lackawanna River watershed. These municipalities include all towns between Pittston, Scranton, and Carbondale and Forest City as well as Clarks Summit, Clarks Green and South Abington Twp. This program is funded in part through an environmental grant from Pennsylvania American Water Co. The goals are to increase the knowledge of the public related to stormwater management and demonstrate how individual homeowners and local small businesses can help to improve water quality and reduce the volumes of urban stormwater runoff from their properties. Rain gardens are areas of residential properties that are developed to receive and infiltrate stormwater runoff from the roof, sidewalks and driveway. Roof, sidewalk and driveway areas are referred to as impervious surfaces because they shed rainwater and prevent it from infiltrating into the soil to become groundwater. The rapid runoff from roofs and rain gutter systems is sometimes tied into combined storm and sanitary sewers. Heavy storms cause overflows from these combined sewers into rivers and creeks. Even if there is no link to sanitary lines, large urban stormwater flows carry debris from streets and parking lots and pollution from cars into separate storm sewer lines that are a major source of water pollution from cities and towns. Studies demonstrate that the use of rain gardens and similar features that retain and infiltrate urban storm runoff can significantly reduce water pollution entering our rivers and streams from properties, neighborhoods and subdivisions where rain gardens, bioswales or bioretention basins are installed or designed into a development site. Retaining stormwater onsite can also help reduce the peak crest of runoff from storms and help reduce the threat from flooding to downstream communities. Rain gardens provide many benefits to homeowners. They provide backyard habitat for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. They provide aesthetic appeal that can improve the value of a home and neighborhood. There can be recreational values for the do-it-yourself homeowner and home gardeners in designing, installing and maintaining rain gardens. Rain gardens are low maintenance, however, because they utilize native plants. Weeding and pruning in spring and fall with the other aspects of maintaining a residential landscape are the major maintenance needs of a rain garden. The plants don’t require watering once they have established themselves, because native plants in rain gardens are used to getting water only when it rains. Residents can help local municipalities meet some of their municipal separate storm sewer system permit requirements by redirecting their home’s stormwater flows into a rain garden and away from their neighborhood streets and catch basins. The conservation association’s rain garden outreach program is also open to homeowners and small-business owners who are not gardeners or do-it-yourselfers. We will consider proposals involving professionally designed and maintained rain gardens. We will also consider proposals for soakage trenches, which are basically rain gardens without plants, other than grass cover. A soakage trench is sited like a rain garden at a low-lying area of a residential house lot. The site selected is excavated and instead of top soils and plants, drainage rock is installed and rainwater from disconnected downspouts is directed to the site where the water will infiltrate through the trench. The water can also be directed into an existing shrubbery bed or into an existing well-drained area of lawn. The association welcomes rain garden proposals from residents from urban municipalities within the Lackawanna River watershed. Up to 10 applicants will be selected to receive reimbursement of up to $500 toward documented expenses for the installation of plants, materials and commercial labor, where applicable. The commission’s staff will interview applicants to select qualified proposals for pre-approval by Sept. 26. To qualify for reimbursement, installations must be completed prior to Dec. 1. Applications and additional information are available by contacting the LRCA at 570-347-6311, by email at lrca@lrca.org or by visiting the LRCA website www.lrca.org

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