Building Community Support for Stormwater

Jul 26, 2023

Managing the stormwater that runs off roads, parking lots, rooftops, and other impervious surfaces is an increasing challenge for coastal New Hampshire. The region’s stormwater infrastructure is aging, big rain storms are more common, and pressure to curb the pollution that runoff delivers to rivers and bays is growing.

To help local communities address this challenge, the Great Bay Reserve’s Coastal Training Program took a page from their colleagues at the Narragansett Bay Reserve. In partnership with the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, New Hampshire Sea Grant, and the New England Environmental Finance Center, they are helping local governments build public support for stormwater management funding.

Last winter, the team hosted an eight-part workshop series for municipal engineers, planners and leaders, following a curriculum developed by EPA. The goal? Help them build the practical skills they need to better engage residents and build public support for initiatives like stormwater utilities that fund much needed stormwater infrastructure and management.

The workshops engaged teams from nearby Dover, Newmarket, Exeter, Rochester, Durham (University of New Hampshire), and Hampton. Together, the participants learned how to identify, understand, and engage community members in public discussions of funding. Through activities and role playing, they built practical skills for community engagement. “I feel more confident in my ability to find common ground between stakeholder interests and my stormwater goals,” observed one participant.

“These workshops were an opportunity for them to learn the basics of skills like negotiation and active listening,” observes Lynn Vaccaro, the coastal training coordinator for the Great Bay Reserve. “These are not taught in engineering school, but they’re absolutely essential for designing and implementing new initiatives to address flooding and improve resilience.”

The workshops also provided an opportunity for communities to share ideas. For example, participants from Dover shared their experiences with their Ad Hoc Committee to Study Stormwater and Flood Resilience Funding and the City’s plans to design and propose a stormwater utility. Two other communities, Rochester and Portsmouth, are also exploring a stormwater utility, and the concept may spread further. One participant noted, “I rarely get to experience the benefit of professional connections in neighboring municipalities—a lot of benefit in that.” 

—To learn more, see: Great Bay Reserve Blog

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ReservesGreat Bay, New HampshireBuilding Community Support for Stormwater