Analyzing Mitigation Strategies for Flood-Prone Philadelphia Community

Photo from Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition

Hydrology is the study of the properties, distribution, and effects of water on the Earth’s surface, in the soil and underlying rocks, and in the atmosphere. The hydrologic cycle includes all of the ways in which water cycles from land to the atmosphere and back. Hydrologists study natural water-related events such as drought, rainfall, stormwater runoff, and floods, as well as how to predict and manage such events. On the application side, hydrology provides basic laws, equations, algorithms, procedures, and modeling of these events.

Hydraulics is the study of the mechanical behavior of water in physical systems. In engineering terms, hydraulics is the analysis of how surface and subsurface waters move from one point to the next, such as calculating the depth of flow in a pipe or open channel. Hydraulic analysis is used to evaluate flow in rivers, streams, stormwater management networks, sewers, and much more.

Combined hydrologic and hydraulic data, tools, and models are used for analyzing the impacts that waterflow – precipitation, stormwater, floods, and severe storms – will have on the existing infrastructure. This information is also used to make future land-use decisions and improvements that will work within the constraints of the hydrologic cycle and won’t exacerbate flooding or cause water quality impairment.

Simply put, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling is an essential component of any effective flood risk management plan.

Putting Hydrologic & Hydraulic Analysis to Work in Philadelphia

Eastwick, a low-lying urbanized neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia, is located in the Schuylkill River Watershed and is almost completely surrounded by water: The Cobbs and Darby creeks to the west, the Delaware River and wetlands to the south, and the Schuylkill River and Mingo Creek to the east. The community is at continual risk of both riverine and coastal flooding, and faces an uncertain future due to sea level rise and riverine flooding exacerbated by climate change.

Princeton Hydro, along with project partners KeystoneConservation and University of Pennsylvania, conducted an analysis of Eastwick, the flood impacts created by the Lower Darby Creek, and the viability of several potential flood mitigation strategies.

Flood mitigation approaches can be structural and nonstructural. Structural mitigation techniques focus on reconstructing landscapes, including building floodwalls/seawalls and installing floodgates/levees. Nonstructural measures work to reduce damage by removing people and property out of risk areas, including zoning, elevating structures, and conducting property buyouts.

For Eastwick, studying stream dynamics is a key component to determining what type of flood mitigation strategies will yield the most success, as well as identifying the approaches that don’t work for this unique area.

Princeton Hydro Senior Ecologist Christiana Pollack CFM, GISP participated in a workshop for Eastwick residents held by CCRUN and the Lower Darby Creek team. The goal of the workshop was to get the community’s input on the accuracy of the predictive models.Princeton Hydro’s study focused on the key problem areas in Eastwick: the confluence of Darby Creek and Cobbs Creek; a constriction at Hook Road and 84th Street; and the Clearview Landfill, which is part of the Lower Darby Creek Superfund site. Additionally, the study sought to answer questions commonly asked by community members related to flooding conditions, with the main question being: What impact does the landfill have on area flooding?

The built-up landfill is actually much higher than the stream bed, which creates a major disconnection between the floodplain and the stream channel. If the landfill didn’t exist, would the community still be at risk? If we increased the floodplain into the landfill, would that reduce neighborhood flooding?

Princeton Hydro set out to answer these questions by developing riverine flooding models primarily using data from US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). FEMA looks at the impacts of 1% storms that are primarily caused by precipitation events as well as coastal storms and storm surge. NOAA looks at the impacts of hurricanes. And, NOAA’s NWS estimates sea, lake and overland storm surge heights from hurricanes.

This is an example of a 2D model showing where the water is originating, how the water flows through the neighborhood, moves to the lower elevations, and eventually sits.

This is an example of a 2D model showing where the water is originating, how the water flows through the neighborhood, moves to the lower elevations, and eventually sits.

The models used 2D animation to show how the water flows in various scenarios, putting long-held assumptions to the test.

The models looked at several different strategies, including the complete removal of the Clearview Landfill, which many people anticipated would be the silver bullet to the area’s flooding. The modeling revealed, however, that those long-held assumptions were invalid. Although the landfill removal completely alters the flood dynamics, the neighborhood would still flood even if the landfill weren’t there. Additionally, the modeling showed that the landfill is actually acting as a levee for a large portion of the Eastwick community.

This model was developed to illustrate how the removal of the landfill impacts waterflow through the Eastwick community.

This model was developed to illustrate how the removal of the landfill impacts waterflow through the Eastwick community.

Ultimately, the research and modeling helped conclude that for the specific scenarios we studied, altering stream dynamics – a non-structural measure – is not a viable flood mitigation strategy.

The USACE is currently undergoing a study in collaboration with the Philadelphia Water Department to test the feasibility of a levee system (a structural control measure), which would protect the Eastwick community by diverting the flood water. Funding for the study is expected to be approved in the coming year.

Take a Deeper Look at Eastwick Flood Mitigation Efforts

There are many studies highlighting flood mitigation strategies, environmental justice, and climate change vulnerability in Eastwick. Princeton Hydro Senior Project Manager and Senior Ecologist, Christiana Pollack CFM, GISP, presented on the flooding in Eastwick at the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast Seminar held at Drexel University. The seminar also featured presentations from Michael Nairn of the University of Pennsylvania Urban Studies Department, Ashley DiCaro of Interface Studios, and Dr. Philip Orton of Stevens Institute of Technology.

You can watch the full seminar here:

For more information about Princeton Hydro’s flood management services, go here: http://bit.ly/PHfloodplain.

Fall Events Spotlight: Conferences, Symposiums, & Fundraisers

This fall, Princeton Hydro is participating in a variety of events, including presenting at conferences that explore topics ranging from floodplain management to stream restoration to stormwater management. Here’s a snapshot of what’s to come:

OCTOBER 3: GREAT SWAMP GALA & SILENT AUCTION

The Great Swamp Watershed Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and improving the water resources of the Passaic River region, is hosting its 2019 Gala & Silent Auction. This year’s event is being held in honor of Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill for her commitment to protecting our planet and growing the clean energy economy in New Jersey. The evening will include a cocktail hour, dinner banquet, and expansive silent auction.

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OCTOBER 4: 46th ANNUAL ANJEC ENVIRONMENTAL CONGRESS

The Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) is a nonprofit organization that’s been supporting efforts to protect the environment and preserve natural resources in communities throughout New Jersey for 50 years. The Environmental Congress is an annual statewide gathering of environmental commissions, local officials, agencies, citizen groups and environmental organizations, which includes an exhibitors hall, farmer’s market, and workshops on a variety of current environmental topics. Princeton Hydro, a business member of the ANJEC, will be exhibiting during the event. Come say “hello” to our staff at the booth: Vice President Mark Gallagher, Senior Project Manager Kelly Klein, Communications Strategist Dana Patterson, and Marketing Coordinator Kelsey Mattison.

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OCTOBER 9: SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN MILITARY ENGINEERS (SAME) MEGA MARYLAND SMALL BUSINESS CONFERENCE

The conference, being held in Baltimore, gives small and minority businesses in the architecture, engineering and construction industries the opportunity to come together with federal agencies in order to showcase best practices and highlight future opportunities to work in the federal market. Nearly 500 professionals throughout the Mid-Atlantic region are expected to attend this year’s MEGA Maryland, which includes 25+ speakers and 50+ exhibits. Be sure to stop by the Princeton Hydro booth!

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OCTOBER 15 – 17: NEW JERSEY ASSOCIATION FOR FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT (NJAFM) 15TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE

NJAFM is hosting its 15th Annual Conference and Exhibition in Atlantic City, NJ. Participants will attend meetings and seminars covering topics, including hazard mitigation, flood insurance, flood modeling, stormwater management, construction standards and more. Princeton Hydro’s Christiana Pollack, GISP, CFM is giving a presentation about the Blue Acres ecological restoration project, which increases storm resiliency by reducing flooding and stormwater runoff by improving the ecological and floodplain function within the former residential properties acquired by the NJDEP Blue Acres Program. This presentation will highlight the green infrastructure techniques employed including restoration of native coastal forest and meadow.

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OCTOBER 16 – 17: 7TH ANNUAL DELAWARE RIVER WATERSHED FORUM

The 7th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum, taking place in Allentown, PA, brings together organizations and individuals spanning the four watershed states of PA, NY, NJ, and DE. The Forum allows for collaboration among those working on environmental conservation and policy; and provides professional and personal development opportunities. Workshops will focus on topics such as water quality, community engagement, equity, and environmental policy. Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E., Senior Project Manager Kelly Klein, and Communications Strategist Dana Patterson are participating in this year’s event. Geoff and Kelly, along with Alan Hunt of the Musconetcong Watershed Association, are leading a “Musconetcong River Restoration Tour” on Oct 16.

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OCTOBER 16 – 17: VILLANOVA STORMWATER MANAGEMENT SYMPOSIUM

The theme of this year’s Villanova University College of Engineering Stormwater Management Symposium is “Building Resilience into Stormwater.” Participants will attend technical sessions, hear a variety of presentations, and have an opportunity to take part in field trips and networking events. Topics covered during the symposium include Water Reuse and Harvesting, Stormwater Regulations and Design, Vegetated Infiltration Systems and more. Princeton Hydro is thrilled to be attending!

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OCTOBER 17: Deal Lake Commission Environmental Education Public Meeting

The Deal Lake Commission (DLC) is hosting an informational gathering for which members of the public are invited to learn about environmental topics related to the lake and surrounding watershed.  At 6:30pm, Princeton Hydro founder Dr. Stephen Souza along with Jeannie Toher, DLC Commissioner, are giving a presentation on stormwater management and green infrastructure. The goal of this workshop session is to demonstrate the types of things that we can all do on a local scale to better control stormwater runoff and reduce nutrient loading, the primary causes of the lake’s water quality challenges.  Following the workshop, stay for the DLC’s monthly meeting and learn what else is going on with the management, restoration and maintenance of Deal Lake.

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OCTOBER 26: THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IN NJ’S OAK LEAF AUCTION

We are a proud sponsor of the Nature Conservancy’s Oak Leaf Auction being held at The Ridge in Basking Ridge, NJ. Participants of this fun fundraising event will enjoy live and silent auctions for items like artwork, weekend getaways, one-of-a-kind experiences, and much more. The evening also includes cocktails, appetizers and networking opportunities.

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NOVEMBER 1: NEW JERSEY WATERSHED CONFERENCE

New Jersey Watershed Conference, which is an educational event that aims to advance knowledge and communications on issues related to water quality and quantity across the state. The agenda features a variety of presentations from local experts on watershed management, stormwater, green infrastructure, and the problems and solutions related to the health of our watersheds. Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the event, is exhibiting and giving two presentations: Director of Aquatic Programs Dr. Fred Lubnow is presenting on “An Overview of the Causes and Impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms.” Marketing Coordinator Kelsey Mattison is leading a workshop on “Flipping the Script on American Environmental Thought.”

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NOVEMBER 1: NY-NJ HARBOR ESTUARY PROGRAM’S 2019 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Are you a natural resource manager, scientist, conservation advocate, or policy leader? Join the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program and the Hudson River Foundation for the 2019 Restoration Conference. The conference, titled “Explore Lessons Learned for a Changing Future at HEP,” will explore how habitat restoration can shape our community’s response to a changing climate. The day will feature a series of plenary presentations and interactive workshops that will help participants better understand these challenges, current initiatives, and the state of practice and scientific understanding.

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NOVEMBER 7 – 9: ENGINEERS WITHOUT BORDERS NATIONAL CONFERENCE

Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a nonprofit organization that works to build a better world through engineering projects that aid communities in meeting their basic needs, is hosting its National Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. Staff Engineer Natalie Rodrigues, EIT, CPESC-IT is an active volunteer with EWB. Natalie began volunteering for the organization seven years ago while attending college at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Resources Engineering with a focus in water resources. The conference includes dynamic discussions with industry leaders, educational opportunities about complex global challenges that engineers can solve, and networking with the people driving the engineering sector’s socially minded future.

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NOVEMBER 14: SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN MILITARY ENGINEERS (SAME) PHILADELPHIA RESILIENCY SYMPOSIUM

SAME Philadelphia is hosting a one-day symposium featuring experts on infrastructure resiliency in the face of extreme storms, flooding and other natural disasters. Presentation topics include, Coastal Resiliency, Public/Private Partnerships for Resiliency, and Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation/Flood Risk.  Stop by the Princeton Hydro exhibitor booth to say hello to Princeton Hydro President Geoffrey Goll, P.E. and Marketing Coordinator Kelsey Mattison. We hope to see you there!

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NOVEMBER 11 – 15: NORTH AMERICAN LAKE MANAGEMENT SOCIETY (NALMS) CONFERENCE

NALMS‘ 39th International Symposium, being held in Burlington, VT, is themed “Watershed Moments: Harnessing Data, Science, and Local Knowledge to Protect Lakes.” This year’s symposium includes a robust exhibit hall, a variety of field trips, and a wide array of presentations on topics ranging from water level management to combating invasive species to nutrient pollution and more. Dr. Fred Lubnow will be presenting a poster on Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Hopatcong, and Dr. Stephen Souza, a founding principal of Princeton Hydro, is leading a workshop on Stormwater Management for Lake Managers, which is designed to demonstrate the importance of implementing ecologically appropriate, cost-effective green infrastructure stormwater management techniques as part of comprehensive lake restoration plan. In addition to conference activities, visitors will enjoy Vermont’s scenic beauty and a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities.

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NOVEMBER 18 – 20: MID-ATLANTIC STREAM RESTORATION CONFERENCE

Mid-Atlantic Stream Restoration Conference, hosted by the Resource Institute, invites resource professionals, researchers and practitioners to participate in discussions and workshops focused on Building Resilient Streams in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions. Princeton Hydro is giving two presentations during the conference:

  • Columbia Lake Dam Removal; Using Drones for Quantitative Evaluation of River Restoration by Geoffrey Goll, P.E., Princeton Hydro President; Casey Schrading, EIT, Staff Engineer; and Beth Styler-Barry of The Nature Conservancy.
  • Innovative Design and Funding Approaches for Dam Removal Projects Where an Unfunded Mandate Exists by Geoffrey Goll, P.E.; Princeton Hydro President; Kirk Mantay, PWS, GreenTrust Alliance; John Roche, Maryland Department of Environment; and Brett Berkley, GreenVest.
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NOVEMBER 20 – 22: SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN MILITARY ENGINEERS (SAME) SMALL BUSINESS CONFERENCE (SBC)

SAME gives leaders from the A/E/C, environmental, and facility management industries the opportunity to come together with federal agencies in order to showcase best practices and highlight future opportunities for small businesses to work in the federal market. Princeton Hydro’s Chief Operating Officer Kevin M. Yezdimer, PE and Communication Strategist Dana Patterson are attending the 2019 SAME SBC Conference, which is being held in Dallas, Texas. The program consists of networking events, small business exhibits, a variety of speakers and much more.

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STAY TUNED FOR MORE EVENT SPOTLIGHTS!