Managing all the rainwater that runs off from roads, pavements and roofsteps – also known as stormwater – has become an increasingly challenging and expensive problem for municipalities, especially as water infrastructure ages, big rain storms become more common, and we work to address chronic water quality problems.
To help towns and cities around Great Bay address this challenge, GBNERR partnered with the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, NH Sea Grant and the New England Environmental Finance Center to host an eight-part workshop series for municipal engineers, planners and leaders, following a curriculum developed by EPA. The goal: to build practical skills that could help communities better engage residents and build public support for much needed stormwater funding.
Pairs or teams from Dover, Newmarket, Exeter, Rochester, UNH and Hampton participated in 20 hours of in-person and virtual workshop sessions over the course of five months. Participants worked hard during and in between workshop sessions – mapping out the key players, learning to uncover the underlying interests behind a position, and interviewing people in their community. Although public engagement, negotiation and active listening aren’t taught in most civil engineering programs, research shows that these skills are critical for helping communities design and implement initiatives to address flooding and improve resilience.
The workshop included discussions, activities and role playing scenarios that built practical skills and also provided a chance for sharing ideas across towns. 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. Although not all the communities participating in the workshop are considering new stormwater programs, two communities, Rochester and Portsmouth, are actively exploring a stormwater utility. To learn more about local stormwater efforts, see:
- Dover’s Stormwater and Flood Resilience Utility Frequently Asked Questions
- Portsmouth’s Oct 2022 City Council Work session – Video and Meeting Summary
- NH Stormwater Regional Coalitions
- Stormwater Financing/Utility Starter Kit from MA Metropolitan Area Planning Council
We are gratified to hear comments like these from workshop participants:
“I feel more confident in my ability to find common ground between stakeholder interests & my stormwater goals.”
Another said, I gained a ”better understanding of how to engage with a non-technical audience–tools for listening rather than attempting to force knowledge and opinions.
At the group’s suggestion, we plan to reconvene in 6-months and hear how each community is progressing in their varied paths.
Lynn Vaccaro, Coastal Training Program Coordinator, Lynn.E.Vaccaro@wildlife.nh.gov