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Chesapeake Bay News


Richmond, Virginia's Capitol Square to Go Green

Richmond, Virginia’s Capitol Square is about to become one of the most environmentally friendly capitols in the nation, with a series of green construction projects set to begin this summer.

The projects, including a retrofit of the capitol grounds and select streets and alleys, aim to reduce polluted stormwater runoff to the James River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

The “Greening Virginia’s Capitol” project was developed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS), the City of Richmond and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. The project, in the works for several years but put on hold due to budget cuts, is being funded by a $798,988 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

A major goal of the project is to let stormwater slowly infiltrate into the ground, rather than flowing freely across pavement and directly into the James River. Rain gardens and pervious pavement will absorb and filter runoff, cleaning it before it can reach groundwater supplies.

All phases of the project are anticipated to be completed by spring 2011, when experts estimate that overall stormwater runoff from Capitol Square will be reduced by 64 percent. Phosphorus runoff will be reduced by 69 percent and nitrogen will be reduced by 70 percent.

The first phase of the project is to “green” of alleys at 5th and 12th streets. Other phases will include:

  • A rain garden installed on the bus loop
  • Rain gardens installed along portions of 9th and 10th streets
  • A rain garden installed at the Bell Tower
  • Pervious pavement installed to replace the steps leading down the hill from the Washington Equestrian Statue
  • Pervious sidewalk installed by the front of the Edgar Allen Poe statue

The Greening Virginia’s Capitol project be used by Virginia DCR as a model of how to reduce stormwater runoff in an urban setting.

The project will also show citizens and officials throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed how simple changes can make a huge difference in the amount of polluted runoff that reaches the Bay and its streams, creeks and rivers.

Greening Virginia’s Capitol has also been selected as one of the first landscapes to participate in the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a new program testing the nation’s first rating system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance.

To learn more about the Greening Virginia’s Capitol project, visit www.greenvacapitol.org.


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