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Urban Watersheds Discussed at 3RQ Roundtable

On January 19th, 3RQ presented their second installment of the 3RQ Virtual Roundtable series, focusing on Urban Watersheds in and around Pittsburgh, PA. Viewers listened to Jan Raether, Plan/Build Manager of Upstream Pittsburgh; Patrick Shirey, Associate Director of the Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach; and Renee Dolney of Chalfant Run/Thompson Run Watershed Association.


First, Jan Raether, Plan/Build Manager for Upstream Pittsburgh (formerly Nine Mile Run Watershed Association) shared past and future projects occurring within the organization. Incorporated in 2001, Upstream Pittsburgh worked with the Army Corp of Engineers to restore Nine Mile Run, which was previously culverted underneath the East End of Pittsburgh. This was the largest restoration project undertaken by the Army Corp at the time and, through their efforts, the stream became significantly more naturalized and accessible to the public. A large focus of the organization, past and present, are the significant wet weather problems throughout Pittsburgh. Past initiatives to aid with the sewer overflows included urban forestry, designing storm barrels for urban environments, handing out rain barrels to citizens, and creation of a rain garden. Currently, Upstream Pittsburgh continues to work on reducing storm water runoff, with their revitalization to the Wilkinsburg parking lot, and restoring Fern Hollow following the bridge collapse. Additionally, they focus on environmental justice initiatives, including equity studies throughout the watershed and their Climate Justice Collaborative to involve residents of Allegheny County in their work.


Next, Patrick Shirey, Associate Director of the Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach spoke of their mission to elevate water resource sustainability and resilience through their projects. Alongside quarterly monitoring of the three rivers (Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela) they have started studying how basement flooding affects Pittsburgh residents. Through this work, they hope to determine the sources of Pittsburgh basement flooding as well as identify gastrointestinal and respiratory infection risks that residents may experience, all with the goal to reduce environmental health disparities. Additionally, they work to lessen inequities in accessibility to affordable, clean drinking water with work involving Women for a Health Environment. Through this, they develop report cards for each of the water suppliers within Pittsburgh to increase resident interactions with their water authorities. Finally, they focus on access to nature within an urban community. Through the work of the Churchhill Valley Greenway project, they helped Allegheny Land Trust to restore a deteriorated tributary of Chalfant Run within an abandoned golf course. They are thrilled to make nature accessible within an area where it once was not.


Finally, Renee Dolney, from the Chalfant Run/Thompson Run Watershed Association discussed their goal of reconnecting local residents to the watershed, all within the larger Turtle Run Watershed. In a 1908 assessment of Allegheny County streams, Turtle Creek was declared dead due to AMD impairment - a legacy issue the watershed still faces today. The Watershed Association has partnered with the Borough of Churchhill to put grants in for trail funding along the Churchhill Valley Greenway along the stream. The same as Patrick Shirey, Renee is thrilled to create access to the stream in an area that was once largely inaccessible to the urban community.


We would like to thank all the speakers and viewers of this webinar for their insight and wonderful discussions. Don’t forget to sign up for the third and final 3RQ Roundtable Series, looking at large-scale collaboration within the Ohio River Basin!


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Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds