Growing Infrastructure, Growing Economies, Nurturing Investments: Stormwater Infrastructure Training And Maintenance Needs Assessment
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Growing Infrastructure, Growing Economies, Nurturing Investments: Stormwater Infrastructure Training And Maintenance Needs Assessment

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    To assist green infrastructure project managers with understanding long-term maintenance issues, Illinois-​Indiana Sea Grant conducted a needs assessment. This assessment grew out of a recognition that declining infrastructure performance and sufficiency is a fundamental challenge to stormwater management over time. Green infrastructure, defined as best management practices that mimic the hydrological function of natural areas, has become an important part of the stormwater management solution. As the popularity of green infrastructure grows, a key challenge for communities is ensuring long-term maintenance of these projects once they have been installed and established. Green infrastructure maintenance is not only important to the long-term functioning and success of projects, but can also provide community development benefits. The geography for this assessment is the Calumet region, including Chicago’s south side and Cook County southern municipalities, which are all part of the Illinois Calumet Stormwater Collaborative (CSC). Compared to the greater Chicago metropolitan region, the CSC region has higher than average unemployment, lower than average income, lower educational attainment, a greater percentage of minority racial groups, a declining population, and lower labor force participation. For these reasons, the dollars that green infrastructure investments bring into CSC communities, and the workforce opportunities provided by the need for long-term maintenance, are particularly important. Many of the factors affecting inadequate, inconsistent, or ineffective implementation of maintenance point to the need for operationalizin​g the work. Green infrastructure maintenance can benefit from adapting operational frameworks from wastewater maintenance strategies (asset management systems). Case studies of green infrastructure projects in the CSC region indicate that projects in the region have not yet entered the long-term maintenance period. At the early stages, however, projects included maintenance plans, and assignment of maintenance responsibility. The research also found that those providing program oversight are not familiar with the training requirements of maintenance personnel. An inventory of training programs in the CSC region found that there are a large number of formal and informal green-​infrastructure related education and training opportunities. The diffusion of training opportunities and use of in-house training points to the need to streamline credentialing. There is no widely accepted professional green infrastructure certification at the time of this review, although the DC Water/ WEF National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP), which is the first nation-wide green infrastructure certification program, is a step in this direction. The majority of training opportunities in the CSC region currently require investment in formal post-secondary education and/or professional or industry affiliation, which may limit accessibility by CSC residents to this training to entry-level maintenance occupations. Green infrastructure investment therefore provides an opportunity to address workforce participation.​Stormwater infrastructure investments—bot​h gray and green—translate not only into community benefits (through reduced flooding risk, improved water quality, etc.) of value to residents, but also economic development opportunities. One of the overarching issues in connecting green infrastructure investment to economic development is that there is no generally accepted definition of the green infrastructure cluster, industry, or its occupations. This assessment reviewed the literature on defining the green infrastructure​industry and used the results to inform an analysis of the CSC region. The analysis performed for this assessment finds that green infrastructure related maintenance occupations in the Chicago region are projected to grow an average of 8% over the next decade, providing an opportunity for CSC residents.
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