Ursinus Testimony Urges Action in Stormwater Management
As state lawmakers seek to enact policies that better curb the worsening effects from major storms, representatives from Ursinus College lent their expertise during an important House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on Monday, October 3.
President Robyn Hannigan and Director of Sustainability Kate Keppen ’05 provided key testimony in front of a strong contingent of state representatives, most of whom represented Southeast Pennsylvania districts and who are interested in hearing from local communities about stormwater management and its impact on infrastructure.
“We ask all of our fellow panelists and, respectively, our elected officials, to look at colleges such as Ursinus as a unique experimentation hub, where research, innovation, and dialog occur organically,” Hannigan and Keppen presented in their testimony.
Hannigan and Keppen provided expertise on a range of topics, including unique public/private partnerships that have led to significant mitigation measures in Massachusetts and other states; a “buy back” program that allows homeowners to sell properties to avoid carrying the burden of flood-related repairs; and the importance of involving major employers to help drive environmental change, create jobs, and help steward economic growth.
There are 55 municipalities in the Perkiomen Creek watershed, and climate change—which in turn could lead to more rainfall—significantly impacts each of them, contributing to flooding events, disrupting groundwater recharge, and carrying pollutants into waterways—all environmental concerns that have a long-lasting economic fallout.
Hannigan (an environmental scientist and geologist) and Keppen noted that partnerships across the community would help drive innovation and lead to potential solutions, with a liberal arts institution like Ursinus at the forefront. In the testimony, they said that Ursinus is uniquely able to bring together municipal officials, municipal engineers, environmental advisory councils, watershed organizations, nature and land conservancies, state and local government staff, and others with interested students, faculty, and staff, around the topic of stormwater impacts.
“If there’s one take-away from today, it’s that we must collectively own this issue,” Keppen said. “We cannot be complacent, and we’ve got to be willing to put aside parochial interests for the common good—respectively.” She spoke of countless projects and initiatives in which students are currently involved, here on campus and in the community.
Other area officials and experts participated, including Collegeville Borough Council President and Collegeville Economic Development Council Chair Cathy Kernan, and each discussed approaching the issue with urgency, drawing upon recent examples of flooding events in the region.
“Our commitment to environmental stewardship is unwavering,” Hannigan and Keppen said in the testimony.