Low impact development has high impact on community
April 5, 2018
Florida has never really embraced the idea of “everything in moderation.”
Everyone here seems to drive either really fast or really slow. Season brings more tourists and snowbirds than we can handle, but many places around here look deserted by August. It gets so dry this time of year that we catch on fire. And then in the summer, the rains come.
And boy, do they come.
We don’t just have thunderstorms in Florida. We have massive, booming, sky-ripping tempests that convince the uninitiated that the Apocalypse must surely be nigh.
The rain that falls from these storms piles up in a hurry. That’s what makes low impact development so important.
Low impact development is an engineering term for building practices that foster natural drainage and help keep water out of ditches and storm drains, which often overflow. One of the key problems we face as our community grows is that the more ground we cover with roads, parking lots and structures, the higher our risk for floods — unless we take steps to mitigate that.
It’s a common misconception that low impact development isn’t worth the effort in a place where rain falls in such a hurry. Features like bioretention areas, bioswales, stormwater planters and the like can’t take all the rain either, and it’s a waste of time and money to engineer those features when they’re just going to get flooded anyway — or so the thinking goes.
But that’s not the case. Sure, they’re not going to soak up everything. But the rain they do capture and send back into the ground is valuable in keeping water out of streams, rivers and old-fashioned drainage systems. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.
Some of these low impact development features are simply common sense. Tree-lined streets, like McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers, make driving more pleasant. Rainwater has a much tougher time draining through the street itself than the soil surrounding the trees. So, if the curbs are cut to allow water to rush off the street and into the area of the trees, we can reduce the flooding risk.
Simple, yes. But little things like that often escape planners whose main priority is to work as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
The effect of doing a project the right way is like a ripple in water — or in floodwater, to fit the theme. Development doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It affects everyone around it, near and far. The better we build, the better off all of us will