On Jan 8th, I attended a one-day workshop organized by the nonprofit NJ Future, the NJ DEP and the US EPA in Newark, NJ called “Reinvesting in Urban Water Infrastructure through Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plans.” Contrary to how technical and engineering-heavy as the name of the workshop might seem to imply, the experience highlighted a major trend in infrastructure planning, function, and operation and management: decentralization. Gone are the days of the heroic engineer-city planners, yielding the Promethean control of nature, and as a result, over other people. This workshop was a representative of the parties that need to be involved in the research, reinvestment, and implementation of water infrastructure upgrades all over the United States.
New Jersey is at a very special crossroads with respect to its response to the EPA’s National Combined Sewer Overflow Strategy (1987) and the CSO Control Policy (1994). While larger cities such as New York City and Washington DC are well underway, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of issuing new permits for the 21 communities in NJ with combined sewer overflows. This is an exciting time for NJ, because despite being somewhat behind other cities in the implementation of the CSO Control Policy, it has the opportunity to utilize the lessons learned from other communities’ implementation, and to do so in a proactive, collaborative way.
“Ecology” is another one of those words that I’ve hearing more and more, used in ways that you might not immediately associate with the field of ecology. The “ecology of innovation” for example, is a term that describes the actors, interactions, and environmental conditions necessary to foster the propagation of innovative ideas. Relating to the field of urban planning, I’ve come across three main aspects of urban ecology: the quantitative/modeling studies, the sociological and historical conceptual frameworks, and the urban ecological design principals. These three aspects make up the “ecology” of urban ecology because they influence and interact with each other, are evolving, and exist within a broader context which shapes them all.
A few events– specifically the Legacy and Innovation forum at UPenn back in October, and a session I attended during Greenbuild last week called “Innovative Governance for One–Water: Research and Action Plan”– have been solidifying the idea for me that legacy includes much more than aging physical structures. Perhaps even more challenging are the regulatory and institutional frameworks developed to complement the physical networks.