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Ottawa eyes incentives program to manage residential stormwater runoff

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To fight stormwater runoff that can cause erosion and flooding in waterways while degrading water quality and aquatic habitats, the City of Ottawa is considering a pilot project to encourage homeowners to manage stormwater on their properties.

The $750,000 three-year program has been greenlighted at the committee level and offers a multi-faceted approach for residents to build landscape industry capacity to design, install and maintain stormwater management features on their property. This could include up to $5,000 per household for work like redirecting downspouts, establishing rain gardens and soak-away pits, as well as installing permeable driveways.

Based on direction from the Ottawa River Action Plan, the stormwater grant program will initially have two priority retrofit areas in Pinecrest/Westboro and the Eastern Subwatersheds.

Julia Robinson, a project manager on Ottawa’s climate change and resiliency team, believes the stormwater program can be a cost-effective tool to manage the runoff issue.

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“To achieve the stormwater objectives, about 30% of the homes in the Eastern Subwatersheds area would need to undergo retrofit actions. This translates to more than 20,000 homes,” Robinson told the committee.

There are four essential components to the proposed stormwater grants program: industry training; home assessments; community engagement; and design and installation incentives.

Industry training will focus on a Fusion Landscape Professional program offered by Landscape Ontario in conjunction with Credit Valley Conservation in Peel and York regions. Officials believe that bringing the program to Ottawa will build industry knowledge and installation capacity for stormwater management within landscape designs, as well as build a list of certified local landscapers for homeowners to draw upon to complete projects.

For residential home assessments, trained assessors will promote best management practices with benefits to homeowners and the city. Residents will be provided with information and guidance supporting them to take action on their property.

The Community Engagement Initiatives aspect of the program will advance outreach efforts and build relationships with community partners through activities such as attending community events, installing demonstration rain gardens, and supporting community rain barrel sales.

Rain Ready Ottawa will also provide a set of incentives to reduce the financial barriers to the implementation of stormwater management practices on residential properties. Incentives will partially cover the cost of the following practices: downspout redirection; rain gardens; soakaway pits; permeable paving; and certified landscape design.

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