Sand River Ecological Restoration Master Plan
In January 2008, Clemson University’s Center for Watershed Excellence received a grant from the City of Aiken to facilitate the development of the Sand River Ecological Restoration Master Plan (SRERMP) to address chronic stormwater erosion in Hitchcock Woods and evaluate potential remediation strategies. The master plan involves the creation of multi-party agreements for restoring a local natural treasure, the Sand River. A holistic approach to the restoration of Sand River required development of a plan that balances stormwater management with habitat preservation and restoration. The riverbed winds through the botanically diverse and culturally rich landscape of the Hitchcock Woods, located a few blocks from historic downtown Aiken.
The process included three charrettes to identify ecological stressors, review existing data, identify data needs, and evaluate alternatives. At the third charrette, restoration options were outlined for stakeholders in the form of a decision tree. Numerous options were evaluated, with pros and cons for each decision discussed. At the conclusion of this meeting, members of City council asked the Clemson research team to develop a preferred alternative that explored root causes of severe stormwater erosion and addressed remediation of the Sand River canyon.
The preferred alternative as presented had an estimated remediation cost of $16 million. This significant remediation cost prompted the stakeholders to refocus on the root causes of stormwater erosion and to consider green infrastructure alternatives as the best first solution to address the downtown stormwater problem. This reprioritization was fully supported by the stakeholders, and the Clemson team was asked to further investigate and refine green infrastructure options.
In 2009, the City of Aiken submitted a shovel-ready green infrastructure proposal through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) to the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control for consideration for EPA managed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding allocated for green infrastructure. The City was awarded $3.34 Million for use in funding the design, construction, and post-construction monitoring for green infrastructure concepts proposed in the SREMP. The Center was awarded two City-funded research grants for the Sand River Headwaters Green Infrastructure Project to assist in finalizing green infrastructure concepts, establishing an innovative real-time monitoring program, and to conduct a research program on the effectiveness of the project to capture, store, infiltrate, and treat downtown stormwater. (Read the final research report for Phase 1 of the Green Infrastructure Project - http://www.clemson.edu/restoration/focus_areas/restoration_ecology/projects/watershed_center/aiken_green/index.html)