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A Century Since the River Des Peres Flood of 1915

August 20, 2015 Environment, Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design, South City, St. Louis County Comments Off on A Century Since the River Des Peres Flood of 1915

One hundred years ago today St. Louis experienced deadly flooding. The problem wasn’t the Mississippi, it was the River Des Peres!

On the afternoon of Aug. 19, 1915, remnants of a hurricane reached St. Louis from Texas. Heavy and steady rainfall fell through the next day, dumping a total of 7.4 inches across the area. (6.85 inches on Aug. 20 remains the one-day record in St. Louis.)

The River Des Peres rushed from its banks, swamping long stretches of Delmar and Lindell boulevards, Manchester Avenue and other streets. People were stranded on the Wabash Railroad platform at Delmar (now a Metrolink station) by a seven-foot-deep current 200 yards wide. Firefighters reached them with ladders and used boats to rescue residents of Maple and Hodiamont avenues. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch — includes vintage photos)

In August 1915, St. Louis was flooded. All roads leading to the suburbs were cut off, and in Maplewood, the waters reached the second floor of some homes. The water was a mile-wide in Forest Park. Three bridges in the park were washed away, the Zoo’s Bird Cage and Bear Pits were flooded. The platforms at the old Delmar Station were destroyed. Passengers at the Wabash Station were surrounded by seven feet of water and had to be rescued by firefighters. Other people were trapped in their homes, and some even drowned. By the time the disaster was over, 11 people had died and more than 1,000 homes were lost.

The cause of the disaster was not the Mississippi River but the smaller River Des Peres, which ran along the City’s western edge.

River Des Peres, or “River of the Fathers,” was named after two Jesuit priests who founded a mission on its banks around 1700. Problems associated with flood and sewage control became obvious as St. Louis grew. In 1887, city officials planned to drain River Des Peres and Mill Creek. This plan was not completed, though, and River Des Peres had become an open sewer by the early 1900s.
Parts of the river were covered or diverted in preparation for the World’s Fair in 1904, and monitoring of flooding conditions began in 1905. However, no steps had been taken by 1915 that could have prevented the devastating flood that same year. (St. Louis Public Library)

Perhaps the first sewage the River des Peres received was from St. Louis’ Central West End chamberpots. In response to the volume of waste, the city wrote an ordinance in 1887 “to prevent discharge of sewerage or offensive matter of any kind into the River des Peres.” If the city had funded the ordinance, then a separate sewer system would have been built and the River des Peres’ history might have taken a different course. Instead, the government of St. Louis began a trend that has plagued the river for more than a century: St. Louis would support ideas to protect the River des Peres as a sewer more than as a river.

As St. Louis grew westward, so did the expanses of pavement. With less open ground to soak up the rains, the River swelled with runoff. The River des Peres flooded in 1897, 1905, 1912, and 1913. The flood of 1915 killed 11 people and forced 1025 families from their homes. Flooding – not sewage – prompted St. Louisans to action. Mayor Henry W. Kiel called for a hydrologic study, which was completed by W.W. Horner and presented to the St. Louis Board of Public Service in 1916. St. Louis voters chose to implement Horner’s recommendations, which cost $11 million.

The project was called the River des Peres Sewerage and Drainage Works, and it took nine years to complete (from 1924 to 1933). Workers re-graded and paved the River’s banks and straightened its bends. Elsewhere the River was directed below ground to join with the sewer. The engineering innovations brought national recognition for Horner (who was also the project engineer). Scientific American and Engineering News-Record featured the marvelous new River des Peres. In 1988, the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the project as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. (River Des Peres Watershed Coalition)

The bond issue vote was in 1923 — 7 years after the plan was presented.

River Des Peres at S. Broadway, March 2012
River Des Peres at S. Broadway, March 2012
River Des Peres, looking East from Hampton, July 2015
River Des Peres, looking East from Hampton, July 2015
River Des Peres; looking North from Gravois. Tuesday August 18, 2015
River Des Peres; looking North from Gravois. Tuesday August 18, 2015

Problem solved? Wrong.

Explore any city enough, and at some point you’re likely to walk on water, so to speak. San Francisco is full of ghost rivers. So are Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. In the urban core of Baltimore, up to 98 percent of streams are underground. 

Early city planners may have hoped for healthier cities when they covered up these streams, but it turns out they created new problems. Paving over and piping waterways often worsens flooding. And as new research by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency indicates, buried streams can also exacerbate pollution. 

In a paper published in PLOS ONE, lead authors and EPA research scientists Jake Beaulieu and Heather Golden found that nitrates—nutrients that can become pollutants—travel on average 18 times further in buried urban streams than they do in open streams, before they are taken out of the water column. (City Lab)

From February 2014:

Starting in a few days, MSD will begin construction of a 3,028 foot-long tunnel under the River Des Peres, just south of Carondelet.

The tunnel will hold a pressurized pipe that will carry sewage to the Lemay Wastewater Treatment Plant.

MSD spokesperson Lance LeComb said the new pipe will increase the plant’s capacity to take in sewage, and also serve as a back-up in case the existing “force main” ? which dates back to the 1960s ? has a problem.

The project is the first of about a dozen tunnels, totaling nearly 33 miles in length, that the MSD will be digging under St. Louis in the next couple decades. Most of the tunnels will hold a mix of stormwater and sewage. “The longest one will be nine miles long, running underneath the River Des Peres, almost 200 feet below ground,” LeComb said. “And 30 feet in diameter.” (St, Louis Public Radio)

Hopefully this will keep our sewage out of the waterways and not create more problems! The River Des Peres starts in St. Louis County, flash flooding remains an issue.

— Steve Patterson

 

11th Street Rain Garden Five Years Later

August 14, 2015 Downtown, Environment, Featured Comments Off on 11th Street Rain Garden Five Years Later

It has been nearly 5 years since I posted about a demonstration rain garden downtown, see New Downtown Rain Garden Reduces Sidewalk Width Too Much. The design issues remain:

  • Rain garden takes up sidewalk rather than street
  • Parking still isn’t allowed in front of rain garden, so a lane of asphalt isn’t being used.

Still, now that the plants have matured it looks so much better.

November 2010
November 2010
August 2015
August 2015

It collects water runoff from the sidewalk and adjacent surface parking lot, the more rain water we can keep out of the sewer system the better. I still see no reason why a parking space or two hasn’t been added to 11th Street.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Start of Summer

June 5, 2015 Environment, Featured Comments Off on The Start of Summer

Summer officially begins on June 21st at 11:38am CST, but for me it began when I saw the green cherry tomatoes on one of our three tomato plants.

Green cherry tomatoes on our 4th floor balcony
Green cherry tomatoes on our 4th floor balcony
In another planter we have a volunteer -- possibly zucchini or cucumber based on seeds in our vermicompost
In another planter we have a volunteer — possibly zucchini or cucumber based on seeds in our vermicompost

We also have chives and an extra planter of cilantro — a herb we buy often. What are you growing this year? What is the start of summer for you?

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Benefit Corporations Make A Difference and a Profit

Business is all about making money, right? Except when money isn’t the only bottom line. This will confuse some of you: not all corporations seek to maximize profits for shareholders! It’s true, Directors must make sound judgment so shareholder value isn’t negatively impacted but there’s no legal obligation to maximize short-term profits — but other goals aren’t considered. Some for-profit corporations, however, have goals beyond profit and shareholder value.

First we need to review some terms:

Triple Bottom Line:

The phrase “the triple bottom line” was first coined in 1994 by John Elkington, the founder of a British consultancy called SustainAbility. His argument was that companies should be preparing three different (and quite separate) bottom lines. One is the traditional measure of corporate profit—the “bottom line” of the profit and loss account. The second is the bottom line of a company’s “people account”—a measure in some shape or form of how socially responsible an organisation has been throughout its operations. The third is the bottom line of the company’s “planet” account—a measure of how environmentally responsible it has been. The triple bottom line (TBL) thus consists of three Ps: profit, people and planet. It aims to measure the financial, social and environmental performance of the corporation over a period of time. Only a company that produces a TBL is taking account of the full cost involved in doing business. (The Economist)

Benefit Corporation:

Incorporating as a benefit corporation legally protects an entrepreneur’s social goals by mandating considerations other than just profit. By giving directors the secured legal protection necessary to consider the interest of all stakeholders, rather than just the shareholders who elected them, benefit corporations can help meet the needs of those interested in having their business help solve social and environmental challenges.

Additionally, the demand for corporate accountability is at an all-time high, with many consumers already aligning their purchases with their values. The benefit corporation status is a great way to differentiate your company from the competition and capitalize on these customers. (Forbes)

St. Louis' only certified B Corp, Microgrid, installed this electric car charging station on Lucas between 6th & 7th
St. Louis’ only certified B Corp, Microgrid Energy, installed this electric car charging station on Lucas between 6th & 7th

Certified B Corporation: 

B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.
B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Today, there is a growing community of more than 1,000 Certified B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries working together toward 1 unifying goal: to redefine success in business. (B Lab)

 

B Lab, a nonprofit organization, certifies B Corporations, the same way TransFair certifies Fair Trade coffee or USGBC certifies LEED buildings. However, all B Corps meet a wide range of comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards.

There are over 1,200 Certified B Corporations in 38 countries across 121 different industries. (MaRS Centre for Impact Investing)

This B Corp video explains:

http://youtu.be/V-VFZUFJwt4

Impact Investing:

And around the world, there are stories of how impact investments are meeting needs in areas as diverse as childhood education, clean technology, and financial services for the poor.

Last year, New York State, Social Finance and Bank of America Merrill Lynch teamed up to launch a “social impact bond” designed to cut New York City’s seemingly insoluble recidivism problem. The $13.5 million raised will extend the proven approach of the Center for Employment Opportunities. If the Center meets targets for reducing recidivism rates, investors stand to earn up to a 12.5% return.

Or take d.light – a company that manufactures and distributes solar lighting and power products to those without access to reliable electricity, transforming lives in the developing world.  Over eight years, d.light has reached more than 30 million people worldwide.

Recently, J.P. Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network studied 125 major fund managers, foundations, and development finance institutions and found $46 billion in sustainable investments under management.  That’s up nearly 20% from last year.

Some estimate that the impact investment market could grow to $3 trillion. And as the more socially conscious millennial generation of entrepreneurs build impact-driven businesses, you can be sure the supply of impact investment opportunities will vastly expand. (Forbes)

All sound too abstract for you? Here are some examples you might be familiar with:

  • Ben and Jerry’s — “Ben and Jerry’s produces a wide variety of super-premium ice cream and ice cream novelties.”
  • Cabot Creamery Cooperative — “Cabot Creamery is a 1,200 farm family dairy cooperative with members in New England and upstate New York”
  • Change.org — “Platform that empowers anyone, anywhere to start, join and win campaigns for social change”
  • Etsy — “We are bringing heart to commerce and making the world more fair, more sustainable, and more fun.”
  • King Arthur Flour Company — “America’s oldest flour company and 100% employee-owned”
  • New Belgium Brewing Co, Inc. — “100% Employee owned brewer of fine Belgian inspired ales”
  • Patagonia, Inc. — “Outdoor clothing, apparel and gear for climbing, hiking, surfing, running, travel”

780 of the 1,179 B Corps are located in the US — at least one in each state! Here are some examples, including both from Missouri:

  • AE Works; Pittsburgh, PA — “AE creates social, environmental, and technical capital as a TBL design firm for the built environment”
  • The Arnold Development Group; Kansas City, MO — “Mixed use real estate development and real estate services”
  • Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods; Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada — “Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods is the world’s largest vertically integrated hemp foods manufacturer”
  • Microgrid Energy, LLC; St. Louis, MO — “Microgrid Solar is a clean energy company committed to operating on a triple bottom line basis.”
  • The Natural Baby Company; Bozeman, MT — “The Natural Baby Company builds and sells earth-friendly baby brands including GroVia and Ovolo.”
  • Renewal Funds; Vancouver British Columbia Canada — “Social venture fund investing in environmental and social mission businesses in Canada and the USA
  • Telesis Corporation; Washington, D.C. — “Planning, financing and building urban communities that are livable, beautiful, and safe”
  • Union Kitchen; Washington, D.C. —  “Food incubator catalyzing small business growth by lowering barriers to entry for food businesses.”
  • WasteZero, Inc.; Raleigh, NC — “WasteZero works with municipalities to deliver the most effective waste reduction programs in the US.”

You can search certified B Corps here. I can think of a number of St. Louis companies that could likely become certified.

There are now more than a thousand B corps in the U.S., including Patagonia, Etsy, and Seventh Generation. And in the past four years twenty-seven states have passed laws allowing companies to incorporate themselves as “benefit corporations”—which are similar to B corps but not identical. The commitments that these companies are making aren’t just rhetorical. Whereas a regular business can abandon altruistic policies when times get tough, a benefit corporation can’t. Shareholders can sue its directors for not carrying out the company’s social mission, just as they can sue directors of traditional companies for violating their fiduciary duty. (The New Yorker)

Missouri doesn’t yet have a Benefit Corporation provision, existing corporations can still become certified. Three neighboring states, Arkansas, Illinois, & Nebraska have Benefit Corporation legislation; four neighboring states have introduced legislation: Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, & Tennessee. Kansas, like Missouri, doesn’t have benefit corporation legislation or pending bills. For more information on states click here.

If you’re committed to social/environmental change, but also want to make a profit, consider working for, or starting, a benefit corporation.The fact so many people around the world are working for more than to line their own pockets is comforting.

— Steve Patterson

 

Tree Recycling at Three City Parks

January 9, 2015 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Tree Recycling at Three City Parks

With the cold weather I haven’t gotten out much so I was struggling to think of something positive to post about today, Good News Friday (#GNF). Looking through my pics there it was: recycling of old Xmas trees into mulch continues!

Still have an xmas tree you need to get rid of? If so, take it to one of three city parks: O’Fallon, Carondelet, or Forest Park.

Our neighbor helped my husband get our tree on the roof of our car last Saturday,
Our neighbor helped my husband get our tree on the roof of our car last Saturday,
At Carondelet Park's recycling area my husband David removes the plastic bag
At Carondelet Park’s recycling area my husband David removes the plastic bag
A large stack of trees awaiting the shredder to become mulch
A large stack of trees awaiting the shredder to become mulch

If you have a tree to drop off for recycling you might be wondering how much longer you can procrastinate. Well, I’m not sure. The website, retrieved yesterday, says through the 3rd week of January but it also says through January 10, 2014.

Not sure when this ends, the 3rd week ends on the 17th.
Not sure when this ends, the 3rd week ends on the 17th. Hurry!

In the Spring there’s nothing like the smell of a hot pile of clean xmas tree mulch! Have a great weekend, see you Sunday with a new poll question.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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