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Posted 4/28/2014

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By Steve Rochette
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Philadelphia District and the Philadelphia Water Department celebrated the completion of a first-of-its-kind ecosystem restoration project during an April 25 ribbon cutting and site tour event at Morris Park in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia.

The Cobbs Creek Watershed Habitat Restoration involved ‘daylighting’ approximately 750 feet of the West Branch of the Indian Creek, which had been underground in a culvert since 1928. Engineers then reconfigured the existing culvert to use as storage for combined sewage overflow, thereby improving public health, water quality, wildlife habitat, and enhancing the aesthetics of the park. 

The event was attended by Congressman Bob Brady, Army Corps leadership and staff, city and state officials, community groups, and contractors.

“This is the first stream to be daylighted in the city of Philadelphia,” said Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug who thanked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its partnership on the project and other efforts throughout the city.

Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Col. Chris Becking said the project is a model for creative problem solving in part because the end product has multiple benefits for the community.

“We are the nation’s engineers and one of our missions is to deliver water resources solutions to the public,” said Becking. “This is a great example of such a solution as we’ve improved water quality, created wildlife habitat, reduced park flooding, enhanced recreational opportunities and aesthetics – all with one project.”

In 2009, the city and the Army Corps began working on the project together.

“The city had an innovative idea to recycle an existing resource, the box culvert, and turn it into storage for Combined Sewage Overflow,” said USACE Chief of Project Development, Erik Rourke. “We saw an opportunity to partner with the city and build a successful project.”

The two parties signed a formal partnership agreement, worked through aspects of the design, and later awarded a $1.9 million contract to RC&D Inc. of Pawtucket, RI to construct the project in September of 2012.

Work involved excavating approximately 1,500 feet of new stream channel, constructing an underground concrete vault structure to control storage within the existing culvert, and planting thousands of native species. Weather delayed the completion of work, but contractors finished constructing the project in March of 2014. 

“If you want to build a high-quality project, then you bring in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said Congressman Bob Brady during the ribbon-cutting event. “They have been valuable partners on a number of projects throughout the region.”

The project is expected to reduce Combined Sewage Overflows from 24 to 3 events per year, significantly improving the aquatic environment.

About the Philadelphia Water Department

The Philadelphia Water Department serves the Greater Philadelphia region by providing integrated water, wastewater, and stormwater services. The utility’s primary mission is to plan for, operate, and maintain both the infrastructure and the organization necessary to purvey high quality drinking water, to provide an adequate and reliable water supply for all household, commercial and community needs, and to sustain and enhance the region’s watersheds and quality of life by managing wastewater and stormwater effectively.

Cobbs Creek Watershed Restoration Daylighting Ecosystem Restoration Indian Creek Lt. Col. Chris Becking Philadelphia District Philadelphia Water Department RC&D Inc. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers