Tag Archives: Environmental science

Supporting a Community to Build a Rain Garden

By: Marc F. Weller, P.E., Pare Project Engineer, a member of Pare’s Rising Professionals Committee, and on the New England Water Environment Association Young Professionals Committee

Two Pare engineers recently participated in the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) Young Professionals Committee’s first annual Community Service Project.  The Committee’s goal was to build green infrastructure that would have an impact on a community and promote environmental sustainability.  It was decided to construct a rain garden at the Common Fence Point Community Center  in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Funding for the project was generously provided by the Van Beuren Charitable Foundation through the Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition; and was supported by the Eastern RI Conservation District.

Once the project and location were determined, the members of the Young Professionals worked tirelessly to design and organize the details of the raingarden.  All of this work paid off the day of the event!  More than 45 volunteers gathered at the Common Fence Point Community Center, with most of the help coming from residents in the community. Six residents stood out for their dedication to the project by donating their professional expertise and use of heavy equipment for the project.  Without the media outreach, excavation equipment, and horticulture expertise, we would not have been able to construct the raingarden.  Many residents helped move loam and mulch, build a rip-rap spillway, and plant various shrubs and flowers.  It was an incredible display of community camaraderie.  The rain garden project was completed in about seven hours, which was much faster than expected and solely attributed to the amazing community support.

A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape that collects and allows rain to slowly infiltrate into the ground, minimizing runoff and filtering the water. The 760-SF rain garden was designed to capture 50% of the runoff from the community center roof that would otherwise infiltrate into the ground and eventually discharge into the Mt. Hope Bay without any kind of treatment.  Two roof leaders were tied together with new PVC drain pipe and discharged into to the rain garden.  The rain garden was constructed using four inches of 50/50 loam/compost mix and 3-inches of pine bark mulch.  Native plants are preferred in the rain garden because they have already adapted to local environmental conditions and require far less water.  With this in mind, over 400 plants native to Rhode Island, including bearberry, milkweed, and azaleas, were planted within the garden bed.  A small rip-rap spillway was also constructed to allow for the release of water that may build up in the garden during heavier rain events.

Since the day of the event, the community has taken a special interest in the rain garden and have added approximately $4,500 of additional plants and material! In addition to adding new flowers along the perimeter, large stones have been installed to help stabilize the slopes.  The rain garden has really become a reflection of the camaraderie of the Common Fence Point community.

The project was a great experience to help a community that was engaged and willing to help …and we had fun doing it!  Several residents shared how the community center used to be the focal point of the neighborhood.  Movie nights, dances, and impromptu neighborhood parties used to be a staple at the community center, but for one reason or another, those activities have become few-and-far-between in recent years.  This event helped revitalize that sense of community, and we are optimistic that this construction will help inspire the return of those community events.

From an engineering point of view, we enjoyed putting the design skills cultivated on other projects at Pare into use on this community project. It was a great experience to actually get our hands dirty planting this raingarden side-by-side with our neighbors.

Click here to learn more about raingardens on the Environmental Protection Agency Rain Garden Information Website and how you can install one in your own community.

Exploring Foxborough’s Biodiversity for the 2018 City Nature Challenge

By: Lauren Gluck, Senior Environmental Scientist and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

This past weekend, Pare’s Sustainability Committee hosted two BioBlitz events in Foxborough as part of the Boston Area City Nature Challenge (CNC). It was a great opportunity to get outside and explore biodiversity in a town that Pare calls home! The events were open to Pare staff, family and friends, and to the public.

Exploring the Canoe River Wilderness

The CNC is an annual international competition to see which metropolitan area can photograph and document the most species in one weekend using this iNaturalist app.

Screenshot of iNaturalist City Nature Challenge 2018 App

None of us had used iNaturalist prior to the CNC; however it is safe to say we are hooked. Not only does it let you record your observations, but it also assists in species identification using photo recognition and input from the iNaturalist community! We highly recommend it for nature lovers of all experience levels.

Screenshot from the iNaturalist app. Check out our observations!

The Foxborough Conservation Commission has an excellent “Guide to Conservation Land & Open Spaces” which we used as a resource to plan out our BioBlitz destinations.

On Saturday we explored the Canoe River Wilderness, an expanse of diverse conservation land that extends into several neighboring towns. We followed the trail around Greeley’s Pond on East Street, where we explored forested uplands, wetlands, and riverine habitats bordering the pond.

Capturing some plant observations by the Canoe River

We veered off the trail to explore a vernal pool. we found spotted salamander egg masses and a newly hatched wood frog tadpole.

Discovering vernal pool wildlife in the Canoe River Wilderness

On Sunday, we visited the site of the Lincoln Hill Camp on Oak Street, a former children’s camp which is now protected as a conservation area. Remnants of the past were found throughout the property, making it a very intriguing site to explore.

After exploring the ruins of the camp, we found a trail down through the woods to a certified vernal pool on the property. There was an abundance of species to be found here, from salamander egg masses to fairy shrimp!

Spotted Salamander egg mass found in the vernal pool

Next, we wandered down toward the Rumford River, where we found a variety of different environments including a beautiful Atlantic White Cedar swamp.

Our team of observers contributed 117 observations to the challenge throughout the weekend. I am proud to say that the Boston area ranked consistently high in the CNC competition! Of the 69 participating regions, we had the 10th highest number of observations, the 13th highest number of species, and the 3rd highest number of people participating in the challenge! Not bad when you consider that the growing season has just begun here in Massachusetts.

Thank you to those who participated, and we encourage everyone to give the iNaturalist app a try during your next walk in the woods.

A Seawall for All: The Seattle Waterfront Project as a Model for Future Redevelopment

By Brian Dutra, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Coastline Along Marblehead, MA

New England’s coastline is home to some of the Nation’s first and largest waterfront communities, with nearly 6,100 miles of tidal shoreline in the region. Unfortunately, the nation’s coastal infrastructure is deteriorating, which greatly impacts these communities.  According to the 2017 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card, Ports and Inland Waterways were given a grade of “C+” and “D”, respectively, with a need to modify or replace structures that have far exceeded their design life.  The need to rehabilitate or replace these structures is further emphasized as the infrastructure along the coastline continues to age and deteriorate.

As we evaluate and rehabilitate New England’s coastal infrastructure, an ongoing project in Seattle, Washington can provide a template for innovative and sustainable design improvements.

The billion dollar “Waterfront Seattle” project is a total waterfront reconstruction along Elliot Bay that began in 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2023. Similar to a number of New England’s Ports, The Elliot Bay Seawall was built between 1916 and 1934 and has exceeded its original design life. The original concrete seawall was built on approximately 20,000 timber piles.  Deterioration of the structure had led to instability of the seawall and the development of sinkholes behind it. The design and reconstruction of the new Elliott Bay Seawall incorporates several sustainable features, providing ancillary benefits to the area’s infrastructure, tourism, and environment.

The Waterfront Seattle Project replaces more than just the failing seawall; it improves quality of life for both marine life and humans, including a salmon migration corridor and new pedestrian access to the water. The budget for the project includes nearly $350 million for the following:

  • Stabilizing the existing soil and foundations with jet-grouted columns.
  • Installing precast concrete textured walls for the salmon migration corridor.
  • Installing a habitat bench along the wall to increase fish and marine life habitat.
  • Installing a sidewalk and pedestrian space with light-penetrating surfaces

Overview of the Textured Wall and Concrete Shelves (currently behind a temporary coffer dam) from https://waterfrontseattle.org/

What makes this engineering project truly unique is the focus on promoting sustainable and natural environmental growth. The new textured concrete walls will create a salmon migratory corridor where one has not existed for over 100 years. Textured shelves cast into the concrete walls allow plant and marine life to adhere to the wall. The walkway above the new corridor consists of glass bricks installed into precast concrete sidewalk panels that are able to support pedestrian traffic and allow sunlight to penetrate the sidewalk, promoting plant and marine growth below the walkway and on the wall. An intertidal bench, located in shallow water, will also be constructed to simulate a nearshore habitat.

Now fish, crustaceans, and plant life that would typically be found in and around the shallow natural shoreline of Elliot Bay can find their way back to an area that was previously inaccessible. Plants that could not grow in the deep waters along the original wall can thrive on the textured shelves and intertidal benches creating aquatic food for the marine life in the bay. Juvenile salmon that would typically avoid the shoreline of the previous wall due to the lack of light will use the new seawall as a migratory corridor.

As we look to rehabilitate our aged coastal infrastructure in New England, the Waterfront Seattle Project is a prime example of how we can sustainably build and rehabilitate an already established waterfront. A thoughtful and innovative approach can update critical infrastructure while simultaneously benefiting businesses, people, and marine life for years to come.

For More Information:

From LEED to Envision: Expanding Green Design to Infrastructure

By Matt Alford, P.E., ENV SP, Senior Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Green design and construction practices have been around for some time, and there are several industry rating systems to help with implementation.  Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a sustainable rating system for buildings, is the most widely used system around the world. The LEED program guides the design, construction, operations and maintenance of buildings toward sustainability. It has been 16 years since the first version of LEED, and the number of buildings receiving LEED certification increases each year. And it’s not just about the shiny plaque! It has proven to increase building performance throughout the lifecycle of the building while enhancing the experience of the occupants.  The program provides real long-term cost savings in the operation and maintenance of these buildings. This was demonstrated during the economic downturn of 2008-2009 when, despite the economy, the number of registrations increased. “Green” sustainable design can increase the efficiency of a building, provide long-term cost savings, increase public recognition of a project, and improve quality of life.

But, what about infrastructure? Infrastructure changes the way we get around, communicate, and view the world—it is an essential element to our culture. However, it has different challenges than buildings. Often coordination between several organizations that each have their own agendas and budgets is one of the major challenges when implementing sustainable design for infrastructure.

Similar to how LEED is focused on the occupants of the building, the new Envision Rating System focuses on the stakeholders affected by the project.  Envision is an objective framework of criteria and performance achievements that helps users identify ways in which “green” sustainable approaches can be used to plan, design, construct, and operate infrastructure projects. It also looks to enhance the social, environmental and economic aspects of a project by providing a holistic project assessment and guidance tool to tackle these challenges.  Using the design and building of a new industrial plant as an example, Envision encourages cohesive planning so that how the new plant impacts the historical value of the community is as important as how clean the air is being released thru its smokestack.  The goal of the program is to best use taxpayer dollars, reduce our environmental footprint, and enhance the overall quality of life in our community.

Types of Infrastructure Envision Will Rate

 

Envision is broken down into five categories to evaluate how a project contributes to the overall sustainability of the community.

  • Quality of Life – addresses a project’s impact regarding the health and well-being of individuals and the community as a whole.
  • Leadership – engages the project stakeholders and team leaders to provide meaningful commitment, collaboration and communication with each other.
  • Resource Allocation – dives into the use of recyclable materials and overall waste reduction for the long-term operation and maintenance of the infrastructure and construction.
  • Natural World – how the project preserves and renews ecosystem functions.
  • Climate and Risk – looks at two main concepts: ensuring resilience and minimizing emissions of a project both in the short-term and long-term future conditions.

Using Envision demonstrates an organized and comprehensive approach to decision making.  It embraces the use of best practices and garners support from stakeholders. Effective sustainable infrastructure development cannot be completed without involving several parties.

Similar to the LEED program, Envision has four award levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Even if an award is not pursued, it is strongly encouraged to use Envision criteria as a guide or a set of standards for creating sustainable infrastructure. Envision is laying the groundwork for making sustainable design the new standard for all infrastructure projects.

Instrumental Parties

 

And why not!?!   Here are some advantages to doing so:

  • Quantifying the qualitative benefits, including preserving local character
  • Applying a consistent, transparent approach to sustainability
  • Helping communities address long-range needs
  • Evaluating environmental and economic benefits
  • Extending the useful life of a project
  • Improving the efficiency of a project
  • Demonstrating good governance of resources

Just as using a sustainable building rating system as a guide for development has proven to be worth the investment for new building construction, Envision will help guide decisions about sustainable infrastructure projects to be made proactively instead of re-actively in our communities. Imagine a world with less congestion, cleaner waters, purposefully-developed communities, and tax dollars being used more efficiently.  Envision provides the framework to improve the way we develop the infrastructure and its impact on our daily lives

Notes:

Why the Northern Long-Eared Bat Should Be On Your ‘Radar’

Usually bats fly under the radar (no pun intended). However, the Northern Long-Eared Bat was recently listed as a threatened species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service due to a quick-spreading fungal disease, White Nose Syndrome. Discovered in 2007, the disease has caused unprecedented mortality of the Northern Long Eared Bat across the United States and Canada.

Northern_long-eared_bat_with_visible_symptoms_of_WNS_(8510785002)

Myotis septentrionalis, northern myotis (Vespertilionidae) showing signs of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). LaSalle County, Illinois. January 2013 Photo credit: University of Illinois/Steve Taylor

Bats play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations, so protection of a threatened species is understandable and justified. But our clients and colleagues should recognize that this recent threatened species listing could affect their construction and development projects. This listing is of particular concern for projects where federal funding or permitting is required. Schedules may also be impacted, as the removal of one acre or more of trees from a development site will be prohibited during the months of June and July. While this species of bats reside in caves throughout the winter, they move their habitat to trees during the summer months. Because the Northern Long Eared Bat will live in any tree species, projects that involve tree removal may be an obstacle for permitting.

Big-eared-townsend-fledermaus

For project specific questions and more information, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s webpage about the Northern Long-Eared Bat and the consequent regulations here.

Thanks to Lauren Hastings, Senior Environmental Scientist at Pare for bringing this issue to Pare’s attention!

And The Winner Is…..

“Back to Nature” by Allen Orsi, P.E., a Managing Engineer in Pare’s Geotechnical Division, is the winner of the 5th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest. This year, Pare employees were asked to submit a photo inspired by the Earth Day 2015 theme: Take a stand, so that together we can show the world a new direction. It’s our turn to lead. Our world leaders will follow.

The 2015 photo contest was incredibly close. There was a tie between photos for most of the week, but in the end, “Back to Nature” won by two votes!

Photo 2

The Bartlet Pond Dam, originally constructed in 1814, was a barrier to the natural ecology of the Wekepeke Brook for nearly 200 years. During that time, the presence of the dam resulted in increased water temperatures, lower Dissolved Oxygen, disconnected environments, and other environmental detriments. In 2014, the dam was removed, restoring the area to a natural stream channel and allowing for the natural healing of the ecosystem to begin, which will benefit both the Wekepeke as well as the Nashua River, located shortly downstream. In recognition of this achievement, state and local officials gathered to celebrate the project and other environmental initiatives being supported financially through programs being offered by EOEEA. Attendance at the event demonstrated the state’s commitment and progress in restoring our natural environment; the new growth embodies the power of nature to overcome man’s interference in the cycle of nature.

Congratulations to our winner, Allen Orsi. Allen will receive a gift card to Briggs Garden & Home.

You can check out the rest of the photo entries here.

A special thanks to all who contributed to this year’s Earth Day Photo Contest. This year’s entrants were:

#1 Andrew Chagnon – Synthetic Turf Field, Marshfield
#2 Allen Orsi – Back to Nature
#3 Dave Easterbrooks – Save the Bay Swim
#4  Marc Weller – Eco-Machine
#5 Lauren Hastings – Tread Lightly
#6  Tim Thies – S-s-s-s-s-s-springtime Buddies
#7  Dave McCombs – Solitude
#8 Nick Romano – Koi Pond
#9  Victoria Howland – Living Machine
#10  Mel Hebert – Aurora Borealis
#11  Brandon Blanchard – Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?
#12  Cari Orsi – Living Green
#13 Scott Lindgren –  Follow us, together we will lead.

Pare Congratulates Walter Burke on Environmental Achievement Award

Pare Corporation is excited to recognize a long-time client, Bristol Parks and Recreation Director Walter Burke, as the recipient of Save the Bay’s annual Environmental Achievement Award. Walter was recently honored for his efforts to eliminate stormwater pollution entering Narragansett Bay in the Town of Bristol and, in particular, for his efforts to improve water quality at the Bristol Town Beach.

walterburkecropped

Working with Pare’s civil engineering and environmental teams, Walter initiated the Bristol Town Beach project to eliminate the frequent beach closings caused in years past by stormwater pollution. Historically, Bristol was forced to close its beach an average of 15 to 20 times per summer due to a stormwater system that carried bacteria, salt, and pollutants directly into the bay. David Potter, Senior Project Engineer in Pare’s Civil Division explains, “Pare worked together with Walter, the CRMC (RI Coastal Resources Management Council) and the DEM (RI Department of Environmental Management) to obtain a joint permit for the first-ever permitted GWVTS (Gravel Wet Vegetated Treatment System) in Rhode Island.”

Bristol Beach Plan

This design uses a vegetated permanent pool split between two cells to temporarily capture stormwater runoff from the adjacent residential neighborhood and treat for pathogens, total suspended solids, and other constituents. The two cells within the GWVTS are planted with a variety of aesthetically pleasing flowers and shrubs that feed on bacteria and pollutants before releasing this “filtered” water into the bay. The GWVTS is one of the solutions incorporated by Walter Burke on the Bristol Town Beach to treat stormwater runoff and reduce the number of beach closings.

The new system worked so well in the summer of 2013 (its first full season) that beach closings went from 15+ to zero. Briscoe Lang, Pare’s Principal Environmental Scientist, stated, “This system has proven successful in removing pathogens, and it should be used in all possible settings. It also provides significant aesthetic benefits.”

Bristol Bioretention Pond

When discussing the dual-functionality and success of the project, Pare’s team unanimously noted Walter Burke’s “vision” and his “get it done” attitude. As Briscoe Lang said, “Talk is nothing without action.” David Potter added, “He not only has the vision, but the patience and energy to achieve it.”

Bristol Beach Wetland

Congratulations to Walter Burke, who was presented the Environmental Achievement Award on Wednesday, May 21, by Save the Bay. For press coverage of Walter Burke’s achievement and additional GWVTS details, click here.