Dear Environmental Colleague,
I hope you enjoy this first edition of the Environmental Quarterly and you look forward to sub-sequent issues. Contained within these pages you will find information on best practices,
the state-of-the-practice, and advancements in the environ-mental area. As one might expect, the newsletter will be issued quarterly. If you have News or Best Practices
to share throughout our community please contact us.
Sincerely, Don Cote
Environment Technical Service Team (TST) Team Manager & Editor-in-Chief
Phone: (720) 963-3210
TST Editorial Board Members:
David Grachen, Dan Harris,
Brian Smith, and David Sullivan
FHWA Resource Center
1 National Roadside Vegetation Management Issues
2 New Jersey Tackles Indirect and Cumulative Effects
2 Nevada Process Review
3 Nebraska Reviews Sediment & Erosion Control
5 New Members Join the Team
6 Where Rubber Meets Road
7 What's Going On?
8 What's News?
First National Roadside Vegetation Management Workshop, by Jerry Barkdoll, Environmental Program Specialist
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the FHWA Resource Center's Environmental Technical Service Team co-hosted the first-ever NATIONAL ROADSIDE VEGETATION MANAGEMENT WORKSHOP in Norfolk, VA, December 1-3, 2004. This was, the sixth such workshop to be held on this subject in the Mid-Atlantic region, and marks the first time all
52 State DOT and FHWA Division vegetation program managers were invited. Over 100 specialists from both management and operations ranks came together from ten States to confront problems and constraints faced by public works agencies throughout the United States and to look for solutions and technologies available to address them.
"It was good to hear how other States handle similar problems." T.O.M., Fredericksburg, VA
FHWA Virginia Division Administrator Roberto Fonseca-Martinez, delivering the program opener, was followed by FHWA's Bonnie Harper-Lore. Bonnie provided a National Perspective on Roadside Management in the United States and laid the foundation for subsequent discussions on invasive plant species, a.k.a. weeds, that are becoming major problems along our Nation's highway corridors.
DOT Roadside Partnerships by the Maryland State Highway Administration's (MSHA's) Leroy Jonas included information on ways to engage members of organizations who are interested in road-side ecology and aesthetics. Jonas shared many success stories and pictures of beautiful roadsides.
" . . . presentation on DOT partnerships -- very impressive . . . what can be accomplished with teamwork to save money, work more efficiently, educate public and beautify roadway." Anonymous, participant evaluation
New Jersey Workshop on Indirect and Cumulative Effects by Brian Smith, Biology/Water Quality Specialist
On January 25, 2005, Federal and state agencies participated in an Indirect and Cumulative Impacts workshop in Trenton, New Jersey. On hand were the New Jersey Division of FHWA, USEPA, U.S.Army Corps of Engineers, New Jersey DOT and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The Resource Center was represented by Brian Smith who presented the workshop. The resources agencies also provided their perspectives and regulations on indirect and cumulative impacts.
Identification of indirect and cumulative effects is a key process for initiating effective environmental stewardship strategies. During the workshop the USEPA encouraged the FHWA and State DOTs to seek opportunities to implement innovative mitigation measures for direct and indirect effects that would provide the best overall benefit for the environment and provide a leadership role in directing other stakeholders to aptly consolidate mitigation efforts within the community and natural environment. The USEPA does not expect the FHWA and State DOTs to mitigate for cumulative effects.
The Corps primarily focuses on the aquatic environment and predicts cumulative effects on the aquatic environment to the "extent predictable and reasonable". The overall level of effort expended by the Corps on cumulative effects is directly influenced by functions and values of the aquatic resources and the flexibility afforded by the Section 404 (b)(1) Guidelines.
The Corps instructed that their level of effort could be influenced by the project size and the extent of changing condition(s) affecting the aquatic resources.
The NJDEP Historic Preservation Office examines the effects on the integrity and character of individual historic resources and historic districts. The NJDEP also shared its definition of indirect effects and their charge to pursue appropriate mitigation for indirect effects.
The workshop produced several rallying points for the participating agencies including early coordination, sharing the NJDEP GIS database, and improving the perception of Federal projects. Projects that consider local agencies and stakeholders of localized ecological, economic, and social factors and advice in developing mitigation measures receive more public involvement. Providing assistance and outreach to local agencies and stake-holders improves the public's perception of highway projects.
Next steps for New Jersey Division will be the Linking Planning to NEPA workshop and possibly the GIS for Environmental Streamlining workshop. The GIS Workshop is intended to share information on how GIS is being used within existing environmental programs to support environmental streamlining and stewardship initiatives. Nice move, New Jersey Division.
Nevada NEPA Process Review Nears Completion by Mary Ann Rondinella
The FHWA Nevada Division Office and the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) have undertaken a NEPA Process Review with the assistance of the FHWA Resource Center Environmental Technical Service Team. The goal of the review was to find ways to improve the NEPA process for Nevada transportation projects. The review team was composed of Hannah Visser, FHWA Division Office Environmental Program Coordinator, Mary Ann Rondinella, FHWA Resource Center Environmental Program Specialist, James Souba, currently NDOT Maintenance Division Chief, and Ruedy Edgington, NDOT Associate Director for Engineering.
The team conducted a literature review, interviewed a diverse group of stakeholders, and performed case studies of six Nevada projects that had recently completed the NEPA process. The projects that were selected included both urban and rural projects. Some of the projects selected went through the NEPA process expeditiously, in the opinion of the stakeholders while others experienced delays. The team concluded that, overall, the NEPA process in Nevada works well, with average document completion time below the national average. The stakeholders praised the knowledge and capability of the NDOT and FHWA environmental staff. The project case studies show that the keys to success were strong commitment, adherence to project milestones, early involvement of stakeholders, and good internal communication within NDOT. Delays were caused by poorly defined or changing scope, lack of funding, changing developer commitments, and staff turnover. Environmental issues were not a major cause of delay for any of the projects.
NDOR and Nebraska Division Complete Review of Sediment and Erosion Control Program
Edited by David Sullivan from NDOR's report
Over 40 recommendations in the categories of environmental, project development and organizational have been formed. The environmental recommendations include NEPA training for NDOT and local agency project delivery staff, development of
an environmental procedures manual, implementation of a tracking and reporting system, and training on Native American consultation and administrative record building.
The team completed its report and briefed NV Division and NDOT management on January 21, 2005. The report includes a proposed action plan to implement the recommendations. For more information, please contact Mary Ann Rondinella, (720) 963-3207, email MaryAnn.Rondinella@fhwa.dot.gov.
The Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) and the FHWA's Nebraska Division Office recently completed a review of the Sediment and Erosion Control Program statewide. Teams from the NDOR and the FHWA reviewed specifications and plans; interviewed project managers, inspectors, and contractors; and performed field visits to document the performance of different control measures. The initial review and interviews identified some issues that needed immediate correction--specifically payment, the development of specifications, and training on how to implement and maintain control measures. To assist in the effort, Brian Smith and David Sullivan from the FHWA Resource Center's Environment TST conducted a series of 1/2 - and 1-day workshops over a 2-month period to train NDOR's field personnel from across the State on the basis of sediment and erosion control. During the construction season of 2004, the team also performed several construction inspections, specifically reviewing temporary erosion control measures.
During these reviews, additional improvement areas were noted. These needs consisted of further training, enhancement of material and method applications, and additional support. The Roadside Development Unit of NDOR's Design Division has agreed to lead in further refining the use of temporary erosion and sediment control measures. The measures to be implemented by NDOR with help from the Division include:
- Continue monitoring experimental temporary measures and disseminate information.
- Continue reviewing temporary measures and disseminating information from construction inspections.
- Review and upgrade special provisions to enhance the cost effectiveness of these
- Update and edit design manual to current industry and NDOR standards.
- Work with NDOR's Approved Product List for possible listing of temporary and permanent measures.
- Develop field design and installation guides for temporary and permanent measures.
- Continue to administer training events focused on proper installation and
performance of temporary measures.
A report on this review was completed. For a copy, or to discussion the findings, please contact NDOR's Construction Division Office or Dan Briggs (Transportation Engineer) or Bryan Cawley (Operations Team Manager) both of FHWA's Nebraska Division Office at
Don Smith of North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), spoke of North Carolina's Roadsides and On-going/Future Challenges. North Carolina is famous for the magnificent wildflower displays along its roadsides, but officials there have the same overall vegetation problems as all other States, namely, more work to be done than people or money to do it.
John Mason of Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) discussed Texas' Vegetation Management Program. TXDOT is also world famous for those splendid displays of blue bonnets along their roadsides each spring. However, since Texas is such a large State, crews have found that by keeping it simple; e.g., limiting choices to a few regional-specific determinants, such as, grass varieties, seed supply, equipment design, etc., they are better able to accomplish their mission. With contractual assistance from the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), TXDOT has assumed a lot of the necessary program responsibilities in-house, such as, designing equipment, production of seed, etc.
Chris Glazier of Utah Department of Transportation opened the second day of the workshop
with a presentation on GIS Applications in Utah, making it clear that the GIS technology is only 5% of the overall effort. Good data and knowledgeable roadway crews are critical ingredients for such a successful program.
John Mason of TXDOT then shared information about a pooled-fund vegetation / sedimentation research study he oversees at the TXDOT/TTI Hydraulics & ESC Laboratory.
Attendees also learned about Virginia's Senate Bill 260 from Jim Carr, Assistant Secretary on for VDOT. Senate Bill 260 allows private interests to finance the design, implementation, and long-term maintenance of gateway vegetation displays. VDOT must approve and will ultimately oversee the implementation of the designs, so they took advantage of this Workshop as a Forum for determining the criteria that State DOTs should apply.
SB 260 - It is one of the best roadside initiatives we've seen in recent years." Anonymous, from participant evaluation
A valuable suggestion came from the workshop floor that a list of Virginia-specific invasive plants be distributed Statewide as soon as it is completed, listing species that should never be considered for these designs. Unfortunately some suppliers and landscape architects are still recommending invasive species for current plantings. Such a list could be published as a State DOT specification, thus negating the need to continuously veto poor selections when designs are submitted. It was also suggested that designs using native plant species should be
encouraged, or even promoted, since the survival history of native species is better and they require less irrigation and maintenance.
Vic Merullo of Merullo, Reister, & Swinford Co., an attorney has specialized in the law of trees,
began his presentation by educating the group on the sources and weight of law; e.g., legislative law, case law, common law and basic rights. Attendees then looked at some case studies where suits were brought over alleged damage caused by trees. An understanding of negligence, duty, and injury was necessary for the continuation of his presentation on DOT Applications in Arboriculture Law, presented the next day. Bonnie Harper- Lore's luncheon
remarks entitled "Weeds s the Borders," meaning international borders, helped the workshop participants better appreciate the scope and importance of this invasive species. Many of the attendees were surprised to learn that Mexico is the leader in a number of ways amongst the "big three" North American jurisdictions, engaged in these conversations; e.g., the United States, Canada GIS and Adirondack Park Invasive Plants Project presented by John Falge, the New York Department of Transportation, showed how a low-tech application of GIS can be very successful to control invasive plants.
Being carriers of West Nile Fever and other diseases, mosquitoes can also be our nemeses, reported David Gaines, Virginia Dept. of Health, in his talk--Mosquito Management. He described how ponded water on highway rights-of-way may provide a perfect incubator for mosquitoes, depending upon rain patterns. Attendees learned that you must know and understand the local mosquito species and effective control measures for these local species in order to develop an effective eradication effort.
Cole Burrell, of Native Landscape Design & Restoration, presented a talk on Alternative Use of Native Plants. His gorgeous slide-show of attractive plant species currently identified as "invasive," captured and held the audience's attention. He followed by displaying native plants that have much the same appearance and function and can be used in place of the invasive variety. VDOT employees who care for our roadsides have grown to love the Virginia plants and were totally engaged in this late-hour lesson in botany.
Phillip Shucet, VDOT Commissioner, welcomed participants on Day 3. And,
Vic Merullo continued his presentation on Arboriculture Law--then presenting Virginia case studies involving damages related to trees. It was sobering to learn the liabilities associated with the trees on the right of way.
Three research faculty members at Virginia Tech then took the floor to share what they have learned from their applied research studies for VDOT in areas of Turf Management and Weed Management.
Participants eagerly took advantage of the ample opportunities for Q&A's after
each talk, with conversations continuing wherever participants went. Speakers also provided
a large amount of pertinent printed materials and resources to attendees, VDOT, and the FHWA.
Interest was so great there were no copies of any of the publications left on the table at
the conclusion of the meeting.
Brian Waymack of VDOT Asset Management and Jerry Barkdoll
of the FHWA Resource Center were the prime planners of the event. For information call:
Brian at (804) 371-6801, or Jerry at (410) 962-0051.
"Alternative Use of Native Plants/It made me aware of plants I had no idea were invasive"
Engineering Technician, VDOT
"Require" DA's, DME's and at least (1) employee in upper level residency management to attend (for each Residency) in the State . . . Overall, good conference and thank you so very much for holding this conference! I hope this type of conference will occur at least once every two years." Roadside Manger, Staunton, VA
Three New Members Join the TST-ENV Team
The FHWA Resource Center Environment Technical Service Team (TST-ENV) is pleased to announce the arrival of three new staff members. These experienced and highly qualified technical specialists are welcome additions to the team-- two of them are also new to the
Agency. Allow us to introduce: