HW Planners Support Documentation and Essential Utility Functions During a Pandemic

The Horsley Witten team of experienced emergency preparedness planners are actively supporting COVID-19 response remotely in our nation’s capital by working with the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) Incident Management Team. 

DC Water distributes drinking water and collects and treats wastewater for more than 672,000 residents and 17.8 million annual visitors (during a normal year) in the District of Columbia.  DC Water also provides wholesale wastewater treatment services for 1.6 million people in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia.  As critical infrastructure and a key resource, DC Water continues to operate 24/7 providing drinking water and wastewater services to residents and businesses as well as federal agencies in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. 

HW’s emergency preparedness staff are well versed in both the National Incident Management and Incident Command Systems and participate remotely in daily COVID-19 planning and operations meetings held by DC Water’s Office of Emergency Management. The planners assist the Authority’s Incident Management Team pandemic response through the development of comprehensive Incident Action Plans (IAP). 

The IAP is a tool used to manage DC Water’s common operating picture during this pandemic and to keep workers safe while executing their mission and essential functions.  HW has worked closely with DC Water for many years and is proud to help during this unprecedented time in our country. 
Stay safe, stay well, stay home.

 

HW’s Carbon Footprint & Offsets

Mark Nelson, P.G., Principal

Mark has led water resource protection projects for the last 35 years with clients across the country focusing on protecting drinking water supplies, freshwater lakes and ponds, and coastal estuaries.  He has also helped clean up numerous sites contaminated with hazardous materials and led training workshops for local officials on protecting their water resources.  Mark is currently leading our efforts to calculate, minimize and offset the firm’s carbon footprint.


The Horsley Witten Group has decided to become carbon neutral!  We would like to share the process we are using to calculate our carbon footprint, the steps we’ve taken to reduce our impact, and the options we are considering for offsetting what we can’t prevent.  We would like to hear from you and welcome your ideas to help us refine this evaluation over time.  Have you tried this for your home or business?  Do you have suggestions for what works well?

In our 32 years, HW has developed and supported a variety of environmental programs and goals. This work began with dozens of states and local communities by mapping where their drinking water came from and then developing regulations and plans to protect these water supplies.  We have also supported open space purchases, retrofits for numerous stormwater outfalls, planning to improve coastal estuaries, assessments, and cleanups of contaminated sites, and work with local communities on comprehensive plans. 

Recently, we were certified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to help communities plan for climate impacts through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program.  To date, we have helped nine communities plan and adapt to climate change and are currently working with many of them to implement the action items developed in the planning process. Our MVP planning work has helped our client communities leverage over $1.5 million in MVP grants. 

Our environmental work, though positive, has a measurable impact on our climate. This is true even though we purchase the majority of our electricity (for power, heat, and AC) from renewable sources.  As an example, in 2019 our staff traveled over 300,000 miles by plane, and about the same distance in our cars to work on projects across the U.S.  We’ve decided to quantify this footprint and look for ways to offset it, hopefully through local opportunities.

You can check out the initial calculation of our carbon footprint above.  It is based on 2019 data and shows the firm released approximately 250 tons of carbon to the atmosphere over the last year. This is roughly the equivalent of 4-5 typical households.  Over the next few months, we’ll share how we developed these calculations, discuss our work to reduce our footprint, and evaluate the options we are considering to offset our carbon pollution. 

There are many calculators available to quantify a carbon footprint and many ways to offset one’s emissions.  We look forward to a productive discussion on how we can do this as we work together with staff and other organizations towards a cooler and safer planet for our generation and those generations that follow.   You may contact Mark directly at mnelson@horsleywitten.com.

Click here for an informative video by Mark. This is the first in a series of blog posts and videos about HW’s carbon footprint reductions.  We look forward to sharing what we are learning and doing!

 

janelle veary

Designer

Janelle Veary has joined our Sandwich team as a Designer focused on site design and stormwater management. Janelle earned a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science and Technology from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Behavioral Neuroscience from Northeastern University.  She comes to us with two years of professional experience as an Integrated Water Engineer in Australia. Janelle will be supporting our project managers with CAD operations and a range of civil engineering and environmental assessments including site design and drainage. Janelle enjoys spending time camping, hiking, and cooking. Welcome to HW Janelle!

 

HW news

March 17, 2020

To our valued clients, partners, and friends:

 We hope this finds you well in these difficult times. In order to protect the health of our employees and clients, Horsley Witten Group, Inc. (HW) is implementing the following policies:

  • Our office is open for business and project work is continuing but most of our staff are working remotely. HW staff has access to remote work capabilities and this transition will not impact our work with our clients, consultants, and contractors. We have the ability to host and participate in online conference calls and meetings.  
  • We are proceeding with fieldwork and site visits on a case by case basis and are practicing safe social distancing in the field. At this point, it appears that most fieldwork can safely proceed. HW staff will bring all required survey equipment and field tools as needed. All equipment and tools will be wiped down with disinfectant after use. HW staff will follow CDC and state protocols and fieldwork will be canceled if official guidance indicates this is warranted.

We will continue to reevaluate our plan as information and guidance become available in this quickly changing situation. Please feel free to reach out to any of our staff by email or phone if you have questions.

Best Regards,
HW Board of Directors
Rich Claytor, Jane Estey, Nate Kelly, Anne Kitchell, Mark Nelson, Thomas Noble

 

Journey to the south Pacific, American Samoa

Geoff Glover, Staff Engineer

Geoff has four + years of professional experience as a civil/environmental engineer specializing in stormwater management, site design, grading and drainage systems, and hydraulic/hydrologic modeling. Geoff works on a variety of projects in New England and the Virgin Islands. This was his first trip to American Samoa!

 

“American Samoa, and the entire Samoan Archipelago, is such a unique and enchanting yet fragile place in the world, environmental protection needs to be a priority here…”

Talofa! (hello)!
7,641 miles, 18 hours, and 5 inflight meals. Getting anywhere in the South Pacific takes a bit of planning, whilst traveling back in time and sleeping at a 60-degree angle for as long as you can. In this case, I am headed to the main island (Tutuila) of the United States’ southernmost inhabited territory of American Samoa, a 50-square mile rugged volcanic land mass located 18 degrees south of the equator. 

Project Goal
The goal was to to educate and inform contractors and local agencies about the impacts of soil erosion that occurs during land development and how to prevent sediment traveling from a construction site to the ocean.

American Samoan islands, like many islands in the Pacific, are mostly surrounded by fringing coral reefs that protect the shorelines from wave energy that is constantly stirring in the vast blue void covering 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. These reefs are vital for the longevity of coastal Samoan communities and their island history that has developed over the past millennia. Unfortunately, they are also extremely vulnerable to land-based sources of pollution like sediment from construction sites.

Arrival
Stepping out of the customs checkpoint at Pago Pago International Airport, I could immediately tell we weren’t in Kansas (Cape Cod) anymore. First of all, we were outdoors and immediately sweating and secondly, there seemed to be a large welcoming committee for the incoming travelers. With the only flights to and from the US on Monday and Thursday evenings, and the long distance from the mainland, the airport becomes a great place for impromptu reunion or farewell parties for many locals. But there we were, four pālagis (pronounced pah-lon-gee – native word for foreigner) navigating their way through the many Samoan families. Despite having just endured the experience of traveling halfway across the world with my head full of new information, there was still room for a couple of Vailimas (a local beer) before turning in for the first night.

Let’s Get to Work!

Over the next four days, we immersed ourselves in island culture and traditions, identifying locations of active construction sites scattered about the island, and engaging in MANY conversations – the main topic – soil erosion and the importance of sediment control.

We presented to a group of 20 local contractors from several different construction companies on island. While they were extremely knowledgeable about construction techniques on their island, engineering & problem solving, and typical sequencing of day-to-day construction activities – there was a lack of awareness of how best to both minimize erosion and control the amount of sediment leaving a site. Which is why we were there. Our expertise is in protecting fragile environments from the impacts of human activities on land, and we have been training contractors and inspectors about these important issues throughout the Pacific for over 10 years!

What’s Wrong With a Little Dirt?

During construction when natural vegetation is removed and the ground is disturbed, the newly exposed soil becomes highly susceptible to erosive forces when it rains. There are several factors on tropical islands that heighten this effect – total amount of rain (e.g., over 200 inches per year in parts of Tutuila!), rainfall intensity and frequency, mountainous terrain, and fine-grained soils. These factors can result in extreme amounts of sediment-laden runoff that can suffocate the downstream aquatic environment, in particular, coral reef ecosystems. The on-the-ground construction workers are often the last line of defense! Properly installed and maintained erosion and sediment controls can help reduce the amount of sediment leaving the site and protect this delicate environment. 

My Takeaway

American Samoa, and the entire Samoan Archipelago, is such a unique and enchanting yet fragile place in the world. Environmental protection needs to continue to be a priority here, including erosion and sediment control for construction sites. This was an extremely rewarding experience as we were able to transfer this idea and knowledge with the locals. On our final day, we received parting gifts from our trainees along with countless “Fa’afetai tele lava (thank you very much)” – truly a special moment. All the travel, long workdays, jet lagged mornings, loss of fluids (sweat, so much sweat…), and little bedroom critters were worth the opportunity to inspire a new fleet of “sediment warriors” on American Samoa!

Learn more about our Island Water Resources Services!

 

experience the Garden of the senses

Brian Laverriere, Project Designer

Brian Laverriere provides landscape and graphic design services for a variety of private and public entities. He has worked on projects that include ecological restoration, campus/landscape master plans and design guidelines for conservation land, LID stormwater practices for both roadway and parking facilities, streetscape improvements, community centers and residential gardens.

Imagine traversing the new gardens with the sweet fragrance of Clethra in the air, feeling native ferns as you pass by, chewing on a delicious treat from the Magnolia Café with Chickadees chirping in the trees, all while you’re watching bees buzz around the McGraw Family Garden of the Senses. Come experience complete relaxation and evoke your emotions at the new sensory garden!

Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Massachusetts is a beautiful place. The grounds have so much to offer, yet there has always been a problem of universal access.  If you’ve ever been to Heritage – after the Magnolia Café – on your right-hand side – there’s a challenging hillside. Dangerous even for the able-bodied. Some families had to regrettably turn back, being restricted to only a portion of the elaborate gardens. As designers for the McGraw Family Garden of the Senses, we set our goal of solving the problem of universal access.

 

Collaborating with our design partners, we proudly looped in new and old areas of the gardens once unobtainable for many. Today, every patron of Heritage has equal opportunity to safely reach the bottom of that steep slope. Although providing access was our top priority, improving public safety was one of many results as shuttle traffic is now separate from the primary pedestrian flow-path.

We worked with  DirtWorks to align the proposed pathway for full ADA compliance. In doing so, we brought the Hart Maze more into the fold and have tried to engage users across a Black Locust boardwalk built by Henry Ellis Construction. Smooth Black Locust handrails were specifically detailed by DirtWorks to help extend one’s hand to combat arthritis. Happily living underneath the boardwalk are two lush rain gardens which collect stormwater runoff, representing just two of the many therapeutic/educational elements you’ll find at the new sensory garden.

The focal point is the Garden of Hope, where two naturalistic water features bubble in the plaza. Thanks to Baystate Aquascapes, one of the water-features is equipped with a flowing channel that can be touched at chair height. Both stone sculptures seamlessly blend into the natural scenery. Overhead, a magnificent Dawn Redwood stands strong. The design meanders the plaza as to avoid disturbance within the tree’s dripline. Thanks to the McNamara Brothers, serpentine stonewalls consistent with the water-features retain the high-slope.

From all of us at the Horsley Witten Group, we’re thrilled to have played a part in this project, and look forward to watching the gardens grow!


Photography:
Dan Cutrona Photography

Visit the Garden of the Senses:
Heritage Museums and Gardens

Project Partners:
Dirtworks, Landscape Architecture
Henry Ellis Construction
McNamara Brothers Landscaping
Baystate Aquascapes
Robert B. Our Company, Inc.
Heritage Museums & Gardens Staff


Read the Cape Cod Home article: Welcome One and All, Spring 2020

 

Helping Small Islands Think Big

From RI to the Northern Mariana Islands

In August, Senior Watershed Planner Anne Kitchell, Senior Planner Craig Pereira and Senior Environmental Engineer Gemma Kite traveled to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to conduct field work and public outreach meetings to help develop the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).

Our Marketing Director sat down recently with these lucky travelers to learn more about the plan and the beautiful islands of CNMI.

 

First things first, what is a SCORP?

A SCORP is the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and according to American Trails, this plan serves as a guide for all public outdoor recreation in urban and rural neighborhoods, cities, and regions for a given state. Each state must prepare a SCORP every five years to be eligible for funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. At HW we have worked on major SCORP plans for Rhode Island and CNMI.

 

What are the basic facts of this assignment?

CNMI is located several thousand miles from New England, just north of Guam and about an eight-hour flight from Hawaii. The island came under U.S. control during World War II and became an official Commonwealth in 1975. For this project, HW is working with the Office of the Governor – Office of Grants Management and State Clearing House to develop their SCORP. This program is a valuable source of support for protecting resources and providing facilities for public recreational use. HW teamed with Koa Consulting, an environmental consulting group based on Saipan, to conduct the site inventory, meet with local stakeholders, and conduct public outreach workshops.

 

What did you do while you were there?

During one week on island, Craig and Gemma traveled to Saipan, Rota, and Tinian, inventoried 120 open space and recreation sites, conducted four public workshops, met with the Advisory Committee twice, and spoke with dozens of residents. These workshops and informal discussions with the public focused on what is working well, what could be improved, and what is needed for recreation opportunities. The people on the islands were welcoming and really appreciated our help.  

Craig and Gemma inventoried beaches, children’s parks, basketball courts, cultural sites, and historical sites. Gemma especially enjoyed the archaeological site called House of Taga on Tinian, where one can explore the legends of Chief Taga by viewing the largest known erected latte stone pillars. Craig enjoyed the tranquility and scenic overlook at the Bird Sanctuary on Rota. Both appreciated the opportunity to experience every recreation space on all three islands. *Not a bad assignment, according to our staff here in Sandwich, MA!

 

Looking ahead, what is next?

The residents continue to be very engaged in the process. Our team captured a diverse range of ideas and input, as public workshops were busy and very well attended. The project website www.cnmi-scorp.com maintains a link to a public opinion survey, where residents and tourists can provide feedback on their favorite recreation sites, ideas for improving current sites and creating new opportunities. Preliminary feedback suggests that residents would like to see the following: multi-purpose sites where children to adults have opportunities to recreate in the same space; improved maintenance of sites; and recreation opportunities geographically dispersed so that people do not have to travel far to enjoy public spaces.

HW has been working in the Pacific region for over a decade on stormwater management, watershed and marine area planning, and sustainable development. In fact, we are kicking off two new watershed planning projects in the CNMI this month.  

 As a subcontractor to Weston & Sampson, HW designed and executed the statewide public process for Rhode Island’s SCORP, and was excited to start again in an entirely new place that couldn’t be more different physically and culturally. HW will be working with the SCORP Advisory Committee in CNMI over the next few months to continue engagement and finalize the plan.

 

three cheers for zoning!

Groton, CT Adopts New Zoning

HW staff are thrilled to hear that Groton, CT adopted new Zoning Regulations and an updated Zoning Map this summer. This initiative included 4+ years of intensive work, research, writing, and  meetings with Town staff, the Zoning Commission, and local stakeholders. The initial revisions focused on the Water Resources Protection District which featured a streamlined “performance-based” permit approach that works closely with the water utility.

We supported the Town in a complete regulatory review of the existing zoning regulations. Zoning can be complicated and difficult for various audiences to understand, so we wanted to help clarify and update the regulations. The team’s goal was to develop zoning that would help implement the high-quality, vibrant, and sustainable development envisioned in the Town’s 2016 Plan of Conservation and Development, and to make the regulations clear, precise, and easy to understand. Our planners and support staff provided expertise for the Town in zoning, urban design, graphic design, and community engagement throughout the process.

This process included many iterations of the regulations, particularly over the past 18 months, as details emerged. A collaborative process from start to finish ─ the final document embodies the spirit of the input received and the hard work applied by the entire team. This was evident in the positive comments heard during the public hearing process, as well as the final adjustments made in response to helpful critiques from the community participants. We hope these new regulations serve the Town of Groton well for years to come. Visit the Project Website.

 

 

Chattanooga, TN

Horsley Witten Group is collaborating as part of a team led by Dover, Kohl and Partners and others to develop a Master Land Use Plan for Chattanooga’s West End. Comparable in size to other well-loved urban places such as Boston’s Back Bay or downtown Savannah, Georgia, the West End consists of 95 acres of industrial-oriented land with over ¾ mile of frontage on the Tennessee River.

A truly interdisciplinary effort, the team analyzed the site’s existing conditions and context in great detail, and used this information to conceptualize a unique, new neighborhood. This project considered all levels of site design; from historical context, to environmental and stormwater integration, to human interaction and placemaking.  The result is a vision for a one of a kind place that reuses old steel structures, provides a car-optional mobility network, and utilizes stormwater as a public amenity in the form of a central canal. HW staff led infrastructure design and public realm elements of the plan.

 

More information:

Learn about  the project , view designs, and a brief project video (6min) here.

 

Project Team:

Dover, Kohl & Partners
VHB Engineering 
Hall Planning & Engineering
Partners for Economic Solutions

 

West End Concept plan

Dover, Kohl & Partners

 

stormwater Master plan

 Sewanee – The University of the South

Sewanee: the University of the South owns more than 13,000 acres called the Domain located on the Cumberland Plateau, more than 90 percent of which consists of Southern Appalachian forest. This is among the most diverse forest types in the United States and one of the largest unbroken expanses of hardwood-forested plateaus in the world. As an academic institution devoted to learning and knowledge, the University has committed to act as a model of environmental sustainability – including stewardship of natural areas, promotion of environmentally sensitive landscaping practices, and use of Smart Growth land use planning techniques as described in detail in the University’s 2013 Sustainability Master Plan.

Sewanee Village currently consists of a retail and office strip on University Avenue connecting the University campus to US Route 41A. The Village has been designated by the University as one of three future development focus areas in the Campus Master Plan, also including the Core Campus and the School of Theology. The University envisions redevelopment of Sewanee Village as a mixed-use, walkable, vibrant place, with better connections to the Core Campus. The Village Implementation Plan, completed by Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative (TPUDC) in 2016, produced a design framework for the Village Core.

The 2016 Sewanee Village Implementation Plan builds upon the Sewanee Vision Plan and the Sewanee Action Plan and provides specific planning interventions and strategies to guide redevelopment of the Village and the greater Domain. The goal of this Plan is to enhance connections between the University of the South and the Sewanee Village, and to ensure the long-term viability of the Village by creating a mixed-use environment that integrates new businesses, civic spaces, and housing into the existing Village fabric. The Implementation Plan seeks to make the Sewanee Village a regional model for sustainable redevelopment.

The directive of this project is to evolve the 2016 Village Implementation Plan to the next level of detail, melding a more detailed assessment of on-the-ground existing conditions with the University’s sustainability principles as well as the vision for Sewanee Village as a vibrant, mixed-use center. The University convened a stakeholder group including TPUDC, University subject matter experts, and local business owners to provide input and guide the project throughout.

 

Guiding Principles

The University and stakeholder group collaborated to develop the following guiding principles as an overarching framework for evolution of the Village Implementation Plan:

 

Filter + Store

To mitigate the effects of additional runoff resulting from proposed development, demonstrate the application of Light Imprint site planning techniques and green infrastructure BMPs to naturally filter, infiltrate, and store runoff.

 

Balance

Provide a range of land planning and stormwater solutions calibrated to the Domain’s natural context, “softer edge” aesthetic to artfully compliment the urban design vision for Sewanee Village.

 

Beautify

Artfully incorporate environmental design into Sewanee Village respecting the area’s built and natural character. Utilize green stormwater infrastructure as placemaking elements and educational amenities.

 

Innovate

Encourage implementation of highly visible, forward-thinking approaches as a demonstration of the University’s commitment to sustainability and learning.

 

Be Realistic

Demonstrate realistic, cost-effective, and constructible nature-based solutions with a focus on long-term maintenance requirements.