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!

 

NBS wins RIASLA award

Norman Bird Sanctuary Comprehensive Management Plan

We are pleased to announce that the Rhode Island chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (RIASLA) has awarded the Norman Bird Sanctuary Comprehensive Management Plan with honors in the Planning and Analysis category.

Congratulations to everyone who worked on this plan including the Norman Bird Sanctuary! The Comprehensive Management Plan serves as a roadmap to responsibly maintain, preserve, protect, and share this enormous treasure in perpetuity.

We worked with  McLaughlin and Buie, and NBS landscape consultant, Tanya Kelly on plan development.  We are happy to report that since it’s adoption, NBS has been successfully implementing the plan.  Brian Kuchar, P.E., RLA accepted the award on behalf of the entire team at the recent RIASLA holiday party. 

 

The Comprehensive and Invasive Species Management Plans have been tremendous! We have used it exclusively to manage our property and the iPad mapping is amazing. What a successful project for us – it has made a world of difference.” – Natasha Harrison, former Executive Director of NBS

 

Brian Kuchar, P.E., RLA with Lindsey Langenburg, RIASLA President. Photo: Rebecca Nolan

 

Project Wins TWO Awards!

Cottage Courts Gain Success in East Greenwich, RI

Jon Ford, P.E. Senior Project Manager

Jon has 20 years of experience as a civil engineer and neighborhood planning innovator, and is a Registered Professional Engineer in eight states. Jon is a recognized leader in the area of New Urbanist civil engineering and urban design.

 

“Cottage court projects typically feature energy-efficient homes with front porches clustered around high-quality shared plazas and green spaces, with parking areas strategically hidden.”

The National Association of Home Builders has announced the 2019 Best in American Living Awards winners. HW is proud to share that Castle Street Cottages, currently under construction by East Greenwich Cove Builders, won a ‘Best in American Living’ Award for both Single-Family Community Under 100 Units and Suburban Infill Community of the Year. We are  part of the team which includes East Greenwich Cove Builders, Union Studio, Traverse Design, and many other contributors who worked together to create the award-winning design. HW provided civil engineering services including site layout, grading, infrastructure design, stormwater management, permitting, and construction administration.

Around the country, the residential housing construction market has been slowly adjusting to meet the unmet demand for smaller residential units located within walkable neighborhoods.  East Greenwich, Rhode Island has emerged as a leader in New England encouraging unique infill (development of vacant parcels in a downtown context) for residential developments within the Main Street area. Castle Street Cottages is one of several innovative “pocket neighborhood” cottage court projects approved in East Greenwich in the last 10 years. Other notable projects in town include our collaboration with Union Studio on the CNU Charter Award Honorable Mention Cottages on Greene, which added 15 2-bedroom cottages on 0.85 acre in 2010.

Cottage court projects typically feature energy-efficient homes with front porches clustered around high-quality shared plazas and green spaces, with parking areas strategically hidden.  Reduced car dependence is a core benefit of downtown density, with some car trips replaced by a short and enjoyable walk to, in this case, East Greenwich’s historic Main Street and all it has to offer. The cottage court design scale typically blends new density more appropriately with the surrounding neighborhood fabric. Achieving a seamless blend of infrastructure into the site design is critical to a cottage court’s success but is no easy task, with small infill cottage court sites typically presenting challenges due to constrained and often sloping sites.

HW met these site challenges by designing stormwater systems not only to filter and infiltrate runoff to meet Town and state regulations, but also to employ green infrastructure as a visible and lovable part of the project’s identity and aesthetics. Our engineers integrated bioretention systems and infiltration practices throughout the site, serving as attractive buffers and transitions between parking areas, common areas, and semi-private front porches.

As demonstrated by the national attention, projects such as Cottages on Greene and Castle Street Cottages validate local implementation of cutting-edge planning and design practices. HW is excited to be part of it! Contact us today for more information regarding cottage courts, walkable neighborhood design, and green infrastructure!


Read more about the project.

What’s Up RhodeIsland: Castle Street Cottages in East Greenwich wins ‘Best in American Living’ Award

East Greenwich Cove Builders

 

gemma kite, p.e.

Senior Environmental Engineer

Gemma Kite’s experience includes state guidance development, hydrogeologic investigations and modeling, onsite wastewater treatment system management and regulatory framework, watershed planning and assessment, and emergency preparedness training. 

 

Most of us turn on the tap without ever acknowledging what goes into having safe and clean water in our homes whenever we want it.  Let’s all take a moment today to Imagine a Day Without Water and how that would affect our daily lives. We have so many options and conveniences. #ValueWater

Prior to working at Horsley Witten Group, I served in the Peace Corps from 2008-2010 in Konza, Mali, which is a rural community with no running water. When I arrived in the community, only two of the five water pumps were working. Every morning I would strap my two 5-gallon jerry cans to the back of my bicycle, bike to the nearest community water pump, and wait in line for my turn to collect water. Most days, time spent waiting in line was eased by listening to and joining in with the other women swapping jokes and gossip with each other. I was fortunate that I had a bicycle to assist me in carrying the full jerry cans back to my house. Most of the people had to balance their buckets, bowls, and jerry cans on top of their heads being careful not to spill any water on their way home. I conserved water and reduced my use organically since water access was not exactly what I had been used to in the States.

 

What would your day look if you had to walk to access water? According to UNICEF, 207 million people spent over 30 minutes per round trip to collect water from an improved source.

I watched as children would rush each other impatiently to get their water quickly so they wouldn’t be late to school. Women would spend a disproportionate amount of time returning to the pump multiple times throughout the day to provide enough water for their families. The time spent collecting water could be better used to study and do homework, partake in income generating activities, or manage other chores. Without the pump water, residents would turn to other sources of water – like unprotected hand-dug wells or surface water sources also used by livestock.

As I became concerned about the strain on the two functioning pumps, I asked about the three broken pumps and discovered that no one in the community knew how to repair the pumps or where to obtain spare parts. No preventative maintenance was done on the pumps, and no money was collected to  pay for maintenance or repairs. When a pump broke, people walked a little further to collect water from the remaining pumps that did work. I asked what would happen if all the pumps broke, and the elders responded that they would collect a mandatory tax from all households to fix it.

This situation was not sustainable and would eventually result in all the pumps breaking and residents turning to unsafe sources of water. I worked with the community to set-up pump maintenance training for a few community members and purchased a few pump repair tool kits. They would use this new training to serve as pump mechanics for other communities to earn income. I helped to ensure a supply chain of pump spare parts in the nearby city.

Most importantly, I conducted community outreach to educate residents on the importance of a preventative maintenance and the management of a fund to be able to pay for preventative maintenance and repair work.  Malians love to use proverbs to teach lessons, so in order to get the preventative maintenance message across to community members, I likened the water pump to a bicycle: if you do not clean and oil the chain regularly, eventually the bicycle will stop working. After the Peace Corps, I went on to work for an NGO in Sierra Leone and worked with the government to establish a district-wide pump maintenance program, applying my knowledge learned in Konza to a much larger region.

 

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

JONAS PROCTON

Staff Engineer

Jonas Procton has joined our engineering team as a Staff Engineer. Jonas earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Tufts University, where he focused his studies on River Restoration and Stormwater Management. A former AmeriCorps volunteer, Jonas has spent time constructing trail infrastructure and removing invasive species based out of Asheville, NC. He has supported wilderness orientation groups as a staff leader for the Tufts Wilderness Orientation Group, and is an avid hiker, biker, and rock climber. – We are thrilled to welcome him to  HW!

Jonas works out of our Exeter, NH office.

 

ASHLEY PASAKARNIS, PE

Senior Scientist/Engineer

Ashley Pasakarnis, PE, has joined our team as a Senior Scientist/Engineer. Ashley earned her Master of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, from the University of Iowa.  She received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Purdue University. She has over 14 years professional experience in environmental and geotechnical consulting. Her areas of specialty include project management and oversight of environmental remediation and transportation projects; design and permitting for site investigation and remedial action activities; and oversight of equipment installation, start-up, operation and maintenance at hydrocarbon and chlorinated impacted sites.  In her free time Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband and two children either tackling a home project or working in the garden.

Ashley works out of our Sandwich, MA office.

 

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.

 

 

Sarah bartlett

Staff Scientist

Sarah Bartlett has joined our planning team as a Staff Scientist. Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Science from Saint Anselm College. Her experience includes water quality work with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services conducting inspections, collecting samples, and database management. Sarah has always wanted to work and live on Cape Cod. She can’t wait to hit the beach with her dog and a good book – We are thrilled to welcome her to the team!

Sarah can be reached in our Sandwich office.

sarah bartlett sandwich