Month: November 2017

What Droughts can Teach us about the Importance of Proper Culverts

hillsboroughnh-stonearch

July 2016 struck New England with an extreme drought and dry weather patterns for an entire year in most of the region. Many people are seeing the drought disappear as heavy rainfall replenishes those dry wells. Showers are taken a little less guiltily.

Yet ironically, the seacoast areas of Maine and (some) of New Hampshire are still considered abnormally dry for this time of year. The drought.gov website says that the percent of dry conditions for the Northeast is a total of less than 10 percent. In general, around 90 percent have no dry conditions at all. Despite this time of year being dryer for the coast, long-term totals actually appear normal.

So, why the pesky persistence with this abnormally dry issue?

“Much of the Northeast remains drought free with the exception of coastal Maine, which has been plagued by below-normal precipitation over the summer,” Deborah Bathke reported in the National Drought Summary for August 8, 2017.

Lack of rainfall may seem relatively insignificant in the engineering world to some. Too much rainfall can cause road erosion, mud slides, sewage overflows, and building floods (among other glorious things). Too little rain? Aside from a crispy lawn, what could go wrong?

Well, for starters, a dry season can mean that ground water levels are low. Low water levels mean that engineered structures, like culverts, don’t work like they are supposed to. Which can lead to problems for an entire ecosystem.

Culverts are a great example. Culverts allow for water passage — such as streams, creeks and brooks — to move under roads. Many aquatic species migrate during their lifetimes, so in order to do that, they need to be able to swim or wade through water freely. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains that incorrectly engineered or installed dams and culverts can contribute to declining fish populations by not allowing continuous water flow and creating a physical barrier to fish passage. Throughout the watershed, there can be several examples of perched road crossing culverts (where a drop in elevation exists between the end of the culvert and the water body) and culverts that are too narrow, steep or collapsed.

As rain levels increase and droughts are ending, aquatic life has the chance to move more freely through these constricted passageways.

The importance of culverts can be partly attributed to the way the water flows.

culverts

 

The New England states have turned their attention to the importance of designing culverts that are eco-friendly for the past two decades, with regulations in place in each of the five states that require certain levels of flows, both high and low, to be maintained through culverts in order to protect migrating organisms. From an article by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of Alaska comes the challenge to make roads more fish-friendly:

“What’s under our roads should ideally mimic what’s upstream and downstream,” the article says. “This helps ensure a seamless transition for fish passing underneath. … So how wide is wide enough? To answer that, we must understand the stream’s range of flows. A stream gauge that tracks water level and documents flood events over time can help.”

When accurate stream gauge data is not available, particularly for the smaller creeks or brooks, engineers must examine the existing conditions and develop assumptions on flows, typically using hydrologic models that are standard industry practice.

In short, as you drive from place to place during your day, take time to notice the road culverts you pass over. They have an important role in keeping an ecosystem functioning at its best, even under drought conditions.

Volunteering to Make a Difference

NH Food Bank Mac Off

Reaching, stepping, buildingblog-stats-graphic-volunteering

We’re proud that members of our team are reaching out, stepping in, and building up the community. Over the past year, Hoyle, Tanner employees — both on their own and representing the company — have volunteered or donated to more than 15 causes. Since August, we’ve had at least 22 of our employees donate time, energy, and resources to causes like the New Hampshire Food Bank, the Elliot Regional Cancer Center, the City of Manchester, and the Granite United Way. We don’t just want to work and live in our community; we want to make it the best it can be.

Uplifting spirits with food security

The New Hampshire Food Bank, a program of Catholic Charities New Hampshire, exists as the only food bank in New Hampshire. The Food Bank gives millions of pounds of food to more than 400 food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other partner agencies throughout the state every year. Because of the Food Bank’s efforts, hundreds of thousands of food-insecure residents have access to meals.

Running toward better health – for others

We had our largest group of 14 runners and walkers come out for this year’s Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race on Thursday, August 10th. The race supports the Elliot Regional Cancer Center, and with over 6,000 registrants, it is the largest road race in New Hampshire. The Elliot Hospital was the first in New Hampshire to establish a cancer center in 1966. The center is home to surgical, medical and radiation oncologists with state-of-the-art technology to help patients fight cancer.

Living & giving united

After an environmental engineer at Hoyle, Tanner worked on water and sanitation improvements in Haiti five years ago, we continue to look for ways to donate to the community. This year, the goal is to donate money so that the poorest children in Leon (in the Grand’Anse Department in Western Haiti) get to attend school.

Changing through empathy

We know that sometimes… it takes a village. It takes great people coming together to see that others are struggling and offer to help. We’re proud that the Hoyle, Tanner family has so many caring souls — who dedicate part of their paycheck, time, a good ounce of energy — all to help out those in need.