Month: September 2019

An Internship Like No Other

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Background/Education/Goals:

This past summer I worked as a full-time intern for Hoyle, Tanner’s Transportation and Environmental groups, and will continue in a part-time capacity during school. I graduated from the UNH College of Engineering and Physical Sciences with a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering in May, but am continuing at UNH to pursue a Master of Engineering degree with a focus in water resources. I hope to one day move towards coastal engineering, specifically sea level rise modeling and climate change adaptation, as it becomes a more widespread field.

Prior Experience

Prior to starting my internship at Hoyle, Tanner I worked during school in the GIS lab for the UNH Earth Systems Research Center and the previous two summers interned at other engineering firms. That experience provided me a solid base for continuing work in the industry, and much of this foundational knowledge allowed me to further my development as a young engineer and expand my toolbox while working here at Hoyle, Tanner.

Hoyle, Tanner

Having previously worked at two other consulting firms, I started the Hoyle, Tanner internship expecting more of the same, but I was quickly thrown in the deep end and found myself experiencing a whole host of new challenges. One thing stood out as a very positive sign to me early on at Hoyle, Tanner, for my first time while working in the industry, I started doing work that felt like my own. Rather than working on tasks with clearly laid-out goals and outcomes I was given opportunities to solve new problems in collaboration with multi-disciplinary teams. I did fieldwork and site visits, learned new software tools to model hydraulic systems, and applied concepts from my academic experience to real-world scenarios. At Hoyle, Tanner I had the freedom to prove myself and the support system necessary to succeed. This type of work helped me feel a sense of responsibility for the company; I found myself more committed to and focused on the job because I felt like a valued member of the team rather than a temporary worker meant to help with menial tasks.

From my first day, I’ve been constantly seeing ways that this company is trying to innovate and evolve. Throughout the summer I regularly heard about new technologies Hoyle, Tanner wanted to implement, and I saw many of my coworkers’ commitment to pursuing additional training and bettering themselves as engineers. This includes expanding Hoyle, Tanner’s capabilities into entirely new fields. To me, this feels like a company where you have the opportunity to stand out, separate yourself from the crowd, and be challenged to innovate and excel in your field.

Work

During my internship with Hoyle, Tanner I was able to work on a wide variety of projects and perform an even wider variety of tasks. My supervisor did a great job of ensuring that I got some experience in many areas to find what type of work I enjoyed most. I helped with roadway resurfacing projects, a pump station replacement, asset management, MS4 permit compliance, and construction inspection, among others. Working on so many different projects helped to keep the summer fresh and exciting, and getting exposure to so much helped me learn a ton about new topics, technologies, analysis methods, and project development.

Projects/Tasks

Drone Flight:

  • I was able to go to a Maine airfield to do a drone training day. Hoyle, Tanner has implemented drone surveys for projects and has invested in staff getting drone pilot licenses. We laid out ground control points across the site, and flew the drone both by hand and by using flight planning applications. It was a lot of fun to go out and fly the drones, and I really liked that the company seemed to see their potential in future work and was willing to invest in the emerging technology.

Construction Inspection:

  • During my summer here I had the opportunity to spend some time doing construction inspections while our normal Resident Project Representative (RPR) was on vacation. I got a ton of working knowledge by going out in the field and watching things actually be built. I was able to see paving, excavation, grading, compacting, placing curbs and headwalls, and laying conduit. Seeing the other side of these projects definitely helped give me a better understanding of the practicality of engineering designs in the field, and the RPR role in assuring everything goes smoothly.

Sewer Modeling:

  • While at Hoyle, Tanner I was able to work on a couple of projects requiring sewer modeling, for which I learned to use SewerCAD. I had previously used EPANet, a similar program, but SewerCAD has much higher functionality. This was one of my favorite tasks from my whole internship – I was able to apply hydraulic concepts learned in the classroom and manipulate useful software to solve a complicated problem. It was very rewarding to familiarize myself with a new program, build an accurate hydraulic model of a real-world piping network, and successfully simulate flow scenarios to assess the system performance.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed working with Hoyle, Tanner this summer. I gained a ton of knowledge and experience, and have nothing but good things to say about everyone I worked alongside. Hoyle, Tanner did a great job of integrating me into the team and making me feel like a real engineer, rather than just a temporary employee. I look forward to continuing my work with Hoyle, Tanner throughout this school year, and entering the real world far more prepared for a career in engineering.

How We’re Helping Communities Fortify for Climate Change

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In the midst of political change, tariffs, budget cuts, and the seemingly endless threat of global conflict, we are faced with yet another pressing concern: the impending effects of climate change. We worry about storm surge and rising sea levels threatening our coastlines. We worry about damaging hurricanes and blizzards that shut down our communities for days or worse. We worry about droughts and polar vortexes that bring extreme temperature changes taxing our fuel supplies. But what about infrastructure? What about drainage systems and bridges and power supplies? How do we make these systems stronger and more robust to withstand our increasingly changing environment?

Enter MVP

Over the last three years, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA or EEA) has been implementing the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program (MVP) to award grant money to communities who are looking to address climate resiliency issues. According to the program website, “The [MVP] grant program provides support for cities and towns in Massachusetts to begin the process of planning for climate change resiliency and implementing priority projects. The state awards communities with funding to complete vulnerability assessments and develop action-oriented resiliency plans. Communities who complete the MVP program become certified as an MVP community and are eligible for MVP Action grant funding along with other opportunities.

One requirement of the program is that the municipality must select and contract with a state-certified MVP provider. The state only certifies individuals, and not companies or entities.  Hoyle, Tanner now has two state-certified staff members who are prepared to help communities with this funding program: David M. Langlais, PE and Audrey G. Beaulac, PE, CPSWQ.

Getting Started

In the first phase, a community applies for a Planning Grant and selects a state-certified MVP Provider (that’s us). The purpose of the grant is to pay entirely for the MVP provider’s time, lifting the burden of the community. Once approved, we guide 20 to 60 key community personnel and stakeholders through an 8-hour Community Resilience Building workshop (or two 4-hour workshops) that helps them identify climate-related issues and vulnerabilities within the community. A Final Report is generated which details the workshop and outlines the highest priority actions identified during the workshop.

The report is submitted to EEA and upon approval the community qualifies as a Climate Change Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program municipality. Municipalities that don’t have a current hazard mitigation plan (HMP), or with a plan expiring in 2019 or 2020 are eligible for additional funding to complete or update a full draft of the HMP for MEMA review.

Designated

With the MVP program municipality designation, the community is then able to apply for an Action Grant to address some of the highest priority projects identified under the Planning Grant. The municipality must match 25% of the project cost, and apply for the funding. The program does favor certain types of projects over others, but all are welcome to apply.  In addition, designation as an MVP Community makes municipalities eligible for other types of state funds.

How We Help

Here’s where we come in. Our state-certified staff assist municipalities by helping them prepare for the Community Resilience Building workshop, facilitating the workshop itself, preparing the final report, helping the community plan for next steps, and assisting with quarterly reports during the award period.   As we walk through this process with them, we become intimately aware of their most pressing concerns. While there is no obligation for municipalities to continue on with us during the Action Grant process, having knowledge of how the most pressing concerns were arrived at helps us to offer a seamless transition to designing solutions through the Action Grant program.

Why MVP?

The question on most people’s minds is “why would municipalities apply for this grant money when they have seemingly more pressing capital improvements to face such as failing infrastructure or meeting the new MS4 requirements?” The answer is simple: Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) projects may be identified as vulnerabilities through this process, making them eligible for grant funding.

For example, say that through the process a city identified that during recent, more frequent heavy rain events, a culvert/bridge that used to be fine is now having flooding issues, but it’s not a red listed bridge. The city can now apply to have the bridge upsized through the MVP Action Grant.

As another example, imagine there’s a section of town that now floods and through the Planning Grant process it’s determined that it’s due to undersized drainage, and coincidentally through MS4 requirements the town has determined that they can’t salt that section anymore in the winter due to impacts on the water body at the outflow and they can’t afford to put in a detention system to mitigate it. Again, the town can apply for a drainage redesign with detention systems through the grant, and they are now also addressing an MS4 concern.

Whether it’s as simple as prioritizing an action plan for critical emergency services located within a floodplain, or as complex as resizing culverts and developing stormwater BMP infrastructure, Action Grants are available for use. A complete list of eligible projects can be found here:https://www.mass.gov/service-details/mvp-action-grant-eligibility-criteria

The next round of Planning Grants will be available on Commbuys at the end of September, for expected award by the end of the year, so don’t miss out. Email Dave Langlais or Audrey Beaulac with any questions and they will be happy to assist you.

Employee Spotlight: Shawn Tobey, PE

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Shawn Tobey, Civil Engineer and Family Man

  1. What drew you to Hoyle, Tanner?

It was a large firm with a lot of knowledgeable staff. I was drawn to working on unique and challenging projects

  1. What’s something invaluable you’ve learned here?

Strategies for working collaboratively and networking skills.

  1. What’s your favorite time of year to work at Hoyle, Tanner?

I like the summer time because most projects are in construction and there is opportunity to be out in the field.

  1. What’s the coolest thing you are working on?

I am currently working on a 25 acre mixed-use 303-unit residential development project.

  1. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you so far this week?

Playing soccer in the yard with my daughter, wife and dogs.

  1. How many different states have you lived in?

Two: Maine, NH

  1. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?

Lobster

  1. What kind of pet do you have and how did you choose to name it?

We have two Boston Terrier/Pug mix dog’s named Jean-Luc and Margaux. My wife is a French teacher so it was only fitting that they had French names.

  1. What is a fun or interesting fact about your hometown?

My family settled in Eliot, Maine in the 1600s. They were boat builders. My father is a carpenter and boat builder today and still lives in the same town.

  1. What are three things still left on your bucket list.

I’d like to master plan and design a large scale urban development project, build a boat and someday I’d like to walk my daughter down the aisle. 

  1. Name three items you’d take with you to a desert island

A fishing pole, a saw and a new pair of work boots.

  1. What characteristic do you admire most in others?

Authenticity

  1. How old is the oldest item in your closet?

A box of old newspaper articles from my basketball days.

  1. Words to live by? Favorite quote?

“If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” – Steve Jobs

  1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Civil engineer

  1. If you were to skydive from an airplane what would you think about on the way down?

I would scout areas to develop!

What you need to know about New Hampshire’s Drinking Water

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This summer, New Hampshire has made noteworthy steps in keeping our drinking water safe by enacting stricter Maximum Contamination Levels (MCLs) for contaminants of concern.  Regulations were approved lowering the regulated MCL for four ‘per’ and ‘poly’ fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals detected in NH drinking water, and the MCL for arsenic has been cut by half.

Arsenic Levels in our Drinking Water

Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical element in groundwater and is a regulated inorganic compound for NH public drinking water supplies. NH adopted the federal maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 0.010 milligrams per liter (mg/l) many years ago. This July, the Governor signed a bill lowering the arsenic limit to 0.005 mg/l to further improve public health. NH public water supplies currently treating for arsenic will need to reevaluate their treatment systems to determine whether they meet the new MCL of 0.005 mg/l by the compliance deadline of July 2021.

Regulating PFAS in our Drinking Water

PFAS chemicals have been found in some New Hampshire drinking water sources. They include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS).

Since the 1940s, these compounds have been steadily increasing in the environment, as they are used in a variety of household, industrial, and commercial products worldwide. Some common products containing PFAS chemicals include non-stick (Teflon) cookware, flame retardant foams, and food packaging, such as microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers.

Once in the environment, these chemicals do not break down easily and are known to accumulate in the human body over time. Research on these compounds is still limited, but the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has identified health issues like decreases in fertility and vaccine response, increase in cholesterol levels, and evidence of carcinogenicity (specifically testicular and kidney cancer), as possible effects of excessive exposure to PFAS chemicals.

This July, the NH Joint Legislative Rules Committee (JLCAR) voted to approve rules proposed by the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) that set limits for PFAS compounds in NH community drinking water systems. Applicable water systems are defined as non-transient systems serving 25 or more people, more than 60 days per year. The rules are intended to protect the most sensitive populations over a lifetime of exposure and includes the following compounds:

New Hampshire is now the first state to set new PFAS Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) that are well below the federal health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). The new MCLs becomes effective October 1, 2019. Mandatory quarterly PFAS testing will start in the fourth quarter of 2019 on all community water systems. Those results will be combined with the first three quarters of results in 2020 to develop a running four-quarter average concentration that will determine the systems in compliance, and those needing remediation. Remediation could mean installing treatment and filtration systems with estimated costs (for compliance with the new rules) reportedly as high as $200 million. NHDES approved these changes in an effort to make the state’s drinking water safer for consumption. To read the full report, visit the NHDES website.

 

Competitive Grant Writing 101: 6 Tips to “Show You the Money!”

Photo of papers on desk with person writing on them

Competitive grants can be a big help for project owners who are responsible for large, complicated and expensive infrastructure improvement projects.  Whether potential grants originate from federal agencies, such as the USDOT or the EPA, state agencies, or local entities, the competition can be fierce and funding requests typically significantly outweigh what is available. So, you have a great project in mind – what do you have to do to position your project over the tens, hundreds or thousands of others that are pursuing the same pot of gold? Here are some opinions and helpful hints that may guide you to success!

Be Prepared and Get Started Early.

Competitive grant applications require extensive and detailed information and the submissions may have short turnaround times.  If you wait to do your conceptual planning or develop a convincing “purpose and need” for the project until the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is issued, you may be too late. For example, the recent $900 million BUILD Grant from USDOT was released on April 23, 2019, and applications were due no later than July 15th – a 12-week turnaround. This may seem like a lot of time, but it disappears quickly considering what needs to be included in a solid application, even if you retain a consultant to assist and do the heavy lifting.  In anticipation of a NOFO being issued, having a completed feasibility study, conceptual plan, project cost estimates, public support and other elements of a strong application can go a long way – there just isn’t time to prepare and collect the information once the NOFO is issued as the application preparation itself can be intense.

Be Objective about Your Project.

Does your project truly check off the boxes that the funding agency is looking for with regard to safety, socio-economic benefits, state of good repair, improvements to quality of life, life cycle analysis, benefit vs. cost analysis, and other important elements? Competitive grant applications such as TIGER, BUILD and others can be time-consuming and expensive to prepare. Make sure you are looking at your project objectively against the required criteria and not simply justifying its worthiness by your personal attachment to its local importance. Answer this – why would the funding agency want to participate?  The funding will only buy so many ribbon-cuttings — so why yours?

Tell the Story of the Project.

Picture this – you are a reviewer of applications in Washington, D.C. and you have a stack of 500 applications to wean down to those deserving further review to eventually make a recommendation of a certain number to the ultimate decision-maker, maybe the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.  The recent BUILD grant application had a 30-page limit for the project narrative – for 500 applications that could total over 15,000 pages of project content to review!  Make it interesting – don’t make it read like an engineering report cluttered with facts and data (not that those aren’t important).  The reviewers aren’t all engineers – some have business backgrounds, while others may have a pure administrative or political background.  Use graphics and maps wherever possible. Sell your project in a way that it meets the funding requirements and tells an engaging story of the positive impacts of local, regional and possibly national importance.

Be Invested and Don’t Just “Take a Shot” and Hope for the Best.

If it looks like the application is presenting a project that will die a quick death without grant funding maybe it isn’t really all that vital and you are only presenting the project for the money. Funding agencies (and politicians) hope your project is important enough that somehow it will move forward even without the grant funding – grant funding would simply accelerate the benefits to the taxpayers.  Your application must demonstrate that there is significant funding in place, or debt service, to be able to fund the project and the grant funding will help that much more to defray local costs.

Don’t Ask for the Moon.

Request the real amount that you need for the project after significant investment from other sources. If 95% of the project costs are proposed to be through the competitive grant funding that may not inspire a lot of confidence in the preparedness of the project owner to be able to move the project forward. For instance, with a set amount of funding to spread around, two $10M ribbon cuttings creates more photo opportunities than one $20M ribbon cutting.  There should be a strategy in the amount requested compared to your other competing interests and funding commitments. Answer this too – if you got the grant funding to offset costs, what would you do with the money that was offset?  What other problem could you / would you solve for the taxpayers?

Last but not Least – Check and Double-Check the Format for the Submission.

Most competitive grant applications have very strict composition requirements including the table of contents, page limits, and font types and sizes, just to name a few. Make sure you are thoroughly familiar with each of these requirements and you are adhering to them during the preparation of the application – not as a final task right before the submission is due.

Submit Early if Possible.

Don’t let technological glitches, like an internet failure, get in the way of your million-dollar request being accepted. Many grant application processes allow the applicant to submit their application electronically and update it or resubmit components up to the deadline published in the NOFO. There may also be registrations, passwords, user accounts or other things like that which should be set up early – make sure those tasks are done well in advance. Nobody wants to be sitting at the keyboard being denied access to the submission website or during a power outage within the hour the submission is due.  Plan days ahead and rest easy.

Grants can make a big difference in the success of your project – but competition can be fierce. NOFO’s are issued throughout the year so know in advance what funding may be available and when.  Being ready and preparing a quality grant application can make all the difference.