Category: Process

A History-Mystery: Determining the shoreline of a lake before it was dammed

Hoyle Tanner is working to repair the causeway and replace the Crystal Lake Road bridge over the northwest section of Crystal Lake where Nelson Brook enters in the Town of Gilmanton, New Hampshire

It is unknown when the bridge was first installed, however, we know that it consisted of a timber superstructure* supported on dry-stacked stone masonry abutments constructed along a manmade causeway. The bridge was rehabilitated in 1929 when the superstructure was replaced by a reinforced concrete rigid frame. The replacement bridge will be a precast-prestressed concrete deck beam superstructure founded on a precast concrete cap with deep foundations.

Where Does a Lake Begin?

Since replacing the bridge is going to result in some disturbance, or impact, to the lake on the downstream side of the bridge, a Wetland Permit was required to be issued by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES). However, as our environmental coordination staff began to complete the permit application, it became evident that one important piece of information was lacking: Where does the shore end and the lake begin?

This may seem to be a pretty simple question to answer – the lake begins at the edge of the water! However, the State of New Hampshire, which has legal authority to regulate and permit work done in lakes, has a set definition of a lake that comes from both New Hampshire RSA 485-A:2 and Chapters 100 and 400 of the NHDES Wetland Rules. Those define a lake as a surface water with the normal high water line as the elevation of the boundary between a lake and upland or shore. For most naturally-occurring lakes or ponds (that have not been created by a dam), a licensed surveyor can visit the site of the proposed work area and use visual evidence to determine the water elevation where under normal or typical conditions the waters of the lake are at their highest on the adjacent bank or shore.

But for Crystal Lake, there are factors to consider that made this a bit more challenging. Crystal Lake is approximately 450 acres in size, making it large enough to be considered a public water per New Hampshire RSA 271:20 II: Public waters in New Hampshire include natural or artificially impounded (dammed) surface water bodies that are over 10 acres in size. NHDES issues an Official List of Public Waters (OLPW) that includes data for each water body such as location, dammed status (dammed or not?), the Dam Bureau number if it is dammed, and for some water bodies, the normal high water line/elevation. Crystal Lake in Gilmanton is listed as RD or raised by damming, Dam # 91.11, without providing a normal high water elevation. Why not?   

A lake that is noted as RD is a water body that was a natural lake that was more than 10 acres in size originally, but at one point the water level has been elevated by construction of a dam at the outlet, or “raised by damming.” Per the RSA and NHDES rules, only the areas of land underwater that are below the original normal high water elevation before the lake was dammed are Public Waters. Because there is not elevation provided on the OLPW, that elevation has not been officially determined by NHDES. How do you determine that elevation? By doing quite a bit of sleuthing!

Establishing a Timeline

For Crystal Lake, we enlisted the assistance of both the local surveying team, Sandford Surveying and Engineering, Inc., and our in-house super-sleuth and Right-of-Way acquisition specialist, Betsy Bosiak. Together, they reviewed current and historic mapping such as tax maps, USGS maps and survey plans for lots around the lake as they were recorded as sold or subdivided. In addition, deed records were reviewed for when the land near the dam and bridge changed ownership; other local Town records were reviewed and local authorities were interviewed. Historic books and internet sites were also scoured for any available historical information. From this collective information, our team was able to determine that the dam has been in place for at least 100 years and a timeline of ownership for the property along the lake was established.

Data from the time of the dam’s installation was gathered and reviewed in detail to glean any water elevation data that could provide the water elevations in the lake before the dam was installed.

The first available plans for the dam come from references to notes that were unable to be found, however the first photo of the dam was found dated July 1934, so we believe that the dam was installed around that time.

Careful review of plans from 1957 for a dam reconstruction project provided enough information to determine the natural mean high water elevation before damming was  617.2 feet – this was based on plan figures showing the bottom elevation of the dam to be set at 616.7 feet, with an assumed normal flow depth of 6 inches. To compare that to current conditions, the water elevations for the full lake conditions (that is, when the lake is reached its maximum volume as regulated by the dam) is 624.25 feet, or more than 7 feet deeper than the historic water levels! 

The History Mystery Took…A While

Identifying this elevation took over six months! Ultimately, all of the supporting data that was used to “tell the story” was provided to NHDES in order for the Dam Bureau and the Wetlands Bureau to determine if the proposed elevation could be used for identifying impacts to the lake and Public Waters of the State of New Hampshire. NHDES ultimately concluded and agreed with the water elevation that we presented based on the depth of supporting evidence that was uncovered.

Identifying such an important piece of information was quite a challenge for our team; however, we were able to meet this challenge while keeping the project on schedule and within the Town’s expectations of cost. Additionally, Hoyle Tanner’s bridge design team worked hand-in-hand with the environmental coordination team to successfully design a bridge replacement project that resulted in no impacts to Public Waters of the State.

An Aggressive Design Schedule to Replace the Little River Bridge

Hoyle Tanner recently completed a bridge replacement in Maine for a bridge that was bigger than its original structure, and under an accelerated design. Not only was this a fast-moving bridge project for state standards, but the new design also raised the structure above the Little River more to allow more room for storm flows!

The First Bridge

In July 2018 MaineDOT and the Hoyle Tanner team began the preliminary design of the Little River Bridge that carries Route 237 over the Little River. The existing bridge was built circa 1952 and consisted of a single 100 foot span riveted steel through girder with a concrete deck. The through girders superstructure consists of two main carrying beams that support the entire bridge, making it a fracture critical structure (“component in tension whose failure is expected to result in the collapse of the bridge or the inability of the bridge to perform its function” AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications).  That summer, the bridge was posted for a 38-ton weight limit for one truck at a time.

Hoyle Tanner’s Tasks & Challenges

The project schedule was accelerated from typical state bridge design projects. Preliminary design, public meetings, final design, permits and plans were completed in under 14 months. Some other project highlights include:

  • the removal of a downstream dam had little effect on our design.
  • Removal of timber piles can be tricky depending on their actual condition. Existing timber piles left in place and new piles driven behind them to make the process easier.
  • Portland Water District has a water line and there is a force sewer main on the bridge as well. There is also buried gas line under stream bed upstream of the bridge. Downstream option for the temporary bridge and close utility coordination was necessary to make sure things went smoothly.
  • Roadway was raised a max of 4 feet in order to construct a vertical curve that meets current design standards. This increased the sight distance at the bridge, making it safer for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Four-foot shoulders were constructed for bike access. The new bridge has 12 foot lanes and 4 foot shoulders which replaced the existing 11 foot lane and 3 foot shoulders.
  • Bottom chord of bridge elevation was raised to allow freeboard under bridge at the 100 year storm flows and 50 year storm flows. Previous structure did not have enough clearance for the Q50. Previous storm flows had reached the bottom chord of the bridge.

Detouring traffic around the project was not feasible so traffic was maintained with a two-lane temporary bridge that was constructed immediately downstream of the existing bridge. Once the temporary bridge was in place and traffic was shifted and the existing bridge superstructure was demolished. Abutments were removed to 5 feet below ground surface. A new 135 foot single span steel structure consisting of five steel girders was erected. Increasing the beams from 2 to 5 eliminates the fracture critical designation of the bridge. The new concrete deck was constructed with a combination of glass fiber reinforced polymer and stainless-steel reinforcement to extend the service life of the deck.

Final Stages

The new bridge was opened to traffic in fall 2020. Final wearing surface and project closeout was completed in spring 2021. We worked with the Department to quickly design and replace the structure that had been posted for load. Several local contractors use this crossing and eliminating the posted bridge ensured they would not be restricted in their operations (hauling equipment and materials). Hoyle Tanner is known for our bridge professionals and their expertise, having completed hundreds of bridge projects all over New England. We work with municipalities, agencies and Departments of Transportation to enhance safety, reliability, and aesthetics of all our clients’ bridges

Reinforcing our Knowledge on Structural Concrete Slab Repairs

Hoyle Tanner recently completed a structural slab repair project for Manchester Water Works. Due to the structure’s deterioration, there were some changes to the way we estimate project limits. Because of the extensive research and planning we had to do to account for these project limits, we were able to ensure the construction process went smoothly. As a structural engineer, I oversaw this project from start to finish and break down the process that was followed to succeed.

The Problem

The Manchester Water Works building contains two floors of water treatment. A structural concrete slab supports three storage tanks for the chemicals used to treat the water above the flocculation basins. The concrete slab supporting one of the storage tanks over the flocculation basin showed signs of deterioration in the form of heavy cracking and delamination, likely caused by exposure to the chemicals in the tanks. Repairing the slab was done in three phases: information gathering, plan development, and construction oversight.

Information Gathering

Before developing plans for a repair of the slab, the limits of deterioration had to be determined. This was first done using hammer sounding to determine a rough outline of the horizontal limits of the concrete that needed repair. The concrete slab contained a top layer and a bottom layer of reinforcing. If both layers of reinforcing deteriorated, then and the slab had to be repaired to the full thickness; otherwise, a partial thickness slab repair would be sufficient. Since access on the underside of the slab was limited, hammer sounding on the underside could not be done everywhere. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) was used to confirm the horizontal deterioration limits and help give an idea of the depth of deterioration in the slab. The GPR results were compared to the structure’s original design plans from 1972 to confirm the concrete’s thickness and the reinforcing location.

Plan Development

Once the horizontal limits and depth of deterioration were estimated, the original design plans were used to understand the thickness of the slab so repair plans could be made to the replacement needs to fulfill the original design capacity for the slab; this was not constant throughout the repair area since the slab was thicker and contained additional reinforcement near column locations. Additionally, the concrete removal lengths needed to extend beyond the limits of deterioration. The added reinforcing could connect to the existing reinforcing that had not deteriorated via a spliced connection or mechanical couplers. Once this was all determined, the plans were developed containing details and notes on how to best remove the deteriorated area, limits of the work for the repair, and repair details.

Once the deteriorated concrete was removed, the removed reinforcing was replaced with epoxy coated reinforcing and the remaining exposed reinforcing was coated with a corrosion inhibitor. Both the epoxy coating on the new steel and the corrosion inhibitor help to prevent the same deterioration from happening again. Fresh concrete was then poured to replace what was removed and restore or improve the original design capacity of the slab. A protective floor coating was also added on top of the repaired area to protect it from future chemicals penetrating the concrete.

Construction Oversight

Knowles Industrial Services performed the repairs to the concrete slab. Since the plans are developed using the best estimates of deterioration limits from the data collection, construction oversight is warranted to adjust the plans for anything encountered during the repair that was not foreseen or requested by the contractor. Additionally, the on-site observation is used to verify that all of the deteriorated concrete is removed to solid, undamaged concrete and the corroded steel removed (as well as all existing steel that remains) is cleaned and coated to minimize the risk of it corroding again.

Upon removing the concrete, it was determined that the deterioration did not penetrate to the bottom layer of reinforcing and only a partial depth repair was required. The contractor had difficulty obtaining the original steel reinforcing bar sizes from the 1972 design plans, so an approved alternative had to be developed to provide the same structural capacity of the original design with an increased number of smaller reinforcing bar sizes. Overall, the approved field alternative allowed for the repair to be completed and on schedule.

Should you find yourself in need of a repair project like this, or to learn more about slab repair, reach out to me, Ryan McMullen, PE.

What PFAS is & Why You Should Care

picture of a faucet in someone's kitchen pouring water into a sink to show drinking water contaminants

Anyone following the news in recent years has probably read about the pervasiveness of PFAS compounds (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl) in the natural environment. Called “forever” chemicals, this extensive family of chemical compounds is ubiquitous having been widely used for a variety of purposes. Ongoing environmental data collection indicates these compounds are mobile and slow to degrade in the environment. PFAS compounds are known to bioaccumulate within our bodies.

This graphic is from Healthy Indoors. Click image for original graphic.

While considerable research continues, suspected medical concerns of high exposure include increased cholesterol, immune system adverse impacts, cancer, and thyroid hormone effects. PFAS is a significant current public drinking water focus with a kaleidoscope of individual state limits while federal limit development remains in progress.

Communities who own and operate wastewater treatment facilities (WWTF) will notice new requirements for PFAS monitoring in their upcoming National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NDPES) discharge permits for their facilities. Several New England wastewater facilities have recently received new NPDES discharge permits that include treated effluent and dewatered sludge monitoring for PFAS compounds. The final EPA requirements for sludge monitoring and reporting is still in process, but the data gathered over the next 5 years across New England, and nationally, will be used to further define the requirements for controlling disposal of PFAS into the environment. 

This image is from Toxic-Free Future. Click image for original graphic.

Hoyle Tanner continues to meet the needs of the industry with engineering staff whose experience includes water system PFAS treatment as well as WWTF monitoring and reporting. Please contact me for help with your community.

7 Things to Consider When Preserving Historic Bridges

Engineering students receive extensive training in math, science and engineering topics related to their specific field of study. For Structural Engineers, this includes courses on analyzing structures constructed from the most common building materials – steel, concrete, prestressed concrete, and in some cases, timber and masonry. These courses generally focus on modern design codes, material properties and construction techniques. While these courses do provide a good technical background, they do not typically include much instruction related to historic bridges. When we are entrusted to work on these special structures, engineers should keep the following in mind:

  1. History of the Bridge. The year the bridge was built is an important piece of information as it can provide an understanding of the design codes, standard vehicle loads (if any), material properties, and construction techniques of the time. The history of maintenance, repairs and rehabilitation of the bridge is also good information to review to have a complete picture of the bridge before beginning any structural analysis.
  • Plan Availability. Locate the original design drawings of the bridge, if possible. These drawings are not generally available for most structures built before the 1920s; however, some of these bridges may be covered by patented designs which can provide valuable information on design procedures and assumptions. It is important to note that even if plans are available, they are not typically ‘as-built’ plans and the field conditions may vary from what is shown on the plans. If design drawings are not available, the Historic American Engineering Record has prepared detailed drawings of select historic bridges that can supplement field measurements.
  • Material Properties. The materials used in historic bridges (steel or concrete) have different properties compared to modern materials which effect their strength, durability and weldability (for steel structures). There are number of excellent references that provide appropriate design values for these materials which can also be supplemented by testing. For less common materials such as cast iron, timber and stone, conservative values are typically used as these materials are typically less uniform and more variable in their physical properties.
  • Inspection Access. A thorough assessment of all bridge elements is needed during the evaluation phase of the project. Many historic bridges, however, are posted for reduced live load capacity which does not allow for the use of traditional bridge inspection equipment. In these situations, access can be gained through rope-access inspection techniques or remotely through Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones). We utilized the rope-access for the inspection of the Coos Bridge in Byron, Maine which was posted for 5-tons but where a hands-on inspection was required for fracture critical members. A drone was used for the inspection of the Kingsley Covered Bridge in Clarendon, Vermont.
  • Community Needs. While preservation of historic bridges is the primary goal of many project stakeholders, it is important to consider the needs of the community. A bridge with weight or height restrictions can have significant impacts on first responder response time and use by school buses or fuel delivery vehicles which have a negative impact on residents’ quality of life. In these situations, engineers need to be creative in their approach to meeting the communities’ needs while maintaining the historic integrity of the bridge. Our team rose to this challenge for the rehabilitation of the Union Village Covered Bridge in Thetford, Vermont: The bridge had an 8-ton live load capacity which was not sufficient for fire trucks used in the area and required them to take a long detour which increased response time. Our rehabilitation design included the installation of timber glulam stringers beneath the bridge to share load with the trusses and increase the live load capacity to 20-tons. This treatment is reversible (i.e. the beams could be removed at a later date) and the use of wood for the support members improved the aesthetic of the bridge as opposed to steel beams.
  • Coordination with Resource Agency Partners. The majority of historic bridge projects must be reviewed under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. This act requires that the effect of any proposed work to historic structures be reviewed and evaluated. While engineers are typically most concerned with the structural concerns of the project, resource agency professionals are charged with preservation and appropriate treatment of historic structures. Therefore, a strong knowledge of the Section 106 process and roles of each party is important to project success.
  • Aesthetics. All work completed must keep with the strong aesthetics that these historic bridges possess. This can be accomplished by using appropriate repair materials, matching the finish of replacement members to existing members (rough sawn timber, for example), and using period-appropriate hardware such as ogee washers. One simple but effective example of an aesthetic treatment was the application of a protective coating over the concrete railing of String Bridge in Exeter, New Hampshire. This two-span concrete rigid frame was built in 1935 and had undergone numerous repairs to the railings which resulted in a “patchwork quilt” appearance of the rail. We recommended a light-colored protective coating which served a dual purpose of protecting the concrete while also improving aesthetics with a more uniform appearance that matched the existing concrete. Just like I mentioned in item 6 of this list, we coordinated with the Historic District Commission before installation for approval.

Preserving historic structures is one of the many bridge services that Hoyle, Tanner provides our communities. For more information contact me, Sean James, PE, Senior Vice President and Structural Engineer for our Bridges & Structural group.

The Need for Industrial Pretreatment Programs (IPP)

picture of bewery vats

Whether it’s a brewery, paper mill, food or chemical plant in your community, these businesses almost always produce industrial wastewater. As such, there is a need for wastewater management generated from these, and many other, industrial activities discharging to a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW). Managing industrial wastewater can be accomplished through a well-run Industrial Pretreatment Program (IPP). In addition, with the emergence of new contaminants that might not be compatible with POTWs, an IPP facilitates the regulatory framework to determine the origins of such contaminants.

National IPP: Setting the Standards

In 1972, US Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), to restore and maintain the nation’s water quality. The Act’s goals were to eliminate the introduction of pollutants into the nation’s navigable waters to achieve “fishable and swimmable” water quality levels. The CWA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Program is one key component established to accomplish these goals. The NPDES Permit Program generally requires that direct dischargers to a waterbody obtain an NPDES Permit.

In addition to addressing direct discharges to the nation’s waterways, the National Pretreatment Program is a regulatory program for pollutants that are discharged into a POTW, otherwise known as indirect discharges. This program requires industrial and commercial facilities to obtain permits (or use other control measures) to discharge their wastewater to a POTW. Certain discharges by these users may pass through or interfere with the operations of a POTW, leading to a direct discharge of untreated wastewater into rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.

The goals of the National Pretreatment Program as stated in 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 403.2 are as follows:

  • To prevent the introduction of pollutants into a POTW that will interfere with the operation of the POTW, including interference with its use or disposal of sludge
  • To prevent the introduction of pollutants into a POTW that will pass through the treatment works otherwise be incompatible with such works
  • To improve opportunities to recycle municipal and industrial wastewater and sludges

To accomplish these goals, the National Pretreatment Program requires all large POTWs (those with design flows greater than 5 million gallons per day) and small POTWs that accept wastewater from industrial users that could affect POTWs to establish a local pretreatment program. Local pretreatment programs must enforce national pretreatment standards and requirements, as well as more stringent local requirements necessary to protect the site-specific conditions of the POTW. For example, industrial discharges from a large brewery with organic loadings much greater than typical domestic loadings may not negatively impact a large POTW but might cause major interference or pass-through at a very small POTW not designed to properly treat such organic loads.

Identifying and understanding a POTW’s Significant Industrial User’s (SIU’s) wastewater discharges is an important component of an IPP since SIUs have the ability to adversely affect the POTW.

Implementing IPP on the Local Level

Once the determination has been made that a POTW needs a local pretreatment program, six minimum elements must be included in a pretreatment program submission for review and approval by the USEPA, the state or both, depending on state statute.

  1. Legal Authority – A POTW must have the legal authority which authorizes the POTW to apply and enforce any pretreatment requirement. This authority is derived from state law.
  2. Procedures – A POTW must develop and implement procedures to ensure compliance with pretreatment requirements which include:
    • Identifying all Industrial Users (IUs) subject to the pretreatment program
    • Identify the characteristic of pollutants contributed by IUs
    • Notify users of applicable pretreatment standards and requirements
    • Receive and analyze reports from IUs
    • Sample and analyze IU discharges
    • Evaluate the need for an IU slug control plan
    • Investigate instances of IU non-compliance
    • Comply with public participation requirements
  3. Funding – A POTW must have sufficient resources and qualified personnel to carry out the procedures included in the approved pretreatment program.
  4. Local Limits – A POTW must develop local limits developed for pollutants that could cause interference, pass through or sludge contamination or worker health and safety problems.
  5. Enforcement Response Plan (ERP) – A POTW must develop and implement an ERP containing detailed procedures indicating how the POTW will investigate and respond to IU non-compliance instances.
  6. List of SIUs – A POTW must prepare, update and submit to the approval authority a list of all SIUs.

These elements are important for managing a well-run local pretreatment program and developing good working relationships with IUs. As new contaminants continue to emerge that are not compatible with POTWs, pretreatment programs will be useful to identify sources of new contaminants that may potentially cause issues with POTW effluent water quality or sludge disposal practices. A pretreatment program must be adaptable, and any necessary modifications to local pretreatment programs to address new contaminants must be conducted expeditiously.

Our Experience with IPP & Water Treatment

Hoyle, Tanner’s Northeast Municipal Engineering Services Group employs 20 engineers whose primary focus is water quality engineering – wastewater, stormwater and drinking water. industrial inspections, writing annual reports or providing technical expertise relative to enforcement actions. Our team has the experience to provide pretreatment program resources and immediate expertise.

Our depth and breadth of pretreatment program experience includes: identifying IUs to be included in an IPP, writing industrial user permits, evaluating the need for updating technically-based local limits, and updating Sewer User Ordinances and ERPs.

For more information, please visit our website at: www.hoyletanner.com or contact Senior Engineers Paula Boyle or Heidi Marshall.

All About LPA: A Valuable Funding Source for Maine Transportation Projects

We’re excited to have another professional get LPA certified in Maine! Sean James, PE, Senior Vice President, joins our growing number of LPA certified project managers, engineers and technicians who can coordinate on these specific projects. Sean has worked on dozens of LPA projects in the state of New Hampshire and is looking forward to bringing his tenured experience to LPA projects in Maine.

What is an LPA Project?

The Local Project Administration (LPA) program leverages local dollars with state or federal dollars through the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) on a wide variety of projects statewide. These projects can include resurfacing and rebuilding of roads, intersection improvements and non-vehicular transportation alternatives such as sidewalk and shared-use paths, pier and float installations and bridge and culvert replacement.

 
Who is Eligible & for How Much?

An LPA project can be administered by a variety of organizations including municipalities, regional transportation agencies, education institutions and tribal governments. The selection of projects is competitive and includes a variety of programs including Transportation Alternative, Low-Use Redundant Bridge Program, Small Harbor Improvement Program and the Hazard Elimination Program. Funding reimbursement varies from 50 to 80 percent of the project’s eligible costs.

Is there Certification Required?

LPA program certification is required for all projects that include federal funding; however, the training is beneficial for non-federally funded programs as well. The certification program covers the financial aspects of projects, hiring consultants, project design including environmental review, utility coordination, Right-of-Way and construction administration. Hoyle, Tanner’s team includes LPA certified professionals who understand the program and assist our clients in meeting their project goals.

The Role of Consultants

Engineering consultants act as an extension of the owner’s organization and bring specialized technical and funding program experience to the project. The consultant’s role is to understand the purpose and need of the owner, to study and provide alternatives for consideration, turn the project vision into a final design and permit the project and finally provide assistance with bidding and construction administration and oversight as well as final project closeout for reimbursement. 

The LPA program provides opportunity to improve our communities while minimizing the cost to local budgets. Our bridge, transportation and environmental teams have a wide variety of design and construction experience with LPA projects including bridges (vehicle and pedestrian), sidewalks, roadway improvement and safety and intersection improvements. For more information on how to get started and how we can assist in meeting your project goals, please contact Sean.

The New Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit

Pink and purple sunset image over water with tree skyline of Great Bay Estuary

What is the Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit & why does it matter?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit (GBTNGP) on November 24, 2020. The GBTNGP is aimed at reducing the overall nitrogen loading into Great Bay, a unique coastal marine estuary. The GBTNGP covers discharges of nitrogen from the 13 communities that own/operate wastewater treatment facilities in the watershed: Dover, Durham, Epping, Exeter, Milton, Newfields, Newington, Newmarket, Pease Tradeport, Portsmouth, Rochester, Rollinsford and Somersworth. The permit allows for an adaptive management approach to monitoring and reducing nitrogen discharges. Each community has the option of being included for coverage under the GBTNGP or not (opt in or opt out). If a community decides to be included for coverage under the permit it must file a Notice of Intent with the EPA, Region 1, by April 2, 2021. The alternative to opting in to the GBTNGP will be that the community will receive a new/revised individual NPDES permit to govern its WWTF discharge. Key dates for actions to be taken pursuant to the GBTNGP are as follows:

  • February 1, 2021 – Effective date of the Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit.
  • March 31, 2021 – Deadline for finalizing an Intermunicipal Agreement to develop the Adaptive Management Plan.
  • April 2, 2021 – Deadline for sending EPA the Notice of Intent to Opt-In to the TN General Permit.
  • July 31, 2021 – Deadline for submittal to EPA of the Part 3 Adaptive Management Plan.

How can an Adaptive Management Approach help?

The GBTNGP allows for an adaptive management approach to be taken for monitoring and controlling nitrogen discharges and allows for the communities to develop the Adaptive Management Plan. Adaptive management is a key aspect of watershed management and restoration. Elements of adaptive management included in GBTNGP involve ambient monitoring, pollution tracking, reduction planning, and review. Adaptive Management is, by definition, a structured iterative process of robust decision making in the face of uncertainty, with an aim to reducing uncertainty over time via ongoing system monitoring. In this way, decision making simultaneously meets one or more resource management objectives and, either passively or actively, accrues information needed to improve future management and decision-making. Adaptive management is a tool which can be used not only to change a system, but also to learn about the system (Holling 1978). Because adaptive management is based on a learning process, it improves long-term management outcomes. The challenge in using the adaptive management approach lies in finding the correct balance between gaining knowledge to improve management in the future and achieving the best short-term outcomes based on current knowledge (Allan & Stankey 2009).

A holistic & cost-effective approach.

The objective of an adaptive management approach is to take a broad holistic and more cost-effective approach to implementing water quality restoration and management measures that will achieve better overall results in improving water quality goals in less time and at less cost than the traditional regulate-react approach by applying limited resources where they will have the greatest effect. In fact, the GBTNGP encourages sharing of resources and costs among the participating communities. The adaptive management approach allows for planning, implementation, monitoring and refinement in order to maximize the results with limited resources (resource optimization). The idea behind an adaptive management approach is for communities to become proactive rather than reactive in restoring water quality within the watershed. A successful adaptive management approach will require extensive collaboration and cooperation between municipalities, regulators, agencies, volunteer groups and other watershed stakeholders.

Our experience.

Hoyle, Tanner’s Northeast Municipal Engineering services Group (NEME) employs 20 engineers whose primary focus is water quality engineering – wastewater, stormwater and drinking water. Our depth and breadth of experience includes working with communities to assist them with compliance with permits such as NPDES (wastewater and stormwater), MS4 (stormwater and non-point) and a host of other regulatory and environmental permits. We have been working with communities under regulatory constraints to monitor and reduce the amount of total nitrogen discharged to local water bodies and helping them to achieve water quality goals. Jennie Auster, one of our wastewater process engineers, has been working with communities affected by the Long Island Sound Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Nitrogen for over six years including completing biological nutrient removal analysis for several facilities. Jennie completed nitrogen removal optimization plans for six communities and has presented at the Green Mountain Water Environment Association Technical Sessions on her experience with low-cost nitrogen optimization plans (presentation available upon request). We are assisting several communities on compliance with the 2017 MS4 permit which includes nutrient reduction in stormwater and non-point sources. We are also working with many communities on asset management for their wastewater, stormwater and drinking water systems, the goal of which is resource optimization to improve decision-making and maximize the life of the infrastructure.

Let us help!

Our team has a history of developing creative and innovative solutions to help clients achieve their goals in cost-effective ways while optimizing the use of limited resources. For more information please visit our website at: www.hoyletanner.com or contact Michael Trainque or Joseph Ducharme.

I am a Senior Environmental Engineer and Vice President at Hoyle, Tanner, and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Southeast Watershed Alliance (SWA). The SWA is a non-profit watershed organization for which enabling legislation was enacted by the NH State Legislature in 2009 encompassing the 42 communities in the NH coastal watershed. I have been following the development of this permit on behalf of clients.

Right-of-Way Acquisition in 7 Steps

Right-of-Way Process Graphic with arrows

Right-of-Way acquisitions in civil engineering encompass a lot of detail. According to Betsy Bosiak, land acquisition specialist at Hoyle, Tanner, it can take a little under five years to learn everything there is to know about Right-of-Way.

Betsy has shared her knowledge to answer common questions about the acquisition process. For those who may not know what Right-of-Way is, it’s the act of acquiring land or easements to complete a project. It could be anything from a homeowner’s land that needs drainage services near a road to getting new land to build a medical office. Each state has to follow certain federal guidelines, but the individual states do have specific criteria for Right-of-Way processes.

Betsy has shared about the acquisition process in New Hampshire (one she tried not to get into too much detail about because of its sheer power to overwhelm). In 7 steps, here’s a breakdown of she shared:

Before Final Design:

  1. Know the basics. First and foremost, Right-of-Way acquisition is considered a part of the final design process, depending on the size of the project. Yet it’s also important to realize that many items occur concurrent with plan development. The types of Right-of-Way are Easement and Fee. Easement acquisition is when the property owner gives easements to allow the use of land. Today, however, the most popular acquisition is fee-based; land is purchased for the project to be completed.Types of Right-of-Way
  2. Determine what’s already there. It’s vital to determine the existing Right-of-Way by checking existing plans, historic documents, property surveys, deeds, and existing ground conditions.
  3. Make a plan & be specific. To actually acquire land for project use, there needs to be a project scope, preliminary design, final design, and recording all plans.
  4. Determine the type of acquisition: Fee Taking (buying the land), Temporary Easement (using it for the time of construction), or Permanent Easement (the land is yours forever, but the State or Municipality has easement rights).
  5. Explain the impacts. You actually need to explain to the landowner the intended impacts to the property. Public meetings, meetings with officials, and meetings with landowners are a critical part of the process. As Betsy suggests, keep records of what everyone says so that there’s no confusion later in the process.

During Final Design:

  1. Determine appraisals. Even after the landowner meetings, the land is still not ready to be built upon. In fact, the next step in the detailed acquisition process is Land Value Appraisals. Once that’s complete, a written offer is made to the landowner. If the landowner does not agree, it’s back to the negotiation table.Right-of-Way Appraisal Graphic with 4 types
  2. Acquire the needed property rights. The property owner has agreed to the written compensation. It’s time to prepare the deed or easement document, and with a notary, sign the document. Save all written records and notes and make copies of each. The land is officially available for project construction.

The Right-of-Way acquisition process is no simple matter (though it was explained in layman’s terms here); and it can take anywhere from 1-6 months depending on acquisition complexity. Betsy recommends documenting files for each landowner and making multiple copies of these documents for reference.

Have Right-of-Way questions? Talk to the specialist: Betsy Bosiak.

From Groundbreaking to Ribbon Cutting: An Internship with Hoyle, Tanner

Over the past three months, I have had the pleasure of being part of the Hoyle, Tanner team, primarily in the Bridges & Structures group. I have gotten to see and experience a variety of different projects at all stages, and I am grateful for this opportunity and everything I learned along the way.

Projects in Derry

The first half of my internship experience was spent in Derry, New Hampshire replacing a bridge with structurally deficient culverts on this box culvert project. Here I performed Resident Project Representative (RPR) services and observed construction from start to finish – when the excavator broke ground to when the bridge was reopened to traffic. It was very rewarding to see the full project life-cycle and be there to walk the bridge. Every day in the field there was a new step and process for me to learn and see for the first time. Being on site opened my eyes to how many people are involved in the entirety of a project. Now I better understand the client, contractor, and engineer’s roles in making a project successful. For example, Hoyle, Tanner, the contractor, and the Town worked together to make field changes as needed.

Working on this project also introduced me to new engineering computer programs such as Bluebeam, MicroStation, and Mathcad that allowed me to edit drawings, review check sets and create other engineering documents. User efficiency greatly improved from the first days of using a program compared to after a couple of months.

Projects in Bedford

The last half of my internship has been spent in Bedford, New Hampshire where I took on day-to-day inspections of a gas main project. My duty there was to make sure the trench is properly backfilled and compacted and make sure everything goes according to plan. This role was rewarding because it allowed me to work more independently. I frequently communicated with the client on day-to-day progress and was the bridge of communication to the site.

At Hoyle, Tanner I was welcomed with open arms (virtually) and felt like I belonged. I am thankful my supervisor emphasized spending as much time in the field as I could because the experience taught me valuable lessons. I enjoyed the team environment and how my questions were encouraged by everyone. This opportunity brought me new experience and knowledge, and has increased my interest in field work. I’d like to personally thank Matthew Low, PE for providing me with this opportunity, Josif Bicja, PE for showing me what it takes to be a great engineer, and Katie Welch, EIT for guiding me along the way.

Derry, NH Box Culvert Replacement Project

MS4 Timeline: The Second Annual Report & What’s Next

MS4 timeline with relevant dates

September 2020 marks another year for MS4 permitting in New Hampshire. Since MS4 rules were updated in 2017, we have continued to help communities regulate their stormwater discharges to meet these new requirements. This month on the MS4 timeline, communities should be aware that Second Annual Reports are due.

First, let’s back-track and recall that MS4 permitting refers to regulations in place to manage stormwater in a community. Stormwater outfalls from an MS4 area must be located, mapped, and assigned a unique identification number. Then, inspections and condition assessments must be completed for each outfall based on priority ranking. We have a detailed post about what happens if you observe flow during dry weather and different outfall rankings based on testing samples. We also identified a timeline  following the initial mapping, focusing on what happens after the first annual report. With September’s deadline quickly approaching, here is what communities can expect with the next steps.

The Second Annual Report

Communities should be submitting their second annual reports to EPA by September 28, 2020.

EPA has provided a partially filled-in report template to permitees; EPA has provided a partially filled-in report template to permitees; however, the New Hampshire stormwater coalitions have modified the template to be more user-friendly. The updated template can be found as part of the Coalition blog site here: NH Stormwater Coalition Annual Report for Year 2 Template.

We have worked with a half dozen small communities in New Hampshire to prepare them for their annual reports. In some communities, this means we mapped, visited, and screened their outfalls, and provided training. For others, we helped coordinate stormwater team meetings and activities, or just provided reassurance. After working with several communities, we’ve found that the same hurdles present themselves and have gathered a few tips to help the process move smoothly:

  • Do not omit information. When filling out the second annual report, be sure to take credit for everything that had progress between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.
  • Take time now to review the requirements for the next report. Some required activities or tasks are more easily performed during specific times of the year; now is a good time to plan how to keep up with your Stormwater Management Program activities.
  • Be conscious of the timeframe.  Any efforts begun, but not completed in the Year 2 timeframe, cannot be marked complete. Any progress should be mentioned in the comments section.

What Next?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that as each year of the permit term passes, the stringency of the requirements increases. There is no time for rest or relaxation – pull out that Stormwater Management Program and see what elements (written program updates, outfall screenings, training, regulatory review and updates, stormwater management device Inspection, etc.) are required to be completed when the complete outfall ranking (based on dry-weather samplings) is due – June 30, 2021. Reviewing the required elements ahead of time will help with early coordination of next year’s report.

Not every MS4 community will encounter the same challenges. Meeting these deadlines and documenting all stormwater sources can be time consuming and difficult. Our stormwater experts are here to help and are fully prepared to help with unique challenges and stormwater setbacks. Reach out to our experts Heidi Marshall, PE or Michael Trainque, PE with stormwater inquiries!

*This post was co-written by Catie Hall, marketing coordinator. MS4 Expert Michael Trainque, PE also contributed to this post.

At-The-Ready Consultant Services: A Streamlined Approach to Starting Your Project

If your community was awarded a grant through the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) Municipal Assistance Bureau (MAB), you can take advantage of a streamlined approach to procuring your project consultant through the At-The-Ready (ATR) process. With this choice, municipalities have an alternative option to the standard RFQ/RFP process; an option that can speed up your proposed project schedule using prequalified and reputable experts in their field with success in delivering projects in accordance with VTrans MAB standards. VTrans maintains ATR consultants from a qualified roster, ready for qualifications-based-selection (QBS) when a project arises.

This accelerated procurement method can be applied to three categories of work:

  1. Design (including Scoping)
  2. Municipal Project Management
  3. Construction Inspection

If the ATR process is something your community would like to consider, VTrans has set up a simple Guide and Flowchart that can be followed and coordinated with your VTrans Project Supervisor. Begin by defining a selection committee (minimum of two members); along with the Municipal Representative in Responsible Charge (typical members could include the Municipal Project Manager, Public Works Engineer, Road Foreman or other municipal representatives). The committee then reviews a minimum of three consultant qualifications packages and selects the firm that best meets the needs of the municipality for the particular project. Once the committee chooses a firm, they can work through the cost proposal process with the VTrans Project Supervisor and the consultant.

For a municipality, the ATR process is beneficial for more than just accelerating the procurement of consultant services. Utilizing ATR also ensures you will be selecting from qualified firms that are experts in completing MAB funded projects. Instead of preparing a laborious Request for Qualifications package and then reviewing multiple submissions, the QBS selection is made easier, giving the option of only a minimum of three to pick from, while maintaining full state and federal grant/funding eligibility.

Hoyle, Tanner has had a working relationship with the VTrans MAB group for over 20 years and has been an ATR Consultant under the Design Category since the program began in 2017. We are a prequalified Design Consultant and are At-the-Ready whenever a municipality needs.

If you have any questions about the ATR process, contact Jon Olin, PE, our Vice President and Regional Business Manager of our Vermont office.

What you May not Have Considered about Solar Energy in New England

Hoyle, Tanner is currently providing professional engineering design services for the development of solar energy in New England. We are working for several solar companies as the solar industry has not only taken off in the flatlands of our Midwest United States, but solar energy development is also happening in our New England backyards.

There are many reasons why this industry has recently become so popular. Solar energy has become a viable option because of the sun’s power – but also because of its cost. As the technology of solar energy has become more efficient, the option for purchasing solar power has become a reality to an average energy user.

In order to consider solar options, permitting and procurement need to be considered.

Permitting

Public utilities commissions and state regulators have recently developed and revised rules and regulations for the advancement of solar energy. Hoyle, Tanner has stayed up-to-date with the development of these guidelines so that we can keep our clients educated and able to make sound decisions and reliable investments — not only based on costs, but also permitting success. The probability of getting a project permitted is a major milestone in the progression of a project, and can in many cases can determine if the project ever gets started.

There are many factors that contribute to the permitting and design of a solar array. Following is a list of some major factors that can affect development:

  • What is the size and shape of the property?
  • Is the property located in a properly zoned area or can it be rezoned?
  • Are the soils adequate to develop for this use? Are there significant wetlands? Are they well drained soils?
  • Is the topography adequate for solar development? Is the orientation of the property favorable for solar development?
  • Are there abutting structures on neighboring property that would prevent sunlight from reaching the site?
  • Is there adequate access to the property?
  • Is there access to an existing power source to transmit the power?
  • Are there natural resource protection areas within the site (vernal pools, deer wintering areas, or historic preservation areas)?
  • Does the developer have adequate title to the property?

Hoyle, Tanner has developed several solar array sites being cognizant of all the factors pertaining to a successfully designed and permitted project, while keeping versed of the regulatory processes. With our experience, we can save the client time and money while helping them realize a successful project.

Procurement

In many state governments, there is a procurement process for renewable energy projects (that are part of energy packages). These packages contain guidelines for the development of a limited amount of energy. What we are finding in some states is the need to increase the development limits as demand increases. Hoyle, Tanner is working with state agencies to make sure we are aware of these opportunities so that we may share them with our clients.

In some states there is a procurement process, raising the net metering cap, allowing arrays of up to 5MW — 5,000 KW — to sell or store excess energy. 

Raising the cap is what makes renewable energy development viable for investors, developers, and municipalities. These opportunities to create renewable energy not only lower the states’ dependence on fossil fuels to generate electricity but are also expected to create new jobs in the coming years as the number of projects increase.

Many states look to increase their renewable energy portfolio standard — the amount of renewable electricity created as opposed to that created by fossil fuels — from lows currently at 10% or less to 40% or 80% by 2030 and some even at 100% by 2050.

Helping Developers

We understand the importance of this type of development and the need for development of renewable resources. Our design experience helps the developers understand the limitations of development and of course the permitting process.

Hoyle, Tanner’s experts are here to help. If you have any solar development questions, contact Andy Sturgeon, Vice President and Regional Business Manager.