Featured

Co-Chair’s Message

Summer 2020

by Martin Palmer, Engineering Services Manager, Washington State Department of Transportation, Palmema@wsdot.wa.gov & Daniel J. Smith, PhD, AICP, University of Central Florida, Daniel.Smith@ucf.edu

Greetings AEP70 Committee Members and Friends:

It has been a challenging and stressful spring and summer, but we hope everyone has remained healthy and safe. The long awaited strategic realignment of committees by TRB is now complete. We’ve felt the consternation of all concerned along the way. We promised that “no mission shall be lost due to this merger of committees” and feel that in working together we’ve kept that promise. Neither one overshadows the other. We will hold to that guiding principle as long as this committee exists. We and whoever follows us must embrace that founding doctrine.

Likewise, the pandemic that has been upon us since nearly the beginning of the year and has forced us to drastically shift from past ways of doing business and sharing information. It has so greatly affected both our professional and personal lives. We have also seen radical nation-wide changes in rules over the last few years, become aware of the more and more evident fragility of the planet and witnessed the continuous erosion of necessary protections. So we must stand strong and forge ahead with renewed vigor. Much of this can truly be deemed a crisis. To quote John F. Kennedy: “The Chinese use two brush stokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger—but recognize the opportunity.”

We are proud of our new committee and excited about the opportunities that lay ahead for us. For the first time, we have the chance to work a broad spectrum of ecological and environmental issues which are inextricably entwined. So often the former two committees met because we shared a mission and held common goals. It is natural that we are now together. Together, we can see greater opportunities for more robust research efforts, stand as a more complete resource for people in the field and practice our environmental and ecological values from study to decision. We are excited at the prospects of this new dawn. True, much of the future is still uncertain, but as always we have overcome each of the challenges we have faced and together we will continue to forge progress.

We’ve already done much to bring us and our ideologies under one flag. So far, we have settled the overall structure of our administrative taskforces and subcommittees, merged the memberships, completed a series of three virtual sessions performed in lieu of our canceled in-person July conference in Denver, closed the committee’s Call for Papers, developed a soon to be launched website and now issued our first committee newsletter. A lot of work in just six months of “on the ground” effort. We thank you all. Each of you have done much to contribute: offered suggestions and guidance on outcomes from the merger, helped contribute content for our Twitter accounts and website, pulled together on very short notice virtual sessions and presented at those events, sent out communications to friends and members, reviewed submitted papers, and put forward articles for the newsletter, and published our first all web-based newsletter. We are in awe with the progress we have made together in a short period of time.

Still much needs to be done and much is uncertain. We will soon hold our first virtual business and research taskforce meetings as a new committee. These will replace the in-person meetings meant to occur this past July. Please see the schedule and details for joining these meetings elsewhere in this newsletter. We will send out written information in advance of those meetings to improve flow and make it more efficient and effective in the brief online time we have.

We are currently using your suggestions for annual meeting sessions to work with other committees with the faith that we will find shared interests and support. We have already advanced a potential workshop with TRB staff. So how will the annual meeting play out? We only know that this will be the first year in its history that TRB has held an all-virtual meeting. This will be a new experience for all of us. At the writing of this message we have yet to learn if committees will have poster sessions or even how many sessions each committee or section will have. The same goes for workshops. There is even uncertainty as to how the annual committee business meetings will be done. However, we have the utmost faith that this will neither deter us from our mission nor prevent us from moving forward with research, sharing best practices and deepening our commitment to one another in achieving our goals. We will prevail.

These are uncertain times and while we are faced with extraordinary challenges, we know that by working together we will be stronger in the end for it. We have done much already. As always, we welcome your thoughts and contributions to our common cause and hope to see you soon at our virtual meetings. Together we stand.

Please take the time to check out the interesting articles and important announcements in this newsletter and visit our website for additional content including previous newsletter issues from ADC10 and ADC30, the new AEP70 draft mission, goals and strategies, information on committee members, etc.

Thank you and be safe!

Martin and Dan

Co-Chair’s Message

Winter 2021

by Martin Palmer, Engineering Services Manager, Washington State Department of Transportation, Palmema@wsdot.wa.gov & Daniel J. Smith, PhD, AICP, University of Central Florida, Daniel.Smith@ucf.edu

Greetings AEP70 Committee Members and Friends:

“The world is made of patterns.
The rings of a tree.
The raindrops on the dusty ground.
The path the sun follows from morning to dusk.”

Kathi Appelt, The Underneath

Of all the butterflies in the world, the North American Monarch Butterfly exhibits an exceptionally unique pattern—its migration. Stirred by warmer temperatures and longer periods of daylight with the coming spring, Monarchs begin their extraordinary annual migration. The Eastern Monarchs travel as far as 3,000 miles from their winter home in Oyamel Fir Forests of central Mexico to return to their summer breeding grounds that lie as far north as the southern reaches of Canada. These extraordinary and fragile creatures—weighing less than a gram—are thought to have been making this epoch journey for over 10,000 years with the recession of the North American icesheet.

We too have a pattern that begins in spring. The season marks the beginning of our yearly journey toward the winter TRB annual meeting. First, we owe many thanks to those members and friends who, this past January, worked diligently to deliver several much-admired and praised sessions and posters along with a celebrated four-hour workshop to a record 19,000-person attendance at the first-ever virtual TRB assembly. Never does a simple “thanks” seem sufficient for the time and toil to produce such remarkable results, but one thing is certain–your contributions are invaluable to our committee’s success. THANK YOU!

Our next six months seem daunting but pales in comparison to that of the Monarch’s. Still, there is much work to be done. Looking forward to our next six months or so, our efforts will be concentrated on the following:

  • Proposals for TRB Webinars are due on Monday, March 15, 2021. Proposals are open to anyone but must be approved by a TRB Standing Committee Chair or feature a CRP report.
  • The annual Call for Papers will be sent out to friends and members around mid-April.
  • Our committee’s mid-year meeting will be held on May 17-20. This event is virtual and will be held in conjunction with the NAEP annual meeting.
  • Proposals for annual meeting workshops are due to TRB by June 1, 2021.
  • Committee Research Workshops will be held on March 23rd, June 22nd and again on September 28th.
  • Nominations for the Deen Distinguished Lectureship and other awards will come due in mid-summer.
  • ICOET will hold their virtual gathering on September 21-30, 2021.
  • Proposals for webinars hosted between September-December 2021 need to be submitted no later than July 1, 2021.
  • Papers for presentation or publication at the annual meeting are due August 1, 2021. All reviews of these papers are due to TRB no later than September 15, 2021.
  • Final workshop and session details (e.g., presentation titles and speaker names) are due to TRB by October 15, 2021.

Our work and completion of these tasks is so very important to our constituents (the many state DOTs, natural resource agencies, environmental consultants and NGOs, and the public) that make use of and ultimately benefit from our efforts. Through our contributions to environmental protection and conservation, the biggest winners if we are successful will be the wide diversity of functional ecological systems and their plant and animal communities, preserved for the continued enjoyment by our future generations.

Stay safe and be well!

Martin and Dan

We want YOU! to help co-develop national wildlife-vehicle collision data standards

By: Amanda Hardy, National Park Service; Vince Ziols, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Maggie Ernst Johnson, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Fraser Shilling, Road Ecology Center, University of California Davis; Renee Callahan, Animal Road Crossings (ARC) Solutions; and Rob Ament, Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.

Wildlife-vehicle collision (WVC) data are key to identifying where WVC mitigation investments will be most effective in protecting drivers and wildlife. Field staff may collect WVC information for various purposes: e.g., law enforcement may report WVC information for their safety/crash database; maintenance personnel may record WVC information to track time, effort, and cost of carcass removal and disposal; and natural resource managers may document roadkill of smaller species, at-risk species, or to identify where wildlife-transportation conflicts occur at intersections of migration and wildlife movement corridors, to strategically advance conservation actions. Regardless of myriad reasons for capturing WVC information in different databases, WVC data can be extracted from these databases and combined to provide a more comprehensive picture of WVC incidents than if they stand alone — if we use standardized core data fields that serve as “common denominators” documenting basic WVC information (e.g., observer ID/type, date, time, spatially-accurate location, species). Such common denominators enable analysts to combine and screen datasets from different sources, ultimately leveraging and expanding our collective documentation of WVCs for more rigorous and effective identification of WVC hotspots within and across jurisdictions and larger landscapes.

A coalition of diverse stakeholders are working together to co-develop a basic set of core national WVC data collection standards that will be pivotal to collaborating more effectively to reduce WVCs. Two TRB workshops sponsored by AEP70 Committee on Environmental Analysis and Ecology and AEP20 Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands were held at the 2020 and 2021 TRB annual meetings on this topic (see 2020 workshop report; 2021 workshop report is in prep.), and there are plans to continue these discussions at mid-year meetings and at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation in September 2021. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is launching quarterly “community of practice” meetings to bring state fish and wildlife managers together to address and reduce wildlife-transportation conflicts, including addressing WVC data collection methods. Federal land management agencies are co-developing a WVC system that can be adapted to use national WVC data standards to enable federal land managers to collaborate with neighboring jurisdictions to address WVC issues as well.

We want to hear from YOU regarding your WVC data collection systems and efforts to collaborate across disciplines, institutions, jurisdictions, and landscapes. If you are interested in working more effectively together to reduce WVCs, whether you may be involved in safety, law enforcement, maintenance/operations, natural resource management, engineering/design/construction, citizen science, or research on this topic, please send your email address to Dan Smith (Daniel.Smith@ucf.edu) to add you to our outreach to co-develop data standards and guidance for collecting more effective and collaborative WVC datasets, with the ultimate goal of reducing WVCs on our roads.

ESRI’s ArcGIS Survey123

Technological advances such as smart mobile devices with GPS and ESRI’s ArcGIS Survey123 (as pictured above) are replacing paper-based wildlife-vehicle collision data collection systems with digital data forms that are easily created and used to document WVC and wildlife crossing events in the field. Data forms can be designed with consistently-formatted, standardized core WVC data fields (e.g., user type, date/time, location, species) while also allowing other data to be collected for other purposes (e.g., safety/crash reporting, carcass removal/disposal documentation, wildlife monitoring), allowing analysts to merge and screen different autonomous data sets based on basic WVC “common denominators”, increasing the quantity and quality of information used to identify WVC hotspots.

S.C. Infrastructure Repairs to Generate Mitigation Credit: A Story of RGL 18-01

By: Sean Connolly (SCDOT)/ Vince McCarron(SCDOT)/ Ross Nelson(American Mitigation Company)

While the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) has tripled its work to improve the state’s roads and bridges in recent years, the agency is also assisting fish and aquatic species with an innovative In-Lieu Fee (ILF) mitigation credits program it is developing that’s gaining attention of other state DOTs. SCDOT’s ILF Program will generate mitigation credits through the replacement of perched and undersized culverts that impair the movement of fish and aquatic species along streams and rivers. SCDOT hopes to take advantage of the Regional Guidance Letter 18-01 (RGL 18-01) to get its program up and running. Our culvert replacement projects will reintroduce proper hydrologic functions, and improve stream connectivity and water quality, while avoiding damage to fish and aquatic species habitats. SCDOT will use credits generated to mitigate impacts to jurisdictional resources in areas that are not served or are underserved by mitigation banks.

SCDOT is working with the Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership’s (SARP’s) Southeast Aquatic Connectivity Program and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to identify streams that have barriers that may affect aquatic organism passage. SCDOT is also using its own culvert database in conjunction with trained maintenance and environmental staff to assist in identifying perched and undersized culverts that impact aquatic organism passage. Specific projects within the ILF Program will include older culverts that create passage issues, hydrological fragmentation concerns, or affect stream stability.

SCDOT is developing an inventory of perched and undersized culverts using location data provided by maintenance staff and additional site evaluations conducted by SCDOT Environmental Service Office (ESO) staff. Potential culverts are marked with a Geographic Positioning System (GPS), and a photograph of the culvert is taken. The following background data is collected for each culvert prior to conducting a site inspection of the culvert:

• GPS Location
• Photographs (if available)
• Possible impairment (perched or undersized)
• Age of structure
• Approximate distance up and downstream to next impediment (based upon available maps and aerial photographs)
• 303(d) or TMDL Waterbody
• North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaboration (NAACC) Coarse Screen.

For each potential project, aerial photographs and maps of the area are reviewed to determine the up and downstream distance to the next impediment. The specific impairments caused by the culvert are also noted. State regulations (S.C. R.61-69 and S.C. R.61-68), the SC Watershed Atlas (https://gis.dhec.sc.gov/watersheds/), and other geographic spatial data resources are reviewed to determine waterbody classifications and other characteristics of the aquatic resource. The NAACC Coarse Screen also provides us guidance. NAACC’s document titled “Scoring Road-Stream Crossings as Part of the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative” (2015) is used to determine whether the culvert allows for Full, Reduced, or No Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP).
Our program will put an emphasis on projects that generate improvements to impaired systems, specifically, ones that have Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) established or are 303(d) listed waterbodies, or that could improve potential habitat passability for protected species. Specific priority will be placed upon smaller watersheds within the basin that have the ability to support the Carolina Heelsplitter, an endangered freshwater mussel native to the area. Additionally, SCDOT will prioritize those culverts that may impact state-listed species and benefit species listed in the State Wildlife Action Plan (www.dnr.sc.gov/swap) as conservation priority species.

Photo from Jennifer Kindle, biologist at SCDNR

A key component of SCDOT’s program is the SARP culvert form which provides a rapid assessment of the level of impairment caused by the culvert. Sites selected for additional field review will be evaluated using the SARP culvert assessment protocol. Qualified staff and/or contractors will be used to complete the SARP Culvert Assessment Datasheet for selected culverts. The Numeric Scoring System described in the above-referenced NAACC document will be used to determine the Aquatic Passability Score. Sites that have a moderate to severe barrier to aquatic passability (below 0.59) will be considered for the ILF Program. Potential projects will be reviewed by SARP and the USFWS to assist with prioritization of potential projects that are funded through the ILF Program.
Projects proposed for the ILF Program also evaluate: (1) whether a mid-channel bar exists upstream of the culvert and (2) the depth/width and extent of the downstream scour pool. These are needed to determine if the culvert effect is localized or if there are larger systemic issues occurring with geomorphology. Photographs of the upstream and downstream extent of impact will be provided to determine whether the under-functioning culvert is causing a localized effect. Culverts in areas with system-wide issues of incision upstream or downstream of the culvert will only be proposed for inclusion in the ILF program if additional bank grading work or a larger stream restoration plan is feasible.

The information generated from the field assessments will be used to develop project specific mitigation plans that will be submitted to the USACE and the IRT for review and approval prior to project implementation. If the ILF Program is successful, the SCDOT may expand the program to other watersheds in the state that are also not served or are underserved by mitigation banks.

In conclusion, SCDOT seeks to be one of the first in the nation to implement RGL 18-01 to develop mitigation credits. SCDOT is currently preparing the draft mitigation banking instrument to submit the Charleston District IRT. SCDOT is preparing the instrument using comments provided by agencies and other interested parties during the public comment period for the Prospectus. The draft ILF instrument should be submitted spring 2021, with final approval anticipated early 2022.

Please feel free to reach out if there are any questions.
Contact: Vince McCarron
email: mccaronvj@scdot.org

Regulatory Updates

By: Jason Morrell PWS (jason.morrell@arcadis.com)

Executive Order 13990
As we wave goodbye to 2020 in the rear view mirror, and look towards the horizon, it’s plain to see that 2021 is ushering in a wave of change in environmental regulations. Following the inauguration of our 46th president on January 20th, the new administration wasted no time taking action. Executive Order (EO) 13990 Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis was signed on inauguration day and published on January 25th. Executive Order 13990 revoked several EOs published under the previous administration, including EO 13807 Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects which required federal agencies to process environmental reviews for “major infrastructure projects” as One Federal Decision (OFD).

Although OFD has effectively been revoked, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a final rule (85 FR 43304) that codified many of the policies promulgated under EO 13807 which became effective September 14, 2020. Amending or revoking a Federal Register final rule typically requires public notice and comment, and cannot be done by executive action. However, EO 13990 directs the heads of federal agencies to review existing regulations issued between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021 for consistency with the policies set forth under the new administration. These policies include, but are not limited to, ensuring access to clean air and water, bolstering resilience to the impacts of climate change, and prioritizing environmental justice. Executive Order 13990 goes a step further to also direct heads of agencies to take prompt steps to rescind rules and regulations that are inconsistent with these policies.

Executive Order13990 also directs CEQ to rescind its Draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from June 2019, and review and revise its Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews from August 2016, as needed. While the extent of forthcoming changes to CEQ regulations NEPA are unknown at this time, it’s safe to say that change is coming, and coming fast.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act
On February 5, 2021, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) delayed the effective date of the final rule defining the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act until March 8, 2021. The final rule was published on January 7, 2021 and scheduled to go into effect on February 8, 2021. In extending the effective date, USFWS cited compliance with the Congressional Review Act, which requires at least 60 days following Federal Register publication for a major rule to take effect. During review of the final rule, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of Management and Budget found the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to be economically significant (i.e., having an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more) and considered a “major rule”.

The final rule codifies the US Department of the Interior (DOI) Solicitor’s Opinion M-37050 (M-opinion) from 2017 regarding the “take” of birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This rule clarifies that the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act only reaches to conduct intentionally injuring birds. Conduct that results in the unintentional (or incidental) injury or death of migratory birds would not be prohibited under the Act. Incidental take of migratory birds has previously been considered a violation of the MBTA by USFWS for several decades.

Legal interpretation of the MBTA and whether its provision cover incidental take of migratory birds has been heavily litigated since the 1970’s. In August 2020, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled to vacate the M-opinion in a case brought against the US Department of the Interior (DOI) by the Natural Resources Defense Council. In January 2021, the National Audubon Society and the State of New York both filed suit against the USFWS and the DOI, respectively, challenging the legal basis for the final rule. The USFWS notes that delaying the effective date of the final rule may avoid further costly and unnecessary litigation.

There undoubtedly remains uncertainty surrounding the validity of the final rule. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared for the final rule concluded that implementing the MBTA rule may significantly impact migratory birds, vegetation, other wildlife, and associated ecosystem services and other economic activities. It’s important to note that the MBTA implements four bilateral migratory bird Conventions with Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Japan. In comments submitted in response to the draft EIS, Canada stated that the MBTA rule “is inconsistent with previous understandings between Canada and the United States, and is inconsistent with the long-standing protections that have been afforded to non-targeted birds under the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in the United States and Canada”.

In addition to extending the effective date of the final rule, USFWS is inviting further public comments on the MBTA rule, including whether the scope of the MBTA includes incidental take and a recommended course of action moving forward. Public comments can be submitted up to 20 days following the Federal Register publication on February 9, 2021.

Remains of a migratory bird trapped in exclusionary netting on a roadway bridge.
Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) nest beneath a roadway bridge

Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule
Executive Order 13868 Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth issued in April 2019 directed the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review Clean Water Act Section 401 regulations and determine whether updates or clarification were needed. On June 1, 2020, EPA finalized the Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule intended to implement the Water Quality Certification (WQC) process consistent with the Clean Water Act. The new rule became effective on September 11, 2020 and clarifies areas of the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification process, including timelines for review and agency action. The new rule reaffirms that the state agency responsible for WQC must take action on a certification request within “a reasonable period of time”, but specifies that the process shall not exceed one year from receipt of the request.

A notable change under the new rule is a pre-filing meeting provision that requires applicants to request a meeting with the state agency responsible for WQC at least 30 days prior to submitting a WQC request. This provision applies to all Individual WQC requests required for issuance of a Standard (or Individual) Section 404 Permit, as well as General Section 404 Permits, including Nationwide and Regional Permits, for which the responsible state agency has not previously issued WQC. Applicants for Section 404 permits are encouraged to coordinate early with their state WQC agency, as well as the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), to verify the information required for the pre-filing meeting request, as it may vary by state and USACE District. However, it should be noted that EO 13868 was also revoked by EO 13990, so similar to the CEQ final rule, the Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule may also be subject to change.

Thus, as in life, change remains the only constant in environmental regulations. The Transportation Research Board Standing Committee on Environmental Analysis and Ecology is committed to tracking this ever changing regulatory environment. Please feel free to contact the author for any questions or more information regarding the regulations covered in this newsletter.

Adaptation of Asian elephants to the wildlife crossing structures along expressway in Yunnan Province, China

By: Lei Guan1, Yun Wang1, Shu Chen2, Yangang Yang1, Xinjun Wang1, Shuangcheng Tao1, Yaping Kong1 (1 China Academy of Transportation Sciences, Beijing, 100029, China) (2 Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4RY, UK)

Sixiao Expressway is the shared part of the South 213 National Road and the second vertical of the road network in Yunnan, China. It connects Simao to Xiaomengyang, and forms part of the Trans- Asian Highway from Kunming (Capital City of Yunnan) to Bangkok of Thailand. Constructed as a closed road in 2006, Sixiao Expressway is 97.8 km (60.7 mi) in full length, with 18 km (11.2 mi) cutting through the national nature reserve Mengyang. Mengyang is a sub-reserve of Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve which holds important populations of China’s Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus). The results of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) indicated that this highway would cause habitat degradation and fragmentation, and act as a barrier to the free movement of elephants. Countermeasures were then suggested, i.e., construction of wildlife crossings such as tunnels and bridges.

Mengyang sub-reserve is the largest nature reserve in Xishuangbanna, and home to more than half of China’s Asian elephants (approximately 150 – 180 individuals living here). Forests provide important habitats, natural food sources and minerals to the elephants. They use both sides of the reserve and cross Sixiao Expressway and the 213 National Road frequently. Crops outside the reserve further attract elephants to approach villages that are scatted along the road. and crops around villages are attractive. Other endangered species are also found along the expressway, including Gaur (Bos gaurus), Asian water monitor (Varanus salvator) and Indian python (Python molurus).

Figure 1. Bridge for elephant crossing (underpass)

To mitigate the negative effects of the expressway on the environment and wildlife, Wildlife Crossing Structures (WCS) – 23 bridges (Figure 1) and 2 tunnels (Figure 2) – were built along Sixiao Expressway as corridors. WCS were connected with metal fences (1.9 m [6.2 ft] in height) that were constructed on both sides of the expressway to keep the animals away from the road but direct them to use the crossings.

Figure 2. Natural habitat above the tunnel (overpass)

To alert the drivers, different forms of warning signs were set up along Sixiao expressway to limit both car speed and the whistles (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Warning sign along Sixiao expressway in Yunnan Province

We monitored all WCS (2 tunnels and 23 bridges) from April 2006 to May 2008. Methods included camera traps, track surveys, village surveys and direct monitoring of elephant movement. We also calculated the utilization rate of all WCS. It increased from 32% (8 WCS) in 2006-2007 to 40% (10WCS) in 2007-2008 to 68% (17 WCS) in 2018-2019 (Figure 4 and Figure 5). The results indicated that Asian elephants are adapting to the wildlife crossing structures over time. We also found that elephants preferred the WCS placed along their original corridors.

Figure 4. Elephants are crossing bridge
Figure 5. Elephants are moving in the natural habitat above the tunnel

Transportation Research Board AEP 70 Mid-Year Committee Business Meeting Minutes

September 24, 2020   1:00 PM Eastern

The mid-year committee meeting was conducted online (Zoom) on Thursday, September 24, 2020, 1:00 PM (Eastern). Daniel Smith and Martin Palmer, Committee Co-Chairs, conducted the meeting.

Committee Merger Continues

  • Structure—shifting to just two administrative taskforces—Research and Communications. One joint subcommittee (Animal-Vehicle Collision)
  • Member rotations—must be to normal committee size (<35 members) by April 2022 but will look at individual desire, time on the committee, and participation as an interim step to trim the committee by April 2021.
  • Achievements to date—joint web-based newsletter, draft joint website, continue separate Twitter feeds, assigned CRC (Yuche Chen), CCC (Jeff Simmons), Paper Review (Jason Morrell), and Committee Secretary (Mike Davis); three virtual sessions delivered (replacing what was to be the in-person meeting in July in Denver)
  • Proposed Committee Scope—still in TRB review. No date for approval currently but Jennifer Weeks confirmed that AEP70 has provided all required information ahead of schedule and no issues are foreseen.
  • Maintain full missions of the old committees

Annual Meeting

  • Martin summarized the 2021 summer webinar series which substituted for the mid-year meeting.
  • All events will be virtual including social events. Annual meeting will be conducted over a two-week period in January 2021.
  • Committee Sessions Proposed for member submittals
  • Committee Annual Business Meeting—3 hours with a 30 minute break
  • Committee workshop proposal approved (AVC Data Standards–3 hours)
  • Cosponsoring a session with Environmental Issues in Transportation Law

Paper and Poster Review  

  • Jason Merrell gave the report. Two papers were submitted and reviewed.
  • Three posters submitted and accepted for virtual presentation. Fraser Shilling led a discussion about encouraging more posters. Dan and Fraser will conduct a follow-up call regarding additional outreach to encourage submittals.

Research Subcommittee

  • Yuche Chen summarized the groups’ work to identify and rank potential research topics (see meeting presentation). This represents a research team reboot addressing both prior committee’s priorities.
  • Fraser Shilling have a report on the Animal-Vehicle Collision subcommittee including future topics such as autonomous vehicle impacts and coordination with ICOET.

Communications

  • Mike Davis gave the report on behalf of Jim Simmons. He thanked the newsletter article contributors and the STANTEC team for producing the newsletter. The newsletter has been redesigned and is web-based. It was distributed on September 17, 2020 via email. Articles are housed on the AEP70 website.
  • Draft joint website open https://environmentalanalysis974038017.wordpress.com/ . The committee is looking for a volunteer webmaster. Contact Martin Palmer.
  • Research meetings conducted on both tracks
  • Continue separate Twitter feeds (@Ecology_Trans) (@Environ18002159)
  • Asking for photos for our webpage

Mid-Year Event

  • Meridith Krebs gave the report. The mid-year meeting is being planned for May 16-20, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona .
  • An email  survey is out to members to determine if the symposium will be virtual, in-person or a hybrid. Members and friends are encouraged to respond to the survey.
  • The National Association of Environmental Professionals and its Arizona chapter will be our hosts.

Closing Remarks

  • Carolyn Nelson, FHWA announced an AASHTO talk regarding the new CEQ regulations on October 29, 2020. Contact AASHTO for details and to register.
  • Bob Hazlett, AEP00 Section Chair thanked the committee chairs for leading the committee consolidation.

Minutes submitted by Mike Davis, Committee Secretary, September 25, 2020

Attendees

Daniel Smith, Co-chair
Martin Palmer, Co-Chair
Mike Davis, Secretary
Fraser Shilling
Richard Record
Illeana Ivanciu
Carolyn Nelson
Marla Engle
Todd Williams
Steve Begg
Meredith Morgan
Jane Boand
Lisa Sakata
Glenn Miller
Bridgett Donaldson
Wendy Terlizzi
Martin Dobyns
Joel Hahn
Brian Smith
Meridith Krebs
Jennifer Martin
Marjorie Kirby
Eric Duff
Bethany Kung
Jeff Franz
James Martin
Yuche Chen
Jennifer Weeks
Eugene Murray
Charles Kovatch
Nova Simpson
Stephanie Perez
Jason Morrell
Carlos Swonke
Matt Perlik
Kris Gade

The Joe Burns Internship Position with the Wildlife Society

Joe Burns, an active member of our transportation ecology community, was a force of change when he unexpectedly passed on Thanksgiving 2019.

The Wildlife Society has named an internship in his name: https://wildlife.org/tws-policy-internship-program-renamed-to-honor-joe-burns/

and the Wildilfe Society is now accepting applications for recent graduates who may want to be that first Joe Burns Intern position, below.

See this website for applicants – through Texas A&M’s job board: https://wfscjobs.tamu.edu/jobs/joe-burns-memorial-wildlife-policy-internship-remote/#:~:text=The%20Wildlife%20Society%20(TWS)%20has,%2DJanuary%20%E2%80%93%20late%20June%202021.

PS – the positions will be remote.

Our committee is looking for a new webmaster!

What we are looking for:

We seek someone who has a real passion and strong desire to communicate with like-minded professionals through our website. Communication through our webpage is a critical part of our goals and objectives and extremely important to the committee’s mission. Effective web-based communication is essential in light of the pandemic. We are looking for someone who has a few hours a month that they can put in on a consistent basis. It is a huge bonus if you have some experience with website design…especially using WordPress and Weebly. However, there are plenty of tutorials and some help from committee members to get you started. The site is already constructed but, of course, needs regular updating to remain relevant.

What you will be doing:

While physically updating the website will be a big part of what you will be doing, you will also need to reach out to the committee chairs, the Committee Communications Coordinator (CCC) and members for content. Some of the content includes: upcoming workshops, conferences and webinars; uploading newsletters, meeting notes and new committee research needs statements (RNS); online educational videos; and occasionally updating membership information.

Interested?

Please write back to us and let us know why you are the perfect person to fill this vital role. Let us know your ability to commit time, your desire to contribute and your experience working with web-based platforms. Please send the information to:

Jeff Simmons at jeff.simmons@stantec.com

Check us out at here . We would really like to fill this role no later than October 1, 2020. (The sooner the better!)

Japanese Knotweed Flood and Climate Resiliency, and Transportation Networks: A Summary of an Upcoming Publication

by Brian Colleran, MS, CERP, PWS, Principal, Ecological Land Management, Newbury, MA

The knotweed surrounding this culvert is contributing to the loss of soil, which threatens both the roadway and the guardrail.

A paper I was lead author on was recently accepted by River Research & Applications, titled “Invasive Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica Houtt.) and related knotweeds as catalysts for streambank erosion“. Halfway through the paper, we present a transportation-based example of why re-framing both management approaches to this plant and the criteria by which successful management is measured opens a wide range of opportunities.  Most roadside management of this plant is currently accomplished through mowing or by herbicide application. Experience has taught us that mowing will spread this plant, and herbicide use is a temporary solution as it only reduces the amount of vegetation for a season. While helpful for maintaining safe sightlines, the underground rhizomes remain untreated by both methods, and the threat this plant poses to infrastructure remains undiminished.

Where knotweed exists on rivers, our paper argues that they catalyze erosion. Since knotweeds spread easily along both transportation and river networks, bridges and culverts are especially susceptible to infestation. This means that bridges and culverts with infestations will suffer more erosion than would otherwise be expected. Due to knotweed-induced erosion and the increased power of the waterway during flooding, knotweed infested banks are far and away the most likely places to collapse during a flood, potentially risking failure of any nearby infrastructure. With the continuing changes to hydrological regimes due to climate change, in many areas climate change resiliency and flooding resiliency are nearly synonymous. By eliminating knotweeds, you are making riverside infrastructure more resilient to flooding. So, the criteria for successful management of this plant ought to have more in common with climate risk-reduction strategies than with traditional vegetation management.

While effective management of Japanese knotweed requires more time and attention than normal roadside vegetation management operations, in my mind, the payoffs are worthwhile. These include reduced risk of transportation infrastructure failure and impeded travel during weather related emergencies or in the weeks following a severe flooding event, and avoidance of rushed and unplanned emergency repair expenditures. These types of events can ruin budgets, and in today’s economy many of those budgets were already tight to begin with.

As we lay out in our paper, the cost of managing this plant is comparable to many other normal maintenance activities. The cost of removing knotweed once it has become established will certainly be greater than normal management. However, its removal provides the added benefit of providing insurance against the costs associated with climate change induced flood damages. Additional benefits of a proactive management strategy include improved public relations through positive press, opportunities for partnerships with other agencies and non-governmental organizations interested seeking to help, offering alternative funding mechanisms, and a better understanding of what may happen during the next big storm.

Black River Roadside: This knotweed along Vermont’s Black River is being managed by mowing, which will spread the knotweed further, since pieces of knotweed can root and grow. Additionally, sudden failure of this bank during a storm would significantly impact the roadway.

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