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R.A. Smith National, Inc. Knowledge Blog

The Sky's the Limit

by Nate Vaughn 2. April 2014 02:55

R.A. Smith National has purchased a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) and is researching its use for rapid entry into the commercial market. The survey division anticipates using this newer technology to collect certain types of survey data once rules for commercial use of UAVs are promulgated and released by the Federal Aviation Administration in September 2015. The DJI Phantom 2 Quad with GPS will be used exclusively for research and development until federal regulations are in place. The survey division at R.A. Smith National anticipates using the UAV for topographic surveys, aerial LiDAR, photogrammetry and aerial photography. Some of the benefits of a UAV include improved data collection efficiency as well as enhanced productivity.

 

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Surveying

Clean Water Fund Advisory Group Discusses Priority Scoring System

by Karen Wiesneski 27. March 2014 10:07

The advisory group discussing rule changes to Wisconsin’s Clean Water Fund program met with the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (WDNR) last week to discuss the program’s priority scoring system.

The WDNR recently completed the scoring of all projects submitted with ITAs (Intent to Apply) and PERFs (Priority Evaluation and Ranking Form) for the current funding cycle. Projects were also scored under proposed ranking methodology for comparative purposes only as part of the rule revision process. (These scores will not be used to rank projects for the current funding cycle.) Scoring results under the existing and proposed methods were compared and modifications made to the proposed system. The advisory group reviewed the proposed methodology and made additional suggestions.

The advisory group and WDNR will hold one final meeting in April. A 30-day public comment period is anticipated in June 2014 with new rules adopted by WDNR before January 2015 in time for legislative review in the spring and rule implementation in summer 2015. WDNR anticipates using the new online submittal process for the 2015 ITA submittals which are due December 31, 2014.

If you have any questions, please contact Robin Schmidt, Chief, Environmental Loans Section, at 608-266-3915 or robin.schmidt@wisconsin.gov.

Click on my blog posts below to catch up on what else the advisory group discussed at each of the two meetings held earlier this year.

Rules to Be Revised, February 4

Deadlines and Eligibility, March 7

Photo at right:  Chuck Pape, civil engineer with R.A. Smith National, is a voluntary member of the advisory group. He has 30+ years of prior experience with WDNR, serving primarily as their first point of contact for all Clean Water Fund projects in southeastern Wisconsin. Chuck’s experience with the existing funding system at WDNR provides a unique perspective on priority scoring and loan eligibility.

 

 

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Municipal

What is a Farmed Wetland?

by Tina Myers 25. March 2014 10:00

Not all wetlands are as obvious as a stand of cattails in a concave depression. For wetland ecologists, farmed wetlands can be some of the most challenging areas to identify and delineate. Farmed wetlands are regulated by federal and state laws the same as any other wetland type, so it is important that they are delineated accurately. These types of wetlands often lack a natural plant community and soils can be frequently disturbed due to plowing, particularly during dry years.  Hydrology is often seasonal and these wetland areas can sustain a healthy crop during drier years.

As required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), wetland ecologists must first evaluate the potential for farmed wetlands by conducting off-site determinations using methods found in the 1998 USDA National Food Security Act Manual (Section 513.30c - Wisconsin Wetland Mapping Conventions). In addition to analyzing NRCS and WDNR wetland inventory maps, soils maps, topographic maps and spring aerial photography, annual crop slides obtained from the County Farm Service Agency (FSA) office are also reviewed. These aerial slides are typically taken during the month of July after crops have been planted. They are evaluated for “wetland signatures” and compared to historical climatological data to determine if antecedent conditions were considered “wet,” “normal” or “dry” prior to the dates of the aerial slides.    

Wetland signatures can appear on the aerial crop slides as distinctive black or white areas indicating the presence of surface water, as bare soil or mudflats indicating a drowned-out crop, as different shades of green indicating hydrophytic vegetation, as yellow indicating crop stress, or as patches of greener color in “dry” years. The signatures can also be seen as differences in color due to different planting dates or isolated areas not farmed within the rest of the field. Hydrology requirements are met if greater than 50% of the aerial slides show wetness signatures in a specific location. Once it has been determined where farmed wetlands are likely to occur, these areas are formally verified in the field following methods in the 1987 Corps Wetland Delineation Manual.  

If you have any questions related to farmed wetland determination/delineation procedures or if you need a wetland delineation conducted on your property, please contact one of R.A. Smith National’s professional wetland ecologists to assist you: Tina Myers (262) 317-3389 or Heather Patti (262) 317-3361.  

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Ecology

I-94 North-South Project Update

by John Bruggeman 10. March 2014 03:29

The snowy, cold winter gives us some time to look back at the 2013 construction season and the new traffic signal improvements along the I-94 North-South corridor. Three new interchanges were opened in late 2013. These interchanges included some of the latest in traffic signal technology and operational features. 

The Rawson Avenue interchange provided TTI traffic signal phasing to minimize traffic backups internal to the interchange and to allow traffic to travel through both ramp intersections in one sequence. The WIS 158 interchange added new traffic signals (previously unsignalized) and provides a much needed east-west alternate route for those traveling between I-94 and the City of Kenosha. 

The new interchange at 71st Street makes up the north half of a new split diamond interchange configuration being constructed in the WIS 50 area. These signals implemented the use of the flashing yellow arrow and both GPS and Infrared Emergency Vehicle Preemption equipment. 2014 marks the final year of construction in the WIS 50 area, when the south half of the interchange will be fully complete. Upon completion, a total of six new traffic signals will service the interchange area. 

Construction will ramp back up as soon as the weather starts to warm up, so stay tuned and think spring!

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Traffic

Clean Water Fund Advisory Group Discusses Deadlines and Eligibility

by Karen Wiesneski 7. March 2014 09:37

The advisory group discussing rule changes to the Clean Water Fund program met with WDNR for the second time last week in Madison. A summary of the key discussion points is included below. Any and all proposed changes noted below will be available for public comment at the conclusion of the draft rule-revision process. All rule revisions are ultimately reviewed and approved by the Natural Resources Board, the Legislature and the Governor.

A consideration is being made to move the December 31 Intent to Apply (ITA) deadline to October 31. The deadline would correspond more closely with the fall municipal budgeting cycle and also allow for the processing of ITAs, priority scoring and loan applications prior to the spring construction season. If approved, the same deadline would be implemented for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP).

For sanitary districts where there may not be sufficient data points for the American Community Survey (ACS) to calculate an MHI, other criteria will need to be established. The group discussed how there is frustration with the ACS due to their large margin of error often seen in their data. After a discussion of various alternatives, the advisory team members suggested that applicants be given the option to use one of the following methods:  1) the applicant prepares a map identifying the project boundaries for use by the U.S. Census Bureau in calculating MHI; 2) the applicant uses the published MHI for the township; or 3) if the applicant is located in multiple local government entities, a weighted average MHI (based on population) is calculated.

There has been ongoing discussion regarding the potential eligibility of sanitary sewer lining under the CWF program.

Once again, all of the items noted above are proposed changes as of this writing. The group is scheduled to meet again in mid-March to discuss the priority scoring system. Stay tuned for another update! If you have any questions, please contact Robin Schmidt, Chief, Environmental Loans Section, at 608-266-3915 or robin.schmidt@wisconsin.gov.

Photo at right:  Chuck Pape, civil engineer with R.A. Smith National, is a voluntary member of the advisory group. He has 30+ years of prior experience with WDNR, serving primarily as their first point of contact for all Clean Water Fund projects in southeastern Wisconsin. Chuck’s experience with the existing funding system at WDNR provides a unique perspective on priority scoring and loan eligibility.

 

 

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