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R.A. Smith National, Inc. Knowledge Blog

The Case for Investing in Better Structural Monitoring

by Scott Ginal 19. February 2014 04:39

Until recent years, our nation’s structures were visually inspected and manually tested to detect failure. Technology in measuring devices is advancing and now engineers are able collect data that can be used to assess a structure’s health in real time. Read further to explore the case for investing in better structural monitoring.  

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Does Your Project Impact Wetlands? What WDNR Permits Do You Need?

by Tina Myers 5. February 2014 10:04

If you have a project that has the potential to impact wetlands, this brief update regarding WDNR General Permits (GPs) may interest you.  

The new state wetland regulatory process (effective July 1, 2012) allows for a more streamlined review process for projects that will cause only minimal adverse impacts affecting less than 10,000 square feet of wetland. 

Since the law took effect, the WDNR has created a number of General Permit (GP) categories, some of which are currently in place and others that will likely take effect sometime within the next year.  This is important because projects that did not previously fit into one of the newly developed GP categories would automatically have to go through the more lengthy Individual Permit (IP) process unless the applicant was willing to wait for the appropriate GP category to take effect.   

The four types of wetland disturbance GP categories that are now in place are:  Commercial, Residential, and Industrial Development; Municipal Highway Bridges, Arches, and Culverts; Recreational Development; and Utility Structures. Additional GP categories that we can expect to see finalized sometime this year include Municipal Development and Agricultural Development. In the future we can also anticipate GPs for Repair, Reconstruction or Maintenance of Existing Authorized Dam; Treatment or Disposal of Hazardous Waste; and Temporary Access and Dewatering.  

As with any project that requires a permit, the objective is to first avoid wetland impacts, then minimize those impacts that cannot be avoided to the greatest extent practicable. 

If you have any questions related to permitting 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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Clean Water Fund Rules to Be Revised

by Karen Wiesneski 4. February 2014 11:05

An external advisory group formed by WDNR met for the first time this week in Madison to discuss rule changes to WDNR Chapter 162 (Clean Water Fund Program*). The group, comprised of representatives from WDNR, USDA Rural Development, Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District and the consulting engineering industry, is meeting monthly from January through April to discuss items that include, but are not limited to, eligible costs, priority scoring system, MHI (median household income), DBE and the application process. (A separate advisory group has been formed to discuss rule changes to WDNR Chapter 166, Safe Drinking Water Loan Program.)

The tentative schedule for the Clean Water Fund rule revisions includes a 30-day public comment period in June 2014; new rules adopted by WDNR before January 2015 in time for legislative review in the spring; and rules implemented in summer 2015.

A significant change to the Clean Water Fund program is the implementation of an online ITA (Intent to Apply) submittal process to be in place by the fall of 2014.  WDNR anticipates using the new online submittal process for the 2015 ITA submittals which are due December 31, 2014.

A new scoring system that is part of the rule revision process will be in effect after the rules are adopted by the Natural Resource Board (NRB) and approved by the legislature and Governor. This is anticipated to occur in 2015. Once the rules are in effect, the WDNR will begin programming for an on-line self-scoring Priority Evaluation and Ranking Form, to accompany the on-line ITA form.

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. Stay tuned for future updates.

If you have any questions, please contact Robin Schmidt, Chief, Environmental Loans Section, at 608-266-3915 or

*The Clean Water Fund loans money at reduced interest rates for wastewater and stormwater projects. Hardship financial assistance in the form of a reduced interest rate loan or a grant is provided for municipalities with low income and high user costs. 




Butler’s gartersnake Among Those Delisted from Wisconsin Endangered and Threatened Species List

by Heather Patti 7. January 2014 08:42

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has completed a review of Wisconsin's rare species and has finalized a rule resulting in changes to Ch. NR 27, Wis. Admin. Code.  The code adds eight species, removes 15 species and updates 20 scientific names on the Wisconsin C list.

Of particular note to the Milwaukee area, the Butler’s gartersnake (Thamnophis butleri) was delisted from the threatened list because the species appears to be stable based on surveys and genetic studies. In addition, the Blanding’s turtle, another species found in Southeast Wisconsin, was also delisted from the threatened list. The delisting of these species was a very controversial issue as it  means that an incidental take permit or authorization will no longer be required if the species or their habitat are present in a project area.

The new rule is effective January 1, 2014.  Please contact R.A. Smith National wetland ecologists/WDNR certified endangered resources reviewers, Heather Patti (262) 317-3361 or Tina Myers (262) 317-3389 with any questions.

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Laser Screed Keeps Trucks Busy on Major Concrete Pour at Valero Ethanol Plant

by Paul Schafer 3. October 2013 04:56

The laser screed has changed the way in which concrete is placed. This piece of equipment uses an automatic laser control system to pour large slabs without the use of interior form work. This equipment is typically used to finish concrete slabs in large industrial or commercial buildings.  The level of accuracy and speed at which concrete can be placed was especially useful last week at Valero Renewable Fuel’s ethanol plant in Aztalan (Jefferson County), Wisconsin. On the first day the contractor anticipated a cement truck pouring concrete every six minutes for a full eight hours.

R.A. Smith National was on site with contractors, Wirth Concrete and Iverson Construction, to provide construction management and inspection for a new 1,500-foot long truck queuing driveway at the ethanol plant. The new queuing area which measures 75 wide by 850 feet long will provide for an additional 51 semi spaces and improve overall traffic flow for the heavy volume of trucks that enter and leave the plant.  This plant typically produces 300,000 gallons of ethanol per day year round.

R.A. Smith National also provided construction staking, preliminary survey services and a traffic analysis that led to this parking lot expansion project. The analysis became necessary after supply trucks were causing traffic backups on a nearby state highway. The project involved a review of historical plant records and a subsequent traffic analysis to provide an estimate of the required number of queuing spaces.  R.A. Smith National created five queuing concept plans including cost estimates for several sites at the plant.  Our project team worked closely with Valero Renewable Fuels to refine the concepts and select the best solution for the plant. Our team was further responsible for preparing construction drawings, bidding coordination, and permit approvals.



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