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July Industry Review

New In Policy

Healthy Water, Healthy Economy

In June, the Department of Environmental Quality released their draft water strategy, which included recommendations that would ensure that Michigan’s water resources will continue to “support healthy ecosystems, residents, communities and economies” for the next 30 years.

The strategy considers not only the environmental impact of water pollution, but the economic and cultural impact as well. It recognizes how vital water is to Michigan and its individual communities. Michigan’s bodies of water impacts our state’s economy in numerous ways, and keeping our waterways healthy isn’t an abstract environmental concern, but a requirement if Michigan wants to continue to build a robust, beneficial economy around our lakes and rivers.

The DEQ’s strategy includes the following key recommendations:

• Developing a water trails system

• Achieving a 40 percent reduction to phosphorus in the western Lake Erie basin

• Preventing the introduction of new aquatic invasive species and controlling established populations

• Supporting investments in commercial and recreational harbors and maritime infrastructure

• Accelerating water technologies to address critical water problems using an entrepreneurial, business-led initiative

• Establishing a durable water fund to achieve water strategy goals including water infrastructure management

 

Tech News

Water Trails: The Next Phase in Michigan Recreation

After a quarter century of hard work, Michigan has built an extensive trail system across our great state that encourages non-motorized connectivity. You can bike from South Haven to Kalamazoo, or from Comstock Park to Cadillac. Our trail system is an asset for local residents and a draw for visitors.

But recently, the focus has expanded to include Michigan’s 3,126 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, and its many more miles of rivers and lakes. More and more communities are realizing that water trails are the next big thing in placemaking development. Water trails provide benefits similar to land trails – increased tourism, more recreational activities for residents, and more traffic for local businesses as people get out and get active in the community.

Water trails are also cheaper to create and maintain, because they require only the establishment of access points, rather than the creation of asphalt or gravel-lined trails. Expenses involve boat, kayak, and canoe launches (or some combination), signage, and marketing to increase awareness of the trail. A good place to start is at the website MichiganWaterTrails.org, an excellent resource for planning water trail trips that includes trail maps and a searchable database of amenities.

As Michigan’s water trails develop, it’s important to keep these trails open to all types of users. Accessible canoe/kayak launches can be used by people with and without disabilities. Accessible launches require routes with gentle slopes throughout the launch site; a route width that’s at least 5 feet wide; and accessible parking, restrooms and other amenities. Taking the time and money to follow these requirements will ensure that your community is part of a network of trails that provide recreation for people with all types of abilities.

 

Money Matters

Funding Water Trails

If there’s a water trail project you’ve been contemplating, consider the Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Zone Management program, which is designed to support “healthy and productive coastal ecosystems, resilient coastal communities, and vibrant and sustainable coastal communities.” They have an upcoming funding program for coastal communities to utilize to assist development of community trails projects such as water trails, bike path and walking trails. The request for Trails Planning and Design proposals has a deadline of August 3. Information about the program can be found here.

 

Project Highlight

Allegan Kayak/Canoe Launch

Abonmarche is working with the City of Allegan to fund and build a canoe/kayak launch on the Kalamazoo River, adjacent to the City’s rapidly developing riverfront. The project began as an idea suggested during the City’s intensive public input process to create a vision for its riverfront area and nearby park land. Soon, the launch became a focal point of the plan, as residents and City officials explored the benefits of water trails both for residents and visitors. The launch will be a universally accessible floating launch anchored to the shore area via a hinged gangplank, allowing the launch to adjust to varying water levels related to nearby hydroelectric facilities. This allows the launch to remain useable and accessible at all times. The launch fulfills important objectives outline in the City of Allegan and Allegan Township Joint Recreation Plan, and will further benefit the City as interest in water trails continues to grow.

 

 

 

 

June Industry Review

Tech News

Planting Local

Next time you’re planning landscaping project or streetscape, consider a type of flora that’s resistant to freezing, can boost the local ecosystem, and can be used to promote interest in your region’s unique qualities – native plants.

Native plants are more equipped to thrive in local conditions and therefore require less fertilizing and watering, can be cold and drought tolerant, and boost the local ecosystem by attracting a variety of pollinators and wildlife.

Under most circumstances native plants will not require specialized conditions; however, if natural conditions have been altered by manmade practices, then installation may require returning soils to their natural state. Understanding these conditions will help the native plants properly establish.

Native plant landscaping can be very simple and implemented on the resident and municipal level and provide an excellent educational opportunity. A path bound by native plants could include information placards that educate residents on the native species and benefits they provide. Larger scale projects could partner with local schools to create a wonderful community build and ongoing education program.

New In Policy

Encouraging Native Plants

A number of municipalities throughout Michigan are starting to shed light on the importance of native plants. They are doing so by integrating verbiage into their ordinances that encourage the use of native plants and discourage the use of invasive plants. One municipality leading the way is the City of Ann Arbor who’s Material and Design Standards encourage diversity and native species.

Creating ordinances that push for residents and planners to utilize native plants helps bring attention to a commonly overlooked subject. We think it is an excellent option for any municipality and expect to see these guidelines mandated in the future.

Money Matters

Green Opportunities

Interest in using native plants for landscaping is increasing, but they can still be difficult to find. Some more common natives like Black Eyed Susan and Echinacea are readily available at local garden centers and box stores. Conservation districts and local nature centers, like Sarrett Nature Center in Benton Harbor, hold annual wildflower and seedling sales that would be perfect for residents and municipalities to take advantage of.

There are a number of funding opportunities available for municipalities and agencies that want to complete landscaping and tree planting projects.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Community Forestry Grants cycle reopened in June and provides information and assistance for forest activities such as tree inventories, management plans, planting and other maintenance activities.

The Wildlife Habitat Grant Program provides funding to local, state, federal and tribal units of government, profit or non-profit groups, and individuals to develop or improve wildlife habitat for game species. The WHGP is administered by the Michigan DNR through a cooperative effort between Wildlife Division and Grants Management. The deadline is July 10.

There are also grants and awards available for planting trees found at Alliance for Community Trees.

 

Project Highlight

Syndicate Park Dunes

Abonmarche is working on an exciting project at a local site containing critical dunes. Human activity and motorized recreational vehicles have left the dunes in a vulnerable condition and subject to erosion and slope alteration. Abonmarche’s Landscape Architect, along with project partners, Cardno, designed a plan to concentrate ATV use and limit foot traffic to help reestablish the dunes natural shape. Additionally, the plan includes a protected native plant area to help stabilize the dune and prevent erosion while enhancing the aesthetics and attracting wildlife.

 

May Industry Review

Tech News

Speed Vital In Road Repair

Now that Proposal 1 has failed, it’s important to remember that time is a factor for Michigan’s roads. As our legislators debate different potential solutions, not only are Michigan residents feeling the wear and tear of potholes on their vehicles, but the roads themselves are deteriorating. The longer the state waits to act on repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.

For every $1 that would be spent to maintain a road in good condition, $7 has to be spent to repair a road that’s fallen into poor condition, according to a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. In that report, the authors compare the ubiquitous pothole to a cavity – not only can it be painful, but it can be a sign of other, more severe problems in the tooth. It’s certainly a sign that things are not being maintained as they should.

When a road develops cracks, water seeps through the cracks and gets into the sand and gravel that make up base material. Water sits in this base material until winter, when it freezes and expands, forcing the pavement upward. This creates voids in the pavement that, when met with the punishing impact of traffic, collapse into potholes. Not only is it cheaper to simply seal the cracks, it also takes less time and causes fewer road closures and traffic disruptions. The longer those cracks are left unsealed, the more likely a major rehabilitation will be required. That takes more time and more money, and still won’t get the road back to its original condition. In road repair, the watchword of road repair is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Money Matters

Road Funding Opportunities

The mission of the Transportation Economic Development Fund is to provide funding to county, city, and village agencies for transportation projects that address transportation needs that are critical for the agency’s economic development. Applications for this grant are accepted year round. The upcoming submission date for a letter of interest for the grant is June 10.

 

New In Policy

What Comes After Prop 1?

On May 5, Michigan’s voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposal 1, which would have funded much needed road repairs across the state. Now, elected officials are exploring alternative solutions to our infrastructure problems.  Many organizations and individuals are providing their own ideas and recommendations for consideration as well.

This is an opportunity for our state’s leadership to develop a sound and sustainable policy approach to this ever-growing problem.

While Michigan voters have spoken loud and clear in their rejection of Proposal 1, we believe that something positive did come out of it. Michigan’s infrastructure has always been a topic of conversation in the engineering industry and among municipal, county, and state workers, but Proposal 1 helped bring this conversation into every home in the state. Though Proposal 1 wasn’t the way to do it, it does appear that residents and legislators agree that something must be done to fix the roads.  We look forward to reviewing and discussing what the legislature puts forward in future issues of our newsletter.

 

Project Highlight

Asset Management Plans

Abonmarche has developed Asset Management Plans for several communities. During our work in these municipalities, Abonmarche is mindful of how much more expensive it is to repair roads that have fallen into poor condition than it is to maintain good-condition roads. With that in mind, Abonmarche uses new maintenance technologies such as crack filling, slurry sealing, ultrathin overlays, and hot in place to prolong the life of the pavements before they become too deteriorated, when heavy maintenance techniques become necessary. Those roads that already require heavy maintenance techniques are then reserved for opportunities when more funding sources are available.

 

 

 

 

April Industry Review

Tech News

More and more, Michigan’s economy is relying on its waterways. Whether it’s tourists staying overnight in a beach town or residents purchasing a new boat or fishing license, Michigan’s waterways are the driving force behind a growing portion of the state’s revenue.

As Michigan’s water-based economy continues to grow, a renewed commitment needs to be made to the state’s environment. Keeping the state’s waterways healthy is no longer just an environmental issue. It’s an economic one. The mindset needs to shift from thinking of water as a burden that has to be dealt with, to thinking of it as an asset that can be used to improve our communities.

Stormwater management needs to become a priority for communities across the state, not just those on the coast. Neglected stormwater systems introduce pollutants into water ways, affecting local flora and fauna. Proper stormwater management protects the environment, eases pressure on existing infrastructure, and allows communities to adapt to severe weather events brought on by climate change.

Traditional stormwater management focused on directing rainwater and melted snow away from the site as quickly as possible. Modern techniques – such as rain gardens and pervious pavers – recreate a pre-development landscape by allowing water to filter through the ground.

 

Money Matters

In August 2014, severe storms swept through Michigan, causing damage and flooding across the state. Following a request from Gov. Snyder, President Obama declared a major disaster in the state of Michigan, freeing up Hazard Mitigation Grant Program assistance to become available for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

State agencies and local governments can now take advantage of FEMA funding to prepare properties against potential future disasters. The FEMA program provides up to 75% of the cost. For more information, please visit FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance page.

 

New in Policy

From tourism to industry, the Blue Economy is a critical component to Michigan’s growth and a sustainable economic future. Our state’s abundance of fresh water, coupled with excess capacity in our water filtration plants, positions our state and its people exceptionally well to attract both industries that rely on water, as well as tourists who come to our state to enjoy our abundant natural resources.

One example of an industry that has excellent potential for growth in Michigan is electronic data management. In today’s technology-focused society, we are using substantial amounts of water to manage the large facilities that house computer data systems, or data centers. It may seem counterintuitive that computers depend on water, but water is often used to cool these systems, which produce great amounts of heat. These centers all use large amounts of energy, and generating energy also uses water, so there is an indirect aspect of water consumption as well. Given the increasing population relying on the Internet, the United States’ computer-related water needs will continue to grow. By some estimates, more than 77 percent of the U.S. population used the Internet in 2010, representing more than a 150 percent increase over the past decade. And all of this internet traffic and reliance on electronic information means increased demand for more data centers. Consider that each email, each bank transaction, each Facebook posting, and the millions of other internet uses all must pass through and be processed in data center servers. Our State’s abundance of fresh water and processing capacity coupled with its natural beauty make it an ideal place to both establish data storage facilities as well as attract the talent to run them.

Given the success of the Pure Michigan campaign bringing attention to our State’s natural resources it is imperative we monitor and protect those resources to ensure the long term sustainability of our tourism industry. With our 3,000 plus miles of Great Lakes coastline and over 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is one of the country’s top summertime destinations for people. Recreational boaters directly and indirectly spend $3.9 billion in Michigan, contributing to over 50,000 jobs. Michigan anglers contribute $2 billion annually to the state. Coastal tourism, from birding to beach visits, is responsi­ble for 57,000 jobs and $955 million in earnings every year. Recreation and tourism spending around inland lakes, rivers and wetlands has not been estimated but arguably would be a comparable or larger amount. We do know that the small but growing Michigan canoe and kayaking industry already contributes $140 million a year to the economy.

Given the current impact our state’s waterways have on the economy, and the potential to attract and expand new industries to create jobs and tax base for our communities, it is critical that the state and local governments proactively enact policies that protect and ensure the long term viability of these important natural resources.

 

Project Highlight

The Department of Environmental Quality’s Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) program is an important piece of legislation that the state of Michigan has enacted in recent years to protect and maintain our state’s water resources is. The SAW program’s funding can be used for stormwater and wastewater asset management plan development, stormwater management plan development, sewage collection and treatment plan development, and state-funded loans to construct projects identified in an asset management plan or stormwater management plan. The City of South Haven received a SAW grant that Abonmarche is working in conjunction with City staff to develop a stormwater asset management plan, among other activities, to protect the community’s fresh water resources.

Stormwater management is the control and use of stormwater runoff. It includes planning for runoff, maintaining stormwater systems, and regulating the collection, storage, and movement of stormwater. Stormwater management also considers drainage in the design of cities and housing developments. The goals of stormwater management include protecting our environment; reducing flooding to protect people and property; reducing demand on public stormwater drainage systems; supporting healthy streams and rivers; and creating healthier, more sustainable communities. Effective stormwater management provides environmental, social, and economic benefits to local communities. When stormwater management is done well, streams, rivers, and lakes are cleaner; flood risks are reduced; costs due to flood damage decrease; and community quality of life increases.

Given the significant amount of spending that access to Lake Michigan brings into the community on an annual basis, protecting the community’s water resource is of critical importance. If an E. coli issue were to shut down the community’s beaches, even for only a few days, it would have a profound economic impact on the community and business owners. By using the SAW grant to develop a sound asset management plan, the City will be able to ensure the long term sustainability and viability of its water resources.

 

March Industry Review

 

Tech News

In Michigan, spring marks the return of our state bird, the beginning of major league baseball, and pothole season on our roadways. Potholes form primarily in the late winter and early spring months when melting snow saturates the soil around and beneath our roadways. This moist soil undergoes cycles of freezing during the night and thawing during warmer days. The associated expansion and contraction is the driving force behind pothole formation. During this time, the moist ground makes the road susceptible to damage from heavy vehicles. For more information on the formation of a pothole, and how good road design seeks to reduce this problem visit the Michigan Department of Transportation’s page on potholes.

Patching potholes is a stop-gap measure intended to create a safe driving surface for the public and protect/retain as much of the underlying material as possible. Winter patching of potholes began as a way of getting through until spring. But with tight budgets and limited manpower, these temporary fixes are often required to last much longer.

Patching potholes in the winter and early spring is a difficult thing to do. During this time, roads are wet and covered in salt and the patch material can’t adhere well. Hot- mix asphalt is hard to come by at this time as well. Due to these conditions, the “Throw-and-Roll” method is often used. Patch material is shoveled into potholes where it is quickly rolled before reopening to traffic. Due to limited time and budget, many agencies may not using a roller, opting instead to use the “Throw-and-Go” method, which uses traffic to compact their patch material in lieu of a roller or plate compactor. Anyone who has endured the clinks and clangs of loose “cold-patch” hitting the undercarriage of their vehicle has experienced the less appealing consequences of the “Throw-and-Go” patch.

If it can wait until later in the spring, “Semi-Permanent” method of pothole repair is a higher quality fix. This involves removal of compromised pavement, cleaning and preparation of the substrate, placing and compacting patching material, and sealing of the joint at the perimeter of the patch if time and budget allow. A spray injection method is also available, but this is typically only used by larger departments with the money and resources to purchase the specialized equipment.

Whichever method is used, it doesn’t change the fact that the life expectancy of patches is typically measured in weeks instead of years. Patching potholes is a losing battle. In the end, patch material typically winds up on roadway shoulders, gutters, and storm drains.

Ultimately, patching potholes – even using best practices – is not a long-term pavement preservation technique. In the short term, public agencies that maintain the roadways may need to select the most cost effective means of providing a safe surface for public use, which in some cases, can mean “Throw-and-Go.” But that needs to be done with an eye toward the long-term solutions of asset management and pavement preservation that are ultimately the techniques that will solve Michigan’s roadway problems.

For more information on pavement preservation and rehabilitation techniques, contact Abonmarche at aci@abonmarche.com.

 

Money Matters

The Department of Natural Resources has assigned a new grant coordinator for regions 7, 8, and 9. Chip Kosloski took over for Jule Stafford, who retired late last year. His contact information is (517) 284-5965 and kosloski3@michigan.gov.

The deadline for many DNR grants is coming up on April 1.

The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs revised their application deadline for the fiscal year of 2016 from October 1 to June 1. Jeff Garrett is MCACA’s new community and regional development coordinator, with the Capital Improvement Program grant management among his new duties. His contact information is garrettJ7@michigan.org.

 

Policy News

This spring, Michigan’s years of poor road policy will rear its ugly head in the form of miles and miles of potholes. The ballot language for Prop 1 has been approved, so voters will have a chance to approve or decline the series of bills that would raise the sales/use tax from 6% to 7%, increase the portion of the use tax that goes toward the School Aid Fund and direct more funding toward road repairs, among other things.

Lawmakers are cobbling together alternatives to Prop 1 that attempt to bypass the whole issue of increased revenue by redirecting funding from other sources. This is understandable, if misguided. Everyone would like for our roads to be paid for without Michigan’s residents having to pay more. But Prop 1 was created out of a hard-fought compromise that was finally accomplished years after everyone already agreed that something had to be done. It’s an unfortunate fact – especially for the Prop 1 supporters tasked with selling the proposal to voters – that after a real compromise, there’s no one left who really feels like running a victory lap.

As citizen’s and voters we should always be open to the best policy option available, however the reality is we need to stop kicking the can down the street on infrastructure funding.  A state with Michigan’s history and potential should not be last in the nation in per capita spending for infrastructure.

 

PROJECT HIGHLIGHT

In 2010, Abonmarche developed a plan for a client to maintain and repair the City’s roads. The plan reversed the trend of fixing a municipality’s worst roads first, and instead used the approach of maintaining those roads still in good condition. “Worst first” maintenance techniques generally include mill and fill, overlays, and reconstruction – in other words, expensive heavy maintenance techniques. These techniques concentrate a municipality’s funds on a limited number of sites, and meanwhile there isn’t enough funding left over for proper maintenance of other roads. Because it becomes more expensive to maintain and repair a road the more deteriorated it becomes, Abonmarche’s approach targeted roads before they reached a critical distress point. Our technique was able to prolong road life using new maintenance technologies such as crack filling, slurry sealing, ultrathin overlays, and hot-in-place. This allowed the roads to be maintained in good condition and the City was given the breathing room to reserve the use of heavy maintenance techniques for a time when other funding sources became available.

Using Abonmarche’s plan, the City was able to restore three times as many streets with these new methods over the traditional overlay methods.

 

February’s Industry Review

 

Tech News

Where is your City putting its snow? The answer to that question will affect your environment long after spring arrives. Snow accumulates pollutants from the atmosphere, motor vehicles, and roadways, and it hangs onto that through snow melt, at which point the contaminants filter into surface water and groundwater.

It’s important to choose snow dumping sites carefully because snow releases contaminants at different times during the snow melt, further complicating the scenario. Traditional warm weather best management practices are not as successful because of ice, water temperature, highly concentrated pollution, and lack of biological activity. The variability of snow character and repeated freeze-thaw cycles create very heterogeneous snowpack, with many different paths available for melt water to move through. This is only exacerbated when an early spring rain hits lingering snow piles, mobilizing the soluble constituents and associated contaminants. The melt then runs over urban surfaces, continuing to pick up debris left over from the winter.

A good snow dump site is away from surface water and has more than two feet of top soil above the water table. Parking lots are an often-used snow dump site, but the parking lot needs to be in a location where the melt water from those sites can be adequately filtered before reaching surface water or groundwater. If the snow has been heavily treated it can pose a threat to water quality. Another consideration that needs to be taken into account is that, while the first part of the snow melt usually soaks into the ground, at some point in the melt sequence, the ground can become saturated. That turns a pervious portion of the watershed into an essentially impervious surface, causing all additional melt to run off.

Some good options for snow dump site locations are wastewater treatment plant yards, city-owned unused lots, or parking lots surrounded by large areas of topsoil. Just remember, wherever you choose – choose carefully.

 

Money Matters

MiRecGrants has opened its 2015 application cycle, and applications for grants through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Land and Water Conservation Fund and Recreation Passport can now be uploaded. The due date for those grant programs is April 1.

Funding was also announced for Volunteer Stream Monitoring grants through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Up to $50,000 is available annually and the application is due February 12.

 

Policy News

Michigan’s water is one of its most vital resources and so water management policy needs to be a focus for our elected officials and environmental experts, in order to ensure that this resource continues to be both an economic driver and a key quality of life component for the state’s residents.

Our state is already beginning to address this important issue, with nearly $4 million included in the state’s 2015 budget for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality implement water management strategies, monitor beaches for elevated bacteria levels and protect wetlands. In order to make up for wetlands lost to development, the budget sets aside $3 million for “mitigation banks,” artificial wetlands that will fulfill the same role in the ecosystem as the wetlands that were destroyed. The budget also contains $5 million for drinking water upgrades.

The Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) Program is now in its second year and has proven to be of great benefit to communities for long range water resource planning. This year’s budget includes $97 million to continue the program.

If Michigan keeps investing in protecting and managing our water resources, not only will the state be able to embrace the spirit of its Pure Michigan campaign, which has built a great sense of place for our state and has attracted thousands of new residents and visitors annually, it will continue to be economic driver into our future.

Michigan’s freshwater resources are going to face new pressures in the future. Population increases worldwide will put demands on all freshwater resources, as more drinking water and water for irrigation will be pulled from the same sources. In the U.S., Midwest agriculture is moving north due to improved genetically modified seeds and climate change. Michigan can benefit from this increased agricultural demand, but only if we continue to advocate for strong policy and investments in our natural resources.

 

Project Highlight

Abonmarche is currently working on a Water Reliability Study for the Village of Paw Paw. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requires these studies in order for municipalities to remain in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. As part of the study, Abonmarche inventoried existing water capacity and conducted an analysis of current and future needs, system loss, deficiencies, and other conditions. Abonmarche will develop five- and 20-year water use projections, and complete hydraulic modeling for a variety of scenarios.

 

January’s Industry Review

 

A guide to what’s new and what’s changing in the engineering, architecture, and surveying industries, and how it affects the built environment.

 

Tech News

Winters are always hard on roads, with plows scarring pavement and salt slowly corroding it. But plowing and de-icing treatments are even tougher on certain kinds of pavement than on others.

Pervious pavements can be affected by salt and sand differently than your run-of-the-mill asphalt, and so can require different maintenance techniques.

Over the years, salt has gained popularity as the go-to deicing method for most cities, though some cities still prefer sand. Salt, however, is best for porous surfaces, because sand can plug the surface’s pores and needs to be vacuumed out. Porous surfaces should be vacuumed at least one to four times a year. The best times are before and after winter, to clear the debris caused by the fall and winter seasons. Using sand during the winter season means porous surfaces will have to be vacuumed much more often.

But there are downsides to salt as well. We usually think of pervious pavement and surfaces as helpful products, because they improve runoff water quality and increase infiltration rates. But when you add salt to the mix, it seeps into the pervious surfaces and ultimately the groundwater. Because there are no natural methods of breaking down, taking up, or removing salt from the environment, it just accumulates. Salt is also expensive, and it can damage the environment and eat away at roads and vehicles. The same can be said for other commonly used deicing chemicals.

Anyone who’s been relying on salt, but would prefer to rely on something less corrosive, will be interested in the research being done at Washington State University on environmentally-friendly deicers. Researchers are looking into biodegradable alternatives like beet pulp, tomato juice, and barley residue from distilled vodka. They’re also looking at new types of concrete, including some that don’t break down as quickly under salt and chemicals, and even some that contain nano- and mirco-sized particles that create a surface barrier, preventing the concrete from bonding with ice and snow. Easy plowing without chemicals, salt, or sand? That’s a technology we could get behind.

 

New in Policy

Winter has arrived and it doesn’t look like it will go easy on Michigan’s roads. Everyone seems to agree that something has to be done to improve the state’s infrastructure, but the question remains, as always, how are we going to pay for it?

The state’s legislators decided that question should go to voters, who will weigh in on whether to approve a sales tax increase in May. If voters approve it, the state sales tax would increase by 1%, from 6% to 7%. Governor Snyder’s plan would repeal the sales tax on gas and replace it with a new motor fuels tax.

Tax increases are never an easy pill for voters to swallow, but the month of May – also known around these parts as “pot-hole season” – could prove to be a better argument in favor of the increase than any pro-tax hike commercial the measure’s supporters could run. Already, opposition groups are gearing up to push against the increase.

We’d like to see something done sooner rather than later – Michigan’s cars will thank us.

 

Money Matters

Now that the new year has swept in, a new round of grant funding will once again be available. Some upcoming deadlines to keep in mind:

  • February 28 – Rural Business Enterprise Grant application due date.
  • April 1- Michigan DNR Recreation Grant Programs due date. They include the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF), Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and Recreation Passport Grants.

One item to remember; the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust Fund will not offer a grant cycle for 2015.

 

Project Highlight

Botham Avenue, St. Joseph, Michigan

Here’s a tip for the new year: When possible, bid early in the year. Abonmarche saw the benefits of that strategy firsthand on a City of St. Joseph project. The City needs about 1,300 feet of sanitary sewer, water main, and storm sewer replaced on a section of Botham Avenue. When Abonmarche was brought in to handle the surveying, design, and construction management, we let the City know that if the project, which was scheduled to bid in May 2015, was moved up by four months, they would see better bids. We successfully completed the first stages of the project, including the bidding, and received highly favorable bids. Normally on a project like this one, asphalt is the pavement material of choice. But based on the longevity of the material and taking price into consideration, the City went with concrete. Construction is set to begin in June, with the project scheduled to be completed in October.

 

December’s Industry Review

A guide to what’s new and what’s changing in the engineering, architecture, and surveying industries, and how it affects the built environment.

Tech News

The word “green” has come to represent many things it can mean environmentally conscious or refer to an abundance of outdoor recreational activities but for many municipalities that are considering sustainable initiatives, green starts to look like one thing – lots of money. But it doesn’t have to. A city can get high marks in sustainability by creating new parks or LEED-certified buildings, but there are other, more efficient and incremental ways to be environmentally conscious that can alleviate tension on existing infrastructure while going about the regular maintenance of city services.

One of the most pressing initiatives, especially for coastal communities, is water resource management. While it isn’t a very visible green activity, the benefits are certainly tangible. Prioritizing water resource management helps ensure potable and recreational water quality and quantity well into the future. Many cities are already looking at ways to maintain and improve their aging storm water systems and there are ways to integrate green infrastructure in conjunction with existing gray infrastructure to establish a unified network of sustainable, cost-effective benefits at scale and over time.

Abonmarche will soon be releasing an informational guide that will outline ways to implement sustainable design in your next project.

 

New In Policy

No policy issue has been more in the news during the last couple weeks than the poor condition and funding strategy for our state’s infrastructure. And speaking of “green”, our road funding policy and strategy, or lack thereof, is having a big impact on the green in our environment and the green of our wallet. Simply put, there is not enough money being generated to support our infrastructure system. Our current need just to maintain the system we have is approximately $1.6 billion more annually and that need continues to increase at an alarming rate of over $100 million per year. If Michigan motorists paid $120 more annually, our roads and bridges could be maintained at a high and safe level. The average Michigander pays $357 annually in unnecessary repairs to their vehicles due to poor roads (source: TRIP January 2014 report). Replacing tires, struts, shocks, etc becomes more frequent as our roads and bridges get worse. By investing a little more in our infrastructure, everyone would see less damage to their vehicles and less need for repairs. The state and Michigan’s drivers will see more savings by spending some money now rather than spending much more money later.

 

Money Matters

A reminder to communities considering new waterways projects: Starting in 2015, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is going to require that communities have their approved, five-year recreation plan on file with DNR Grants Management in order to apply for waterways grant funding. Many communities already have their five-year recreation plan approved by the DNR, but may not have realized that their water resources and water recreation goals also need to be reflected in the plan.

 

Project Highlight

Whirlpool Campus, Benton Harbor, Michigan

Whirlpool’s campus on Main Street in Benton Harbor serves as the company’s headquarters for its North American operations and is a fantastic example of what can be accomplished when environmental goals are incorporated into a project’s planning stages. Thanks to the project’s design and the use of green materials, the campus was awarded a LEED Platinum certification. Approximately half of the LEED points necessary for platinum certification were the result of site work performed by Abonmarche.

 

This Month’s Kudos

Congratulations to our partners at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation who recently won the Urban Land Institute of Michigan’s Real Estate Achievement Award for being a “real catalyst” in Michigan. The MEDC has been a leader at making investments in our state’s communities’ infrastructure helping to create a sense of place.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have questions about smoke testing?

 

As Abonmarche’s project engineers prepare to start smoke testing, we’ve heard from several people with questions about the procedure. If you have received this flyer, it means Abonmarche will be performing smoke tests in your area. For those who may have concerns or are curious about the procedure, we’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions. If you would like to speak with an Abonmarche staff member, please call 269.927.2295.

Q: What is a smoke test?

 A: A smoke test is a way to test the sanitary sewer system for cracks, leaks or improper tie-ins. The goal of the test is to make sure sanitary sewer waste is processed at a treatment facility and surface water is allowed to drain separately into the storm sewers. If both are draining together, it can overwhelm the sanitary systems’ capacity and allow sewage back up into homes.

The test involves inspection crews pulling off a manhole cover and blowing a non-toxic smoke into the sanitary system lines with a large fan. The crews will watch for the smoke to exit and identify whether it indicates a problem that needs correction.

If you’d like more information about the smoke testing product, please read this statement by the manufacturer.

 Q: I saw smoke in my basement/on my property- what does this mean?

A: Smoke in your basement could mean a few things:

  • The most common incidence of smoke is simply caused by a drain trap that has dried up and is allowing the smoke to enter the home. If you pour some water down that drain, it will refill the trap and prevent the smoke from entering.
  •  It could possibly indicate a crack or cross connection in your sanitary system. Please call Abonmarche at 269.927.2295 and speak to either the Project Engineer listed on your door tag, or leave a message with the main desk if you see smoke rising from unusual places, like a driveway or your yard. Please include your name, address, phone, and description of the issue so an Abonmarche employee can contact you.

Q: The notice says I have to pour water down my basement drains, or cover them with a wet towel. I have limited mobility and can’t go in my basement. What should I do?

A: If you cannot make it down to your basement, please do not worry. The water and towel are simply recommended precautions to keep smoke to a minimum. It is not required. Any smoke that may enter is non-toxic and will dissipate on its own.

 Q: Is this smoke dangerous?

A: No, there is no danger to you from the smoke. It is non-toxic, non-staining, creates no fire hazard and is white to gray in color.  In most cases, you will not see any smoke enter your home. If you do, opening doors and windows will let the smoke dissipate more quickly, but it will eventually dissipate on its own. In some cases, there may be irritation in your throat, but leaving the area and ventilation should relieve symptoms.

Q: Do I need to be home for the smoke test?

A: No.

 Q: If there is a problem detected with my sanitary hook up, how will I know?

A: You will receive a follow up letter from the City addressing your next steps.

 

Abonmarche land surveyors go the extra mile to find your true corner

When Abonmarche staff does land surveys, we always try to track back to the original survey documents. Often, there’s not much to go back to and we have to work from scratch.

But in a recent case, when Abonmarche was hired to mark the boundary of a 40-acre parcel in Manistee County, Abonmarche staff knew there was a historical survey marker out there – they just had to slog through a swamp to get to it.

It turns that then-Manistee County Surveyor G. Baker set pointed wooden stakes in the four corners of the property in 1915, using only a 66-foot-long steel chain and a compass.

The Abonmarche survey crew, made up of Professional Surveyor Craig Stapley and Survey Technicians Robert Olmstead and Patrick Ziehm, traversed the swamp and began digging in the spot Baker had noted. Before long, the crew pulled the nearly 100-year-old stake from the swampy water, which had preserved it over all those decades. The stake was removed and replaced with a monument.

Other surveyors had overlooked Baker’s work and had set their own corner some distance north of the true corner. Because Baker’s survey was the closest known survey to the original survey, it’s held as the boundary over subsequent surveys.

It takes more work – and the occasional hike through a mosquito infested swamp – to do it the right way, but at Abonmarche we think it’s worth it.

The corner post placed by G. Baker.

 
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