Friday, October 30, 2009

It should be perfectly fine to prove your restoration works...

I recently was made party to complaints regarding regulating agencies, well, regulating.

In this particular instance, the colleague (doesn't work with me, but is in my industry) was complaining about post-construction monitoring requirements being imposed on in-stream restoration projects. They weren't particularly onerous, just some longitudinal- and cross-sections as well as photo-monitoring, with an annual report for three to five years.

I fail to understand why my colleague was upset that he might have to assure the regulators that his project would do what he said it would do. First, any impact, whether beneficial or adverse, is still an impact, and you need to prove to the agencies that what you're doing is appropriate and feasible and won't cause lasting harm. Second, they quite have the authority to place conditions on permits that they issue in order to assure that the impacts are what they call "minimal." Third, restoration projects fail. Sometimes they fail big, sometimes they fail small. Finally, although I've come across some pencil-pushing dorkbutts, most of the regulators I've worked with are fair, consistent, and very concerned about the overall health of resource that I'm proposing to impact.

My recipe for a succesful application and project:

1. Give your local regulators a well-described and depicted project. What's obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to the harried regulator who has 30+ people clamoring for their permits, so you need to make it obvious in your submittal. Quantify the impacts, the need for the project. What's the land use history of the watershed? Why is the stream impaired? Do you have a reference reach that you're trying to emulate? Give them clear, measurable performance standards for your project and tell them when and for how long you will monitor, and tell them when it will be successful. Most agencies have brochures or checklists for complete applications; use them.

2. Be ready and humble enough for all sorts of questions regarding your design and the need for the project. Prepare for potential changes/post-project fixes in your budget and design.

3. Watch your contractors during construction, and put clear damage/non-performance clauses in your contracts. I've heard of contractors driving up and down a narrow stream looking to see how high the splash would go, for a non-profit's fish habitat restoration. I've also seen j-hooks and vanes installed so high that they impeded boats during lower flows. It's not good when your fish habitat project's poor construction really pisses off the fishermen and the regulators.

4. If you have to change design or structure location during construction, tell the regulators. Call them up or email them, tell them what you need to do, and ask if it's okay to keep the contractor mobilized and supply as-builts after construction. If they say no, give them change drawings and ask for a permit modification, ASAP.

5. Do your post-construction monitoring on time. Don't blow it off. If big things happen in the watershed that affect your project, tell them soon afterwards, and include it in your report.

6. If you see that your structure(s) isn't/aren't working, tell them and propose a fix. Make sure your client is aware that sometimes, structures need tweaking and build that into your budget.

Restoration is not an exact science. There's lots of schools of thought (and lots of arguments, too), and no single prescribed method of conducting restoration. If you're prepared to have an honest, humble dialogue with your regulators and give them the information they need to evaluate your project up-front and after construction, you'll likely have a very successful restoration business.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall's first snow...

Snow at the Coconino household early this morning.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back again

I've taken about a month and a half off of posting and reading blogs, Twitter, etc. It actually took much longer to recover from the surgery than I had anticipated, but it was well worth it. I went back to work earlier than I should have, and thus ended up with a minor infection and more cramping/pain than was originally indicated. I spent many days on the couch with a book and pain killers. But I'm better now, and doggone it, the surgery worked. I still have a period, but happily pranced through field work on the worst day this last week. Astonishing. Still might need hrt, though, but I'm a little more disposed to it now.

From what little I've read of other folks' blogs today, I can see I have some catching up to do. After reading Anne Jefferson's post on Highly Allocthonous , I see a post on stream classification might be needed. It would also be a good refresher for me - I have some stream stuff to wrap my head around in the near future, anyway. Also need to post something on the Quivira Coalition's annual conference and water symposium. Bill Zeedyk will have his new book on Induced Meandering available at the conference. I also need to see what my daughter's k-garten class is doing for Earth Sciences week, if anything, and maybe (cough) volunteer if I can break away from the work thing. I'm also peripherally participating in a "used tire bale as bank stabilization research project" and may have some thoughts about that in the next month or so. I also have a picture of a road cut near Mora, NM that needs posting. I have no geology references for that area, and so know little about it other that it looked like a fault through meta-seds with granitic intrusions. I don't work much in rx anymore, so I'll welcome any info to clue me in. Say tuned.