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Tahoe Research Group/Tahoe Environmental Research Center Publications

The John Muir Institute of the Environment supports innovative interdisciplinary research, teaching and outreach activities which respond to problems in the environment and strengthen the scientific foundation for environmental decision making.

The John Muir Institute of the Environment champions research and service at the University of California, Davis which benefits the biological, physical and human environment. The institute provides campus-wide leadership, hosts centers and projects, and seeds research and educational initiatives to solve environmental problems. Their activities link traditional academic and administrative units by providing the intellectual setting for interaction between researchers, regulatory agencies, policy-makers and the public to find solutions to complex environmental problems.

Cover page of AN INNOVATIVE AND ELEGANTLY SIMPLE WAY TO DO SOMETHING FOR BLUEBIRDS (AND TAKE LITTLE TIME AWAY FROM TRANSPORTATION MAINTENANCE DUTIES)

AN INNOVATIVE AND ELEGANTLY SIMPLE WAY TO DO SOMETHING FOR BLUEBIRDS (AND TAKE LITTLE TIME AWAY FROM TRANSPORTATION MAINTENANCE DUTIES)

(2006)

Bluebird boxes were attached to the back of small road signs and are maintained by the maintenance sign crew with minimal time away from their primary duties. Because locations were chosen where bluebirds had already been seen, success has been 100% since the project started in 2001. In 2002, 120 bluebirds were fledged and approximately 120 tree swallows as well. So far in 2003 there have been 30 pair of nesting bluebirds. We have had more problems this year with English sparrows killing bluebird chicks. Last year two boxes suffered from raccoon predation but that has not been repeated since the sign poles were greased. Costs were for materials only, boxes were built by the winter night crews when they were not plowing.

Cover page of USE OF LOW FENCING WITH ALUMINUM FLASHING AS A BARRIER FOR TURTLES

USE OF LOW FENCING WITH ALUMINUM FLASHING AS A BARRIER FOR TURTLES

(2005)

I examined the effects of road mortality on a population of western painted turtles (Chrysemys picta belli) in west-central Montana; these turtles make up the majority of road mortalities in a section of highway that bisects the Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge. The objective of my barrier fencing experiment was to determine whether turtles were able to breach fencing designed to direct turtles towards crossing structures and thereby keep them off the road. I constructed 45.7-cm-high turtle enclosures out of 2- by 5-cm fencing with and without 10- or 15-cm-high flashing attached at the top. Turtles were placed in the enclosures, and behavior was observed for one hour. Of 124 turtles, only four (3.2%) were able to climb to the flashing. No turtles climbed over the flashing within the time allowed. In enclosures without flashing, two (3.8%) were able to breach the fencing. The results of this experiment will help in the design of appropriate barriers to keep turtles off the road and direct them towards crossing structures.

Cover page of FEDERAL LANDS HIGHWAY EXPERIENCE AND INITIATIVES WITH CONTEXT SENSITIVE SOLUTIONS

FEDERAL LANDS HIGHWAY EXPERIENCE AND INITIATIVES WITH CONTEXT SENSITIVE SOLUTIONS

(2003)

Context sensitive solutions (CSS) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to a transportation project, which involves all stakeholders, early and continually, to develop a transportation facility that equally addresses safety, mobility, and the preservation of scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources and community values. Federal Lands Highway (FLH) designs and constructs highway projects within our nation’s most environmentally and culturally sensitive areas:nationalparks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other important Federal public lands. This long-standing mission of working in extremely sensitive areas requires the use of CSS, and, therefore, FLH is recognized as being an expert in the use of CSS. Federal Lands Highway, along with five states each representing the regions of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), functions as a “pilot state.” In its role as a “pilot state,” FLH is charged with promoting CSS principles, showcasing its projects that exemplify CSS principles, and with training its staff. Currently, Federal Lands Highway is leading an effort within FHWA to develop training in CSS, which would primarily target all FHWA staff, both in the Federal-aid and Federal Lands Highway divisions of FHWA.

Cover page of ADDRESSING “BEHIND THE SCENES” ECOLOGICAL CONCERNS ASSOCIATED WITH THE DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF AN URBAN TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM– A NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT PERSPECTIVE ON SUSTAINABILITY

ADDRESSING “BEHIND THE SCENES” ECOLOGICAL CONCERNS ASSOCIATED WITH THE DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF AN URBAN TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM– A NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT PERSPECTIVE ON SUSTAINABILITY

(2003)

In 1999, The New York City Transit’s (NYCT) Department of Capital Program Management achieved ISO14001 certification- Environmental Management Systems. Today, sustainable design is an integral part of all design, construction, procurement and operations and maintenance activities. This paper outlines NYC Transit’s adoption of sustainable business practices which exposed significant opportunities to reduce the impact to ecologies. These practices encompass high-performance building designs, renewable energy applications, conservation of energy, water and natural resources, waste reduction, recycling and reuse, environmentally responsible procurement and total life cycle analysis. A cause-and-effect benefit is then demonstrated for many of these sustainable practices encompassing both local and geographically distant ecologies. Some examples include the inadvertent procurement of Azobe (an unsustainably over-harvested tropical hardwood from Africa) used as rail ties in the design and construction of rail tracks; the demand for large quantities of energy to move rolling stocks, contributing to toxic emissions fallout from regional power plants; the contribution to poor ambient air quality as a result of non-regulated off-road diesel equipment emission from construction sites. In recognition of the need to reduce our ecological footprint, NYCT took upon itself a proactive role to establish a rigorous environmental management program and to identify, control and reduce those activities that lead up to “behind the scene” ecological impacts.

Cover page of TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT REAUTHORIZATION

TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT REAUTHORIZATION

(2003)

Congress is in the process of reauthorizing TEA-21, the six-year, $300 billion transportation bill, providing an excellent opportunity to integrate many of the ideals brought forth in ICOET into transportation policy. With appropriate federal guidance, such best practices in the areas of wildlife, fisheries, wetlands, water quality, and overall ecosystems management could become the standard. Likewise, without support within the new bill, many states and practitioners will find it more difficult to continue making positive strides in stewardship and resource protection. Reauthorization issues that promise to be of interest to ICOET participants include: 1. Environmental streamlining 2. Transportation enhancements 3. Impact mitigation 4. Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) 5. Continuation of University Transportation Centers (UTC) 6. Cooperative Environmental Research Program (CERP) 7. Habitat connectivity across transportation corridors (aquatic and terrestrial) 8. Transportation on Federal lands 9. Landscape level transportation planning

Cover page of EFFECTS OF SOIL DISTURBANCE FROM ROADWORKS ON ROADSIDE SHRUB POPULATIONS IN SOUTH-EASTERN AUSTRALIA

EFFECTS OF SOIL DISTURBANCE FROM ROADWORKS ON ROADSIDE SHRUB POPULATIONS IN SOUTH-EASTERN AUSTRALIA

(2003)

In many fragmented agricultural regions of south-eastern Australia, roadside vegetation provides important refuges for threatened native fauna and isolated populations of plant species. However, as roads are transport corridors for humans and their vehicles, species survival is affected through destruction and modification of remaining habitat by human activity. The effects of soil disturbance from roadworks on the structural dynamics and spatial patterning of roadside Acacia populations was investigated in the Lockhart Shire study area, NSW, Australia. Classification and ordination of size structures of Acacia pycnantha, A. montana and A. decora showed distinct groups of colonising, stable and senescent populations. Soil disturbance from previous roadworks was recorded in 88 percent of populations, and there was a significant relationship between major recruitment pulses and roadworks events in Acacia populations. Spatial pattern analysis using the Network K-function showed significant clustering of older senescent populations, and Discriminant Function Analyses revealed that road verge width, road category, disturbance intensity, and distance to nearest town were highly significant variables in relation to disturbance regimes from roadworks activities. These results have highlighted the importance of understanding human logic regarding roadworks activities, in ongoing management of roadside vegetation, and has important consequences regarding conservation of these unique environments.

Cover page of ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP IN NYSDOT HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP IN NYSDOT HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE

(2003)

The New York State Department of Transportation operates and maintains approximately 16,500 miles of highway that occupies approximately 1 percent of the state’s land area. Due to the tendency of the highway system to follow streams, coastlines and other natural landscape features, this 1% of land is located within, over and adjacent to many very sensitive and important environmental areas. Considering that NYSDOT, like most transportation departments, is now shifting its efforts more and more towards improving, operating and maintaining the existing transportation infrastructure, as opposed to building large-scale new alignment projects, the role of incorporating environmental improvements into maintenance and operational programs is increasing in importance. The project objective was to Proactively reach out to internal and external partners to identify priorities anddevelop multi-agency strategies and projects that improve environmental conditions along NYSDOT’s rights-of-way and roadsides. The approach required thorough internal teamwork involving many regional groups and external partnering with resource agencies and environmental organizations in order identify, develop and coordinate prioritized environmental stewardship projects. These “best practices” are then implemented during highway maintenance activities. NYSDOT has 11 regional offices with each region having a Landscape Architecture/Environmental Services unit located within the Regional Design Group. Although, located within the Design Group, these Units provide environmental services to all regional groups - including maintenance. In addition, in 2001, a senior environmental specialist (a.k.a. maintenance environmental coordinator or MEC) was assigned to each regional maintenance group to supplement existing programs by dedicating full-time effort coordinating environmental issues in the maintenance group. One aspect of this effort has been a focus on incorporating environmental right-of-way and roadside “Best Practices” into regional maintenance programs. Critical elements of this strategy include fostering internal teamwork within the region and developing partnerships with external groups. By using internal knowledge and resources and external expertise and assistance, the Department’s organizational strengths can be efficiently and effectively managed to expand right-of-way roadside environmental stewardship programs. Examples of 2002 “best practices” to be discussed include: (1.) control methods for invasive plants; (2.) installation of water level control structures at chronic nuisance beaver locations; (3.) installation of water quality improvement structures near drinking water supplies; (4.) turtle mortality abatement efforts; (5.) alternative mowing strategies to enhance grassland songbird nesting habitat; (6.) establishment of living snow fences; (7.) osprey nesting enhancements; (8.) methods to reduce deer vehicle collisions; (9.) migratory bird protection on bridges; (10.) herbicide education programs; and (11.) small petroleum spill abatement measures. These strategies and Best Practices are applicable to any national, provincial, state or local transportation department with an interest in incorporating environmental improvements into daily maintenance activities.

Cover page of INTENSITY OF HUMAN USE, BACKCOUNTRY ROADS, AND ANALYSIS OF HUMAN ACCESSIBILITY

INTENSITY OF HUMAN USE, BACKCOUNTRY ROADS, AND ANALYSIS OF HUMAN ACCESSIBILITY

(2003)

Intensity of human use (IHU) is a conceptual geographic characteristic that describes an area’s rank on the continuum from high use (e.g., urban area or active strip mine) to low use (roadless wilderness). Customary measures of IHU, such as human population density or road density, lose their utility at the low-use end of the spectrum — and it is here that human activities may have their greatest ecological effect on some ecological resources, such as wildlife habitat. Conceptually, we suggest that IHU is determined by four factors: IHU=P*D*A/C, where A is human accessibility, P is the population of potential visitors, D is attraction to a destination, and C is the dilution effect of alternate destinations. In our vehicle-centric culture, roads are essential determinants of human accessibility. Each time a road is built or opened, some area surrounding the opened road becomes more accessible, and each time a road is closed or reclaimed some area becomes less accessible. Our modeling efforts have focused on small enough areas that factors P, D, and C are essentially constant. Our geographic information system (GIS) model of A expresses inaccessibility (roughly the reciprocal of A) as minimum travel time T(x, y) from a paved road. The model depends on three digital geographic descriptors: elevation, land cover, and transportation. Calculations derive from estimates of vehicular speed on unpaved roads and walking speeds off-road. At present, our model ignores alternate off-road transportation modes, such as horse, motorized dirt bike, or all-terrain vehicle (ATV), although these can be easily incorporated under the basic model structure.

Cover page of ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING IN FLORIDA Florida’s ETDM Process: Efficient Transportation Decision Making While Protecting the Environment

ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING IN FLORIDA Florida’s ETDM Process: Efficient Transportation Decision Making While Protecting the Environment

(2003)

The Florida Department of Transportation has developed a completely new process for how the State of Florida plans transportation projects and accomplishes environmental review and consideration of sociocultural effects. The new process for transportation decision making was developed by FDOT working in conjunction with federal and state agencies to develop an entirely new process that efficiently meets statutory requirements and delivers projects which respect and protect Florida’s resources. The new process is called “Efficient Transportation Decision Making” or the ETDM Process. The objectives of the multi-agency working group that developed this process were outlined by Congress in Section 1309 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21): • Provide early and continuous involvement of agencies and the public in the review process. • Integrate environmental review and permitting processes. • Establish coordinated time schedules for agency action. • Establish effective dispute resolution mechanisms. • Provide access to information through use of technology. FDOT assembled 23 federal and state agencies at the initial “summit” in February 2000 to ask for their support and commitment to develop this process. Summit participants developed a “vision statement” for the new process. Their agencies then participated in a series of multi-agency meetings to identify the elements of a process that would improve efficiency (early involvement, easy access to good data, continuous agency and community involvement, teamwork, a method to screen projects early, and an effective method for handling disputes). Early agency involvement is provided through two “screening” events, which occur early in project planning and before significant engineering work proceeds. These events are the “Planning Screen” and the “Programming Screen.” Agency input received early in planning may identify the need for wildlife crossings, community-expressed concerns or other needs for reconfiguration of a project to avoid or minimize adverse effects. This early awareness improves the project cost estimates, which can affect project priorities. Coordination is achieved through Environmental Technical Advisory Teams (ETATs) which are formed for each of the seven FDOT districts. ETAT members review project information and provide input about technical scopes of work required for project development. These focused scopes of work are expected to improve the quality of information considered and will allow the FDOT to address key issues of concern. All coordination is achieved using the Environmental Screening Tool (EST). This is an Internet-accessible interactive database system with GIS which allows ETAT members and the public to view project plans and the effects on resources. Stakeholder input is documented in the EST and visible to all parties involved in transportation decision making. The EST is described more fully in a companion paper. A key provision in the ETDM Process is that disputed projects do not advance to the FDOT Work Program until dispute resolution has occurred. A methodology for resolving disputes is built into the new process and focuses problem resolution at the local level where consultation among ETAT members is expected to resolve most disputes prior to elevation within agencies.

Cover page of THE ADVERSE EFFECTS TO FISHES OF PILE-DRIVING - THE IMPLICATIONS FOR ESA AND EFH CONSULTATIONS IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

THE ADVERSE EFFECTS TO FISHES OF PILE-DRIVING - THE IMPLICATIONS FOR ESA AND EFH CONSULTATIONS IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

(2003)

Piles are integral components of many overwater and in-water structures, providing support for piers and bridges, functioning as fenders and dolphins to protect other structures, and are used to construct breakwaters and bulkheads. While treated-wood and concrete piles are commonly used for construction of these structures, there is a growing trend toward the use of hollow steel piles. In the Pacific Northwest, several recently-reported fish-kills that occurred during the installation of piles have raised concern among Federal and state agencies charged with protecting aquatic resources. Federal concern centers primarily on implementation of Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Injuries to fishes inflicted by pile driving are poorly studied, but include rupture of the swim bladder and internal hemorrhaging. The mechanism of injury appears to be the intense underwater pressure wave generated during some pile-driving activities. The type and intensity of the underwater sounds produced depend on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the type and size of the pile, the firmness of the substrate and depth of water into which the pile is being driven, and the type and size of the pile-driving hammer. In general, driving steel piles with an impact hammer appears to generate pressure waves that are more harmful than those generated by impact-driving of concrete or wood piles, or by vibratory-hammer driving of any type of pile. Of the reported fish-kills, all have occurred during impact-driving of steel piles. However, conditions required to produce sound pressure waves that can injure or kill fishes are not presently understood. Recent reports of fishes killed during pile driving are producing changes in the way that such activities are being viewed by the Washington State Habitat Branch of the National Marine Fisheries Service during ESA and EFH consultations. These changes include requirements for hydro-acoustic monitoring of the sound pressure levels generated during pile driving, and, if maximum thresholds are exceeded, the incorporation of measures to reduce those sound pressure levels. This presentation discusses the approach taken by the Washington State Habitat Branch to address the uncertainties associated with pile driving and the adverse effects this activity may have on ESA-listed salmonids and EFH.