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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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 STRAWBERRY ISLAND PHASE III EROSION CONTROL AND WETLAND HABITAT RESTORATION: A CASE STUDY IN THE SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION OF IN-LIEU FEE MITIGATION

STRAWBERRY ISLAND PHASE III EROSION CONTROL AND WETLAND HABITAT RESTORATION: A CASE STUDY IN THE SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION OF IN-LIEU FEE MITIGATION

(2003)

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), together with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) and New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), is conducting a riverine wetland restoration project at Strawberry Island. Strawberry Island is located at the divergence of the Tonawanda and Chippawa Channels of the Niagara River, near the City of Buffalo, in western New York. The majority of the funding for the project comes from New York’s 1996 Clean Water / Clean Air Bond Act, which was approved by voters and signed by Governor George E. Pataki. Additional funding was provided by NYSDOT as an in-lieu fee solution to unavoidable impacts to freshwater wetlands. The island, which was once more than 200 acres in size, has been severely impacted by sand and gravel mining as well as natural erosive forces. By 1993 the island had been reduced to less than six acres. Critical water levels, existing bottom topography, weather-related impacts, and recreational and commercial boating along with utilization by fish and wildlife all need to be considered. This paper describes the island history, design, regulatory approval process and construction activities utilized to protect /restore this ecologically sensitive site. Construction was completed in November 2001. Preliminary results suggest that erosion to the island has been halted and a flourishing wetland community is developing. Strawberry Island is located at the divergence of the Tonawanda and Chippawa Channels of the Niagara River near Buffalo, New York. The island was first surveyed in 1814 and found to be approximately 100 acres in size. By 1912, the island had grown to over 200 acres, when dredged materials from the construction of the Erie Canal and Black Rock Lock were placed on the site. From 1926 until 1953, the island was mined for sand and gravel to construct roads and other infrastructure for the growing City of Buffalo. By the time the mining ceased, barely twenty-five acres of the original island remained. Archived maps and aerial photography suggest that portions of the island were once productive riverine wetlands. Since that time, erosion from high-water storm events, ice scour and boat traffic have reduced the island to approximately six acres (Leuchner 1998). In the spring of 1997 both Phase I and II were completed. An aquatic habitat restoration project was completed with funding from the New York State 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. Rip-rap breakwaters were constructed, and wetland soil was transported from a nearby freshwater wetland. Additional wetland plants were established to supplement natural revegetation of the wetland areas, totaling three acres. The goal of the Phase III project was to protect Strawberry Island from further erosion, and restore a small portion of wetlands that were once more abundant in the river corridor.

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 WILDLAND ROAD REMOVAL: RESEARCH NEEDS

WILDLAND ROAD REMOVAL: RESEARCH NEEDS

(2003)

Wildland road removal is a common practice across the U.S. and in some parts of Canada. The main types of road removal include ripping, stream crossing restoration, and full recontour. Road removal creates a short-term disturbance that may temporarily increase sediment loss. However, research and long-term monitoring have shown that road removal both reduces erosion rates and the risk of road-induced landslides. Research is needed to determine whether road removal is effective at restoring ecosystem processes and wildlife habitat. We propose several research questions and the types of studies needed to further road removal efforts. With greater understanding of the impacts of road removal, land managers can more effectively prioritize which roads to leave open and which roads to consider for future road removal projects.

Cover page of STREAMLINING THE REVIEW OF ROUTINE TRANSPORTATION

STREAMLINING THE REVIEW OF ROUTINE TRANSPORTATION

(2003)

The 1999 listing of Puget Sound (PS) chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in Washington State was the first time a listing of a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended, affected a metropolitan area. Since that time, transportation officials, as well as other entities, have had to retool their processes for environmental permit acquisition because of the addition level of review requirements specified under ESA. The initial short-term solution for both action and regulatory agencies was to hire more staff. However, despite the additional staff at Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), project review for ESA consultations under Section 7 remains a very complicated, and thus prolonged process. Therefore, in 1999, WSDOT submitted a programmatic biological assessment (PBA) for a full programmatic consultation with NOAA Fisheries. The objective of the PBA was to reduce the number of routine transportation projects that require an individual biological assessment (BA) to be written by the action agency and then reviewed by NOAA Fisheries. WSDOT and NOAA Fisheries have developed a defined set of specific standard conditions and conservation measures. The PBA covering nine transportation programs conducted within the Washington State was completed in 2002. The completion of the PBA consultation provides WSDOT certainty when designing transportation infrastructure, while fulfilling their requirements under ESA. Standard conditions and conservation measures included in the PBA consultation provide a relatively simple approach that, when followed, will result in a transportation project that can be constructed in a timely manner, and in many cases improve the baseline environment for ESA listed and candidate salmonid species.

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 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 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.