Working out Sustainable Environmental Solutions
By necessity, as environmental scientists, engineers, and technicians we look at the issue of sustainability in context of our given fields of discipline and collaboration. Land reclamation, land development, and land management all require a collaboration of efforts and expertise.
Sustainability in the context of land reclamation, i.e. land that has been degraded by past mining or oil and gas development is the development and implementation of a land use solution that creates a dramatic improvement to the land, which is self-perpetuating – needing little to no assistance from us to continue in this improved condition. Sustainability of land reclamation in an open space area requires the understanding of the existing site conditions and available resources. Sound understanding has to precede the corrective process by which the land
is permanently transformed to an improved state. Those improvements may take different forms – greater diversity of habitat, elimination of factors causing degraded water, air, and soil quality, or land that is capable of supporting the intended post-reclamation land use such as passive recreation or grazing by livestock, or use by wildlife. But ultimately, those improvements must be made in context of the cost today as well as the cost in the future for the efforts to result is a sustainable outcome. Here are three examples of our own sustainable land reclamation projects: Orphaned Well Sites, Jessie Mine, Golden Gilpin
At sites subjected to releases of petroleum wastes, PCB, TCE, or similar contamination, have experienced significant degradation of soil and/or ground water. SMITH’s sustainability goal in the context of these situations means developing a remediation program that results in the clean-up at the site such that a “No Further Action” statement can be issued by the regulatory agency – no contamination is migrating off site and any remaining contamination on-site is greatly reduced and not a risk to human or wildlife health. Project Examples – Burt Subaru, Adams State College, Planet Honda
Developed sites that were constructed years ago with asbestos-containing material (ACM) and/or lead-based paint (LBP) present opportunities for remediation when the site is renovated or demolished. Sustainability in the context of renovation or demolition of structures with ACM and/or LBP includes the abatement of ACM and/or the remediation of LBP. SMITH’s sustainability goals are met when regulatory levels of ACM and/or LBP are achieved during abatement and/or remediation. Project Examples – Westminster Mall, Heurer Property, Doulos Centero.
When wetlands, threatened and endangered (T&E) species habitat, and/or wildlife habitat are impacted by proposed construction or land use activities, mitigation is commonly required by the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and/or local wildlife laws and ordinances. SMITH’s sustainability goals in the context of creating wetland mitigation, T&E species habitat, and/or wildlife habitat means that soil/flora/fauna mitigation systems are self-sustaining and require no long-term maintenance. Project Examples – McRae Reservoir, Ruby Pipeline, and Banning Lewis Rancho.
Stormwater runoff in urbanized areas is both high energy causing serious degradation to drainage ways and oftentimes contaminated with urban pollutants such as oil and grease, fertilizers, fecal matter, salts, sediment, and/or metals. SMITH’s sustainability goals in the context of storm water runoff involve designing and implementing wetland treatment areas and detention ponds that reduces the most intense portion of the runoff event and treats the water to improve it quality before entering a stream. Project Examples – Water Quality Treatment Pond at 52nd and Emerson, Huron Street Widening, Sheridan and 104th Avenue Roadway and Drainage Improvements
Municipalities manage large areas of open space, state agencies manage forests and other state lands, and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, manage extensive federal land areas. SMITH’s sustainability goals in the context of these land management areas involves the implementation of systems that foster self-perpetuating native plant communities, maximizing wildlife habitat and diversity, minimizing soil erosion, minimizing weed cover, and improving water quality. Project Examples – Robert Benson Reservoir, Argo Mine, and Chase Gulch Mine Waste
Cultural resources are vestiges of our collective heritage and contribute to our sense of place and cultural identity. They are finite, fragile, irreplaceable, and non-renewable; once they are gone, they are gone forever. SMITH’s sustainability goals in the context of these involves the study and understanding of these resources, and there long term documentation if they are threatened by development of land use practices so the resource is never lost even though it may get displaced. Project Examples – Sandstone Ranch, Evans Avenue Bridge, and Solar Energy Facilities
Being “Green” means being mindful of reducing or minimizing our carbon footprint. When SMITH develops sustainable solutions for its clients they are necessarily focused on minimizing cost, which usually means keeping the project’s carbon footprint to a minimum. The more the project materials can be minimized, usually the lesser the project costs. The more native vegetation can be used in a project, the greater the sequestration of carbon. SMITH’s sustainability goals for every project reflect a concern for minimizing our carbon footprint in practical ways and are implemented with a respect and recognition for being “Green”. Project Examples – Soaring Eagles Sports Complex, Eagle P3 Live Relocation of Prairie Dogs, Croke Lake
– Peter Smith, Principal and Vice President