In new role, Sandy will help expand WSB municipal services in Central Minnesota
Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that Paul Sandy will be the new Senior Project Manager in WSB’s Baxter, Minnesota office. The former City Engineer and Public Works Director for the City of Brainerd, Sandy will help expand WSB services in the Central Minnesota market and deliver technically excellent projects for municipal clients.
“With most of my career spent in the public sector, I am excited to bring my skills and experience to WSB. I believe in connecting communities to projects that positively impact the people who live there and the places we call home. I am looking forward to serving clients in my new role and to supporting projects that grow and benefit Central Minnesota,” said Sandy.
Sandy will well-known amongst City Engineers throughout the state, having been elected the 2022 President of the City Engineer’s Association of Minnesota (CEAM).
“A big part of what we do at WSB is partner with our clients to create, grow and manage the spaces and places that support communities and residents. Paul understands the importance of advancing projects that are not only technically excellent, but that also connect with the community and its needs. We are excited for Paul to join WSB in Baxter! I know he will bring his meaningful experience and skillset learned in the public sector to help grow our services and offerings in Greater Minnesota in a way that benefits clients, communities and our state,” said Monica Heil, Vice President of Municipal Services at WSB.
Sandy joins WSB’s municipal division where he will focus heavily on supporting the firm’s government clients. WSB’s municipal team works with cities, counties and agencies with their varying infrastructure needs including city engineering, water, community development, landscape architecture and public engagement.
In his new role, Spencer will help lead and grow the EIR team, providing services to government, energy, and private clients throughout WSB’s footprint.
Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that Ryan Spencer has been promoted to director of environmental investigation and remediation (EIR). In his new role, Spencer will help lead and grow the EIR team, providing services to government, energy, and private clients throughout WSB’s footprint. He has more than 14 years of industry experience, including nearly a decade at WSB.
“At WSB, our directors are not only technical experts in their field, but they also bring meaningful leadership to our business development work. Ryan Spencer has been an outstanding resource for our internal and external staff related to brownfield clean up and securing critical grants to fund these projects,” said Andi Moffatt, vice president of environmental services at WSB. “This is a well-deserved promotion, and we know he will continue to provide unparalleled service to clients and guide creative solutions to contamination issues.”
Ryan has led numerous successful environmental due diligence/remediation projects at WSB for government and private sector clients. He is also an active member of Minnesota Brownfields where he serves on their Program Committee.
“I am passionate about investigation and remediation efforts that enhance our communities and protect our environment. I am excited to bring that passion to my new role at WSB and continue to serve clients and guide our EIR team,” noted Spencer.
WSB’s EIR services include brownfield and greenfield project development for commercial, industrial, and residential use, phase I and phase II environmental site assessments, grant funding application assistance, and more. You can learn more about WSB’s EIR services at wsbeng.com/expertise/environment/investigation-remediation.
With more and more businesses setting comprehensive sustainability goals that include net-zero carbon emissions, many are unsure what is the best way to achieve those goals or what renewable energy investment will be most effective. Sustainability investment should be data driven and can be done in a way that both protects the environment and a business’ bottom line.
WSB and iD8 have partnered to create a new one-of-a-kind analysis – Renewable Energy Match – that provides clients with a full understanding of renewable energy options, and comprehensive data analysis to drive financial-based decision-making. It goes beyond traditional energy evaluation by combining economic data with place-based environmental information.
Explore clean energy options that meet your needs.
Many companies exploring clean energy solutions often first look to solar and wind energy. Those are excellent renewable energy sources, but there is also untapped potential in sources like hydrogen, geothermal energy, and renewable natural gas.
Every organization has different needs when it comes to renewable energy, so a plan that is customized to individual needs, takes into account location, and is driven by thorough research and data is critical.
How Renewable Energy Match works.
Most companies base their renewable energy decisions off financial feasibility. WSB has taken that concept further and developed a 4-phase approach to determine which renewable energy option is best for each specific client. The process includes:
First-order feasibility study This first step provides a high-level geospatial analysis of the area the client is operating within to determine what resources are available for renewable energy production. It includes iD8 financial assessments for each energy form and an overall optimization for each energy. A risk assessment of external factors that could influence the performance of energy sources is also part of this phase.
Strategic Planning This stage provides a deeper exploration of local energy resources that are available, as well as their acquisition costs, parcel ownership, local energy grids, climate analysis, and more.
Final Design & Regulatory Planning Once the strategic plan is complete, infrastructure planning and design, environmental and resource assessments, and land permitting can begin.
Energy implementation The final phase is to begin energy production and implementation at the selected facility.
Who can benefit from Renewable Energy Match?
There are many types of businesses and organizations that can benefit from Renewable Energy Match including companies with net-zero goals, businesses with multiple facilities or campuses, universities, utilities, and companies looked to expand their energy renewable energy portfolios..
This one-of-a-kind analysis allows clients to strategically explore the costs, sources, and options around renewable energy on a digital platform, and advance investments that will best meet the needs of a client from both an economic and sustainability perspective.
Want to learn more about Renewable Energy Match? Check out our website to explore more, contact a WSB expert, or schedule a demo.
Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today two key director promotions within their Oil & Gas services. Jayson Honer was promoted to director of field services and Nate Osterberg was promoted to director of strategic growth – oil & gas. WSB’s Oil & Gas team provides comprehensive, in-house services for clients that ensure compliance to design standards, procedures, and regulations for safe construction, rehabilitation, and replacement of pipelines.
Jayson Honer Director of Field Services
Nate Osterberg Director of Strategic Growth – Oil & Gas
“We are very excited to promote two talented employees within WSB’s Oil & Gas service area to director. Both Jayson Honer and Nate Osterberg are outstanding leaders and team members who will help provide instrumental leadership, direction, and growth for WSB while ensuring unmatched service for our clients,” said John Gerlach, vice president of oil & gas.
As director of field services, Honer will plan, direct, and oversee the operations of oil and gas field services across all regions of WSB. He will coordinate the ongoing management of operation, direction, and coordination of services while driving strategic field service initiatives, process improvement, and client relationship management.
“Ensuring top client service – from pipeline engineering and design to environmental compliance – is important for our clients, and that means efficient, thorough processes and management of our teams,” said Honer. “I look forward to serving in my new role at WSB, continuing to grow our world-class oil and gas services.”
As director of strategic growth – oil & gas, Osterberg will help launch new partnership opportunities that will drive expansion and engagement and grow partner-driven revenue. This role requires a deep understanding of the industry landscape, sound business judgment, and leadership to develop and grow in start-up regions.
“WSB’s oil and gas business is growing and expanding, and I look forward to working collaboratively to further expand opportunities for our business and industry as a whole,” said Osterberg. “Our industry is constantly evolving and changing, so thinking strategically about future trends, partnership opportunities, and how to support WSB’s staff in start-up regions is vital to the success of our industry and ensuring we are continuing to provide top service to our clients.” Learn more about WSB’s oil & gas services here.
Investment today in ecological restoration will go a long way to improving resiliency and preserving the quality of our water, natural habitats and communities, and the federal infrastructure bill opened an unprecedented amount of dollars for ecological restoration projects. This funding is a game changer, especially for communities who are advancing needed projects but faced funding barriers.
How can communities tap into this new funding for ecological restoration? Here are a few ideas.
Exploring Projects and Opportunities
There are two basic pools that ecological restoration projects fall into as communities explore infrastructure funding for their projects. The first is a project that may have been in the works or shelved due to the large scope and/or lack of funding. The other is a project that may be unique or did not fit into a traditional grant funding but can help innovate ecological restoration and deliver meaningful results. Especially for emerging issues and advancing new, innovative ways to tackle problems, federal infrastructure funding could help advance those types of projects.
Communities should think through priority projects that deliver results and help meet their goals.
Data, Data, & More Data
No community will receive funding without data that clearly lays out the depth of a problem and how to address it.
For example, a community may notice and share anecdotally that a prairie landscape is seeing fewer songbirds than in years past, but that’s not enough for a grant. A bird survey and vegetation assessment are necessary to gather data and lay out measurable goals.
Communities need data to drive smart objectives. Developing a methodology, data sets, and clear goals, a community can craft a project that measures progress over time whether a forest, lake, wetland, or prairie ecological restoration project.
Realize Community Value
Ecological restoration can become bigger and more expensive to fix the longer an issue is ignored. Plus, communities lose the value of space, or don’t realize the full benefits of a healthy natural community, if it is not properly cared for.
Communicating the value to not only the landscape and inhabiting wildlife, but the greater community and its residents can help build momentum for your project.
How WSB Can Help
Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. WSB helps clients throughout the process, whether it’s building the tools to gather needed data, providing a link between funding sources and project proposals, navigating and addressing community stakeholder engagement, or creating and designing project ideas to address an identified issue.
At the end of the day, the funding passed in the federal infrastructure bill is changing the game and we have a meaningful opportunity to stem the tide of ecological degradation and make big investments in our communities.
Tony Havranek has nearly 20 years of experience in the natural resources field. Prior to his time at WSB, Tony helped develop federal policies with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and worked with tribal communities throughout the Midwest on their natural resources needs. He is recognized throughout the industry for his forestry, water quality, fisheries, aquatic and terrestrial vegetation, wetlands and wildlife expertise.
By Brad Hamilton, Director of Public Engagement, WSB
Emerging from the pandemic, there is growing fatigue with virtual communication. In our industry, we are seeing a greater need to be adaptable and flexible in how we communicate with the public about projects. The pandemic allowed innovation in virtual communication spaces, but with many craving real connection, targeted, personalized engagement can build more public trust and support for projects.
Using Personal Touches & Grassroots Connection
For many projects, the best ways to connect with the public is often through more traditional tactics like face-to-face interaction and grassroots style communication. Going door-to-door and talking to people about neighborhood projects is impactful and builds positive relationships with residents.
For transit-related projects, ensuring that people are engaged where they are (bus stops, light rail stations, etc.), means you can effectively communicate how projects will impact riders who actually use the system.
Communicating with Technology
Face-to-face interactions can help build connection and better engage the public, but technology tools enhance those touch points significantly. For instance, while going door-to-door, you can pull out a tablet and show a virtual rendering of what a finalized neighborhood project will look like. You can also do a virtual survey on the spot, so neighborhood residents can share their input in real time. Websites and QR codes allow easy access to project websites as well.
Furthermore, for those still uncomfortable with in person interaction or for convenience reasons, virtual meetings are still an effective way to communicate. Traditional targeted digital messaging – like social media advertising or posting on neighborhood association sites — works as well.
Listening to All Voices
Intentional, thoughtful public engagement builds trust and ensures people understand how projects will impact them before, during construction, and after a project is complete. But most importantly, well done public engagement provides opportunities for all voices to be heard and provide input on projects.
Too many people in traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities have been cut out of conversations on transportation and infrastructure for far too long. Making sure all voices have a seat at the table ensures that projects benefit residents, improve access, enhance communities, and stop a few loud voices from dominating conversations on projects that impact everyone.
Want to learn more about public engagement and best practices? Brad Hamilton will be speaking at the 2022 League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference June 22-24 in Duluth, MN. Attend and hear more on how to effectively communicate and build public trust.
Brad’s experience includes strategic development, engagement, facilitation, and relationship building. He led the creation and development of MnDOT’s Liaison Services. Brad facilitated private and public partnerships with Fortune 500 companies for emerging technologies, managed several Agency programs, and worked to advance multiple MnDOT initiatives and policies.
People often don’t think about drinking water. They turn their tap on or buy a bottle of water and move on with their day. But safe, clean drinking water is vital to a community. In recent years, communities have been faced with many water challenges ranging from contamination to drought. In honor of Drinking Water Month, Bart Fischer, Sr. Public Administrator, explores these challenges.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges communities face in terms of drinking water supply management?
A: It seems that the biggest challenges are always unexpected and are mostly out of our control. Between drought and contamination issues, cities are learning to expect the unexpected.
In recent years, one of the biggest challenges has been water supply. Last summer, many communities across the U.S. experienced severe drought – resulting in higher demand for water. Some communities were on the verge of running out of water and couldn’t keep enough water in their water towers to provide adequate water pressures and fire protection. The drought really tapped a lot of communities. A shortage of water supply is causing many communities to explore water reuse options and alternative water sources while trying to conserve water at the same time.
Q: Yes, it was certainly dry last summer. What are some creative ways cities are working to solve the water shortage issue?
A: Weather patterns are cyclical every year, but the number of extreme weather events has an impact on water supply. Many communities are exploring new water sources, water reuse systems, and educating the public on the need to conserve water. Twenty years ago, we talked a lot about water conservation efforts. Since then, our appliances such as dishwashers, faucets and washing machines have become more efficient, but there are still ways individuals and communities can work together to conserve water.
Q: There have been a lot of articles in the news about PFAS – how do they get into our water supply and how can we mitigate it?
A: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, are synthetic chemical compounds that are found in water, air and soil. They are widely used chemicals found in commercial and industrial products that break down very slowly over time and are sometimes called forever chemicals because they don’t stick to sediments in the groundwater and get filtered out naturally in the environment before reaching ground water sources. PFAS are being detected more frequently than in the past, mainly due to lower laboratory detection limits. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies indicate that they can be harmful to our health when consumed at concentrations that are above the EPA and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommended health risk values and for extended periods of time. Environmentalists are working to better understand the risks and impacts these chemicals have on our environment and people. The good news is that technology has advanced, and we can detect, mitigate and reduce the level of PFAs in our drinking water supply.
Q: So, are the presence of any PFAS dangerous?
A: Not exactly. A big challenge for communities is that many residents assume that any trace of PFAS in their drinking water means that their water is contaminated. The public may not understand maximum contaminant levels, health risk limits, or concentrations – they just know that there’s something in their water that they should not be drinking. Technology has advanced, and we’re now able to measure down to the parts per trillion for many contaminants. This was not the case in the past. MDH has established recommended health risk limits and health indexes that account for the most commonly detected PFAS compounds in the environment. The associated long-term health risks and understanding these maximum levels is important for the general public to understand what is dangerous and what is not.
Q: What can communities do to ensure their residents feel safe drinking city water?
A: It’s about education. MDH is creating a statewide PFAS online dashboard that will soon be available to the public. Seeing any trace of contamination in water could cause concern for residents without any baseline knowledge or understanding of safe PFAS levels. Proactive community outreach can help alleviate any potential resident concerns in the future.
In general, water supply is deeply impacted by mother nature and human activities. WSB’s team of water and wastewater engineers support our communities when the unexpected, anticipated, specific or special circumstances arise. Learn how we support our communities’ water needs here.
Bart Fischer has over two decades of experience in public administration. Throughout his tenure, he’s worked in five Minnesota communities as the city or assistant city administrator. Bart joined our firm in 2019 as a senior public administrator and focuses on lending his public service expertise to our clients.
By Amy Fredregill, Sr Director of Sustainability, WSB
When people hear the term sustainability, they often think of the environment, but it is much more than that. Through using a sustainability lens, we have the unique opportunity to support long-term viability in the communities we serve. Creating sustainable communities will simultaneously advance economic, social & environmental outcomes to meet the needs of current and future generations.
Benefits of Sustainable Initiatives
Community and business needs constantly evolve and often involve complex infrastructure challenges. Recently, an increasing number of communities are developing or updating their sustainable goals. It’s clear why these goals are necessary to combat climate change, reduce emissions, improve water quality and habitat; these goals and initiatives also have a wide range of benefits aside from the environment.
The benefits of exploring sustainability services include cost and risk reduction, providing new services, enhancing regional competitiveness, and furthering economic development. Even social issues can be addressed through sustainability. For example, setting procurement guidelines with a minimum standard for purchasing goods and services locally and from businesses owned by women and people of color, or improving accessibility through enhanced public transit. Most importantly, sustainability is scalable and can range from LED streetlights to EV charging stations to a full climate action plan.
There Is No Silver Bullet
At WSB, we understand the impact that sustainable solutions can have on communities, and we try to maximize that impact in every way possible. We see our work as more than creating sustainable communities, we aim to enrich the local fabric of a community.
WSB has years of experience in delivering sustainable solutions and long-term viability plans including water reuse, stormwater and flood management, municipal resiliency, comprehensive planning, native landscaping, and renewable energy. What works for one community may not work in another. We work with communities to develop and execute sustainable solutions when they make sense.
Amy has nearly 25 years of experience across many industries, particularly energy and agriculture, in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This experience has provided Amy with a broad background that enables her to meet community and business needs based on the business case for sustainability. By working across interesting systems to simultaneously advance environmental, economic and social goals, she is able to uncover creative solutions. Through her relationship-based approach, Amy meets the unique needs of communities and businesses by working with all areas of the firm to provide comprehensive solutions.