Capture Federal Funds to Build Resilient Stormwater Infrastructure

By Jake Newhall, Director of Water Resources, WSB
April 15, 2024

Stormwater infrastructure around the country is being put to the test by age and deterioration as well as climate change events and abnormal weather like droughts and unusually intense rainfalls. With that in mind, communities need to follow five steps in order to create resilient stormwater infrastructure. The goal is to limit stormwater-related risks and to properly fund critical projects. Those steps can be simplified down into Identification, Project Development, Planning, Funding and Building.

Identifying Infrastructure Needs

Knowing is half the battle. Before a project can begin, a community must understand what their needs are with a specific focus on aging and failing infrastructure. If stormwater infrastructure fails, roads, nearby buildings and residences could be put at risk.

Developing a Resilient and Sustainable Project

The project development step is where you answer a multitude of questions on the project’s objectives and scope. First and foremost, is the project feasible from a financial or construction standpoint? What resilient solutions are being included to properly develop the updated infrastructure so it will last? In addition, what are the benefits of the project? Identifying the problem and answering these questions will allow for a much easier transition into the next steps like applying for grant funding. For example, regular maintenance of existing infrastructure will find little opportunity for grant funding. Developing your project with the set goal of improving infrastructure to become more sustainable and resilient will drastically improve your chances.

An example of improved resiliency is developing your infrastructure to respond to changing climates and abnormal weather conditions. Is your infrastructure project designed to handle prolonged droughts or intense rainfalls or intense snow melts?

From a stormwater perspective, a more sustainable project can include aspects like increased storage and volume control and a more efficient outlet system. Being able to retain the stormwater on site and slowly release it to downstream systems will not only better protect your community and those downstream, but can also lead to improved water quality.

Planning For Success

The third step can be simplified into making a plan. Collecting every aspect of the project into a planning document will set up a community for success. With no absolute assurances that grant funding will be accessible, the planning step gives communities the confidence that their project and the intent to update and revitalize their stormwater infrastructure, is not just a hope, but a tangible path to success.

Obtaining Grant Funding

The next step is grant funding. Recent policies from the federal and state government have created ample opportunity for bringing greater resiliency to stormwater infrastructure. For example, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act included over $50 billion in available federal funds towards drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. Similarly on the state level, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently announced $35 million in grant funding for stormwater resiliency projects. There are a variety of types of grants that all focus on different goals.

Building Resilient Stormwater Infrastructure

Finally, once all the previous steps have been completed to satisfaction, the final phase of developing resilient stormwater infrastructure is building. During this step, the project is fully designed and construction begins. As the final step is completed, your community will have transformed aging infrastructure into a success story that protects your community, those around it, and creates a more sustainable environment.

How WSB Can Help

The vast knowledge and experience at WSB will help clients find solutions to stormwater management. If a community has identified a need, WSB can build off even a tiny idea to help make it fit from project development all the way through construction. With WSB’s talented team of experts, a community will have a trusted partner who can help ensure a project is funded and built efficiently and effectively.

Jake has more than 15 years of engineering experience designing and managing many types of water resources projects, including modeling, planning, design, maintenance programs, and construction. Jake has worked with various municipalities, counties and state agencies to solve challenging water quality and water quantity problems.

[email protected] | 763.231.4861

Jake Newhall

4 Ways To Improve Road Safety and Reduce Speeding

By Sean Delmore, Director of Traffic, WSB
April 15, 2024

Excessive speed is a problem faced on roads all over the country whether rural or urban. No matter what a speed limit sign may say there will be drivers who will exceed the limit if they feel they can. The best way to reduce speeding is to design our roadways to encourage the behavior we want. When looking at designing a new road or updating an existing one, there are four ways to limit speeding: horizontal deflection, vertical reflection, width reduction, and feedback signs.

Designing Horizontal Deflections To Organically Lower Speeds

If your roadways look and feel like a long runway drivers will naturally feel comfortable with higher speeds. To circumvent this, including lateral shifts or roundabouts will break up long stretches of road and force drivers to reduce speeding to safely maneuver turns. By implementing horizontal deflections in roadways driver behavior can be altered organically in a way that simply placing a speed limit sign could not.

Sharp curves in a roadway are an effective way to decrease speeds. However, care must be taken because if the noted speed for one curve is not accurate and drivers are able to comfortably drive at higher speeds, they will be less likely to match the marked speeds at other curves. Drivers will regularly match the speed they feel most comfortable with, not the one listed on the sign. Additionally, signage like chevrons and flashing lights can help convince the drivers that the speed advisory needs to be adhered to for their own safety. With proper signage, long curves are an effective way to lower speeds.

Installing Vertical Deflections Sparingly

The introduction of speed bumps, tables, and raised crossings to a roadway is a physical barrier that forces drivers to reduce speeding. However, vertical deflections are used sparingly because they can create difficulties for maintenance, plowing, and emergency services. It is for this reason that speed bumps and tables are primarily used in parking lots or lower traffic areas like residential roads.

Reducing Road Width to Improve Safety

The wider the road the more likely drivers will be willing to change lanes to maintain higher speeds. After data collection is performed and it is determined that, for instance, a four-lane road does not carry enough traffic volume to justify its width, a variety of modifications can be made. Removing excess lanes to implement bike lanes and adding constant turn lanes are some examples. They assist with traffic flow on top of width reduction to limit the potential for drivers to speed. In addition, width reduction has the benefit of shrinking the distance of crosswalks which improves pedestrian safety.

Benefitting From Instant Feedback

Driver feedback signs that use flashing lights and show the incoming driver’s speed are an effective way to drive down speeds over short distances. Radar signs with instant feedback are best applied in transition areas, like the lead up into a small town where the posted speed limit can drop from 55 to 40 and then to 30 miles per hour. As drivers slow down in response to the feedback, they will be less likely to speed back up once they reach the lower speeds in town. However, feedback signs are far less effective outside of transition areas as driver compliance can be expected only so long as the feedback is visible.

What WSB Can Do to Help?

WSB staff brings vast experiences working with agencies on a wide variety of construction projects all across the country. Whether updating existing roadways or designing brand new, WSB’s traffic team will cover every avenue to make roads safer. Additionally, as many agencies are moving forward with focusing improvements to put more focus on the Americans with Disabilities Act, WSB has been leading the way in showing the value of not only making drivers and pedestrians safer, but also making our roads more equitable for everyone.

Sean has nearly 30 years of transportation experience. He specializes in traffic operations, lighting, signing & striping, and signal design. He is a licensed Professional Traffic Operations Engineer and leads WSB’s Traffic Engineering Group. Prior to joining WSB, Sean served 17 years with MnDOT, where he worked mainly in the Metro and Central Office Traffic Engineering.

[email protected] | 612.360.1322

Sean Delmore

New partnership

Q&A with Andy Kaiyala and Joe Eberly

April 4, 2024

Last week, WSB announced a new partnership with 4M Analytics to advance infrastructure programs and projects with real-time utility data. Andy Kaiyala, VP of Digital Construction Management and Controls at WSB, and Joe Eberly, Vice President of Growth & Sales Strategy at 4M Analytics, recently addressed the benefits of the partnership and what it will mean for our clients and partners.

Q: What does this mean for the industry?

Andy: WSB continues to build out a comprehensive Digital Construction Management (DCM) offering to better serve our clients, and this partnership with 4M Analytics is another step forward. Every construction project must consider what lies beneath the ground. 4M is applying cutting edge technology to this significant problem, delivering the best data, and making it available faster than any other firm. This does not take the place of field investigation, but rather informs those investigations to be more precise and reliable.  Everyone wins in this. 

Joe: With utility risk as one of the primary challenges in the industry, the WSB/4M partnership advances the mitigation efforts to the earliest stages of the project planning lifecycle and at the lowest risk point. It also provides significant improvements in the time and cost of accessing utility records and data used in the early feasibility, coordination, pre-construction, and preliminary design processes on infrastructure projects.

Q: What does this mean for 4M’s clients?

Joe: The partnership will signal to the 4M Analytics client base that our utility data can have a much larger impact on their internal processes and create a vision for how the data can be used to support their project lifecycle workflows and development requirements.

Andy: Despite increased awareness and heightened attention, our industry continues to see an upward trend in utility strikes (Common Ground Alliance). These cost billions of dollars and most critically put people and lives at risk. Better information delivered timely across the life cycle of a project, from planning to construction, will help all parties mitigate this serious risk, deliver projects safely, on time, and on budget. This is what DCM is all about. Helping you be safe, deliver with the highest quality, and do so while protecting your bottom line and beating the schedule.

Q: How quickly will this partnership have an impact?

Joe: The partnership will have an immediate market impact and will increase our messaging efforts to support our clients and the industry more broadly and bring awareness that the conventional methods of construction delivery are no longer sustainable in a market where time and resources are becoming scarcer.

Andy: It already is. We are incorporating the 4M data into 3D models for constructability review, means and methods, risk analysis and mitigation, schedule review, design conflict resolution, and more.  We really are putting the design model to work, and how would you do that without the best subsurface data available quick enough to make a difference? Our position is that you can’t, and the sooner more owners and contractors begin deploying this solution, the better off the industry will be.

Q: How does this partnership work between the two companies?

Joe: The 4M partnership adds a layer of usability and value to the WSB DCM delivery model. Specifically, the ability to enhance the DCM 3D modeling services on the Bentley Platform. The result is a seamless delivery of data that can connect the office to the field, saving time and money along the way while reducing risk and improving decision making.

Andy: Through 4M advanced technology we can quickly and efficiently bring subsurface utility data into our digital representation of the future physical asset – into the digital twin. We then publish that data into SYNCHRO, leveraging another of our partnerships with powerhouse technology provider Bentley Systems, and start making better decisions. Seamless access to all the critical information you need to plan, design, bid, win, and build the work.

Q: Why is this happening now? Why this partnership?

Andy:  The time is now. We must work quickly to address utility conflict and coordination, one of the most significant risks in our industry. 4M brings the technology and the data, and our WSB team leverages that information to better deliver our projects safely, on time, on schedule, and with the quality WSB is known for. 

Joe: The scope and scale of the utility data challenge, and the inherent risk, have now been matched by 4M’s ability to apply its utility AI mapping technology at the same scale. 4M and WSB delivers reliable, real-time, and validated utility data for any project in the U.S. — right from your office.

Joe Eberly is the Vice President of Growth & Sales Strategy at 4M Analytics, Inc. and has more than 25 year’s experience in Construction Technology, serving the Public and Private Owner, Engineering and General Contractor markets. Prior to joining 4M, Joe served as the VP of Sales at e-Builder, a Capital Construction Management Software, which was acquired by Trimble in 2018. At Trimble, Joe was responsible for Sales, Account Management and Customer Success for the Owner & Public Sector and led the GTM launch for ProjectSight, a Project Management platform for General Contractors. Before entering the technology world, Joe was a Superintendent and Warranty Manager for a top-10 development company in the residential building market and owned a consulting firm focused on construction material management and value engineering services. Joe lives and works from Denver, Colorado and enjoys spending time with his grandkids.    

Andy Kaiyala is the Vice President of Digital Construction Management and Controls at WSB. With over 20 years of experience and an emphasis on large, complex, alternative delivery infrastructure projects in the transportation, heavy civil, flood control, and transit spaces, Andy brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise. At WSB, Andy leads the firm’s DCM initiative as the AEC industry is recognizing the value of digital delivery. Prior to joining WSB, Andy was responsible for domestic and international bidding and proposal efforts for Lane Construction Corporation. Andy’s career focus has been to deploy a full project life-cycle approach to business strategy that facilitates stakeholder involvement and achieves project schedule and delivery certainty. He currently works out of WSB’s Dallas office and guides clients through a process that mitigates risk and reduces conflict for all stakeholders.

leadersip within

Elevating Leadership from Within

March 28, 2024

By Monica Heil, WSB

Published by Zweig Group in this month’s issue of The Zweig Letter. TZL 1529

It is essential to develop high-performing staff and provide them with opportunities to elevate themselves into leadership positions within our firms.

It is an exciting time to be a part of the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. Infrastructure needs across the country continue to grow, and the demand to recruit and retain top talent for your organization to deliver those infrastructure projects is likely top of mind.

Recruiting leaders after they have established themselves within another organization is challenging. But perhaps even that pales in comparison when considering the challenge of retaining existing talent within your organization in the current job market. For these reasons it is essential for us as an industry to explore the development of high-performing staff and provide them with opportunities to elevate themselves into leadership positions within our own firms.

You can elevate leadership from within your firm by implementing these approaches:

Encourage finding passions and taking ownership. One approach for developing new and emerging leaders within your firm is to identify individuals’ unique strengths and to motivate staff to take ownership of those strengths and skill sets. Encourage team members to discover what they are most passionate about and become experts in their disciplines. This empowers team members to take control of their individual career paths and perform at higher levels due to their affinity for the subject matter. Consider assigning areas of responsibility that staff can “own” and be accountable for to support their personal growth and development, as well as the growth of the organization. Encourage new ideas and support initiatives that bring positive change to the organization and facilitate collaboration across varied professional experience levels. Connecting a strong network of high-performing, diverse, and passionate team members will yield new approaches to delivering AEC services and will start young professionals on the road to leadership.

“By implementing these approaches, we can create leaders from within our own organizations. These leaders will have developed their own personal leadership style with mentorship from a team of leaders who have come before them.”

Accessible mentorship and leadership exposure. Allowing young professionals to connect with a variety of leaders is critical for workforce and leadership development. It is essential to expose staff to different leaders with varying leadership styles. This creates an environment where team members can learn from those who came before them – evaluating both positive and negative outcomes of leadership decisions and applying it to their own roles. Exposure to many leaders across the firm will accelerate the leadership path for up-and-coming professionals and will reinforce that staff can succeed by leading in their own way throughout their career. Emerging leaders do not need to be a carbon copy of the leaders before them, and instead should take best practices from each leader they encounter.

Provide diverse leadership. Leadership structures within an organization should reflect the strengths of each individual leader. For example, a highly skilled technical leader may excel at driving the direction of design but may not be well-suited for leading business development efforts or managing staff. Conversely, good leaders of people may not always be technical experts. However, technical leaders and leaders of people are both essential to the success of an AEC organization. Organizations should strive to find opportunities for both leaders to work together to best support the organization. This will create a well-rounded, more diverse and balanced organization led by individuals who are focused on their passions. By prioritizing the elevation of leaders based on unique skill sets and strengths that compliment other leaders within the organization, a likely by-product of that effort becomes a more diverse leadership team. This diversity allows our staff to consider how they might fit into a future leadership role and to envision themselves with leadership duties.

By implementing these approaches, we can create future leaders from within our own organizations. These leaders will have followed their individual passions, taken ownership of their areas of expertise, and developed their own personal leadership style with mentorship from a team of leaders who have come before them. This creates an extremely strong and sustainable organization, well-positioned for the growth necessary to deliver projects that will satisfy our infrastructure needs today and into the future.

Monica is the vice president, municipal and has served communities in Minnesota for over 20 years. Her municipal experience has allowed her to work effectively with neighborhood groups, elected and appointed officials, city staff and various permitting agencies. Monica’s strong communication and leadership skills allow her to manage projects and effectively impact the groups she leads in the municipal division.

[email protected] | 952.737.4675

Waste Reduction

Waste Reduction: How to Make a Difference

March 8, 2024
By: Rebecca Haug, Sr. Project Manager, WSB

The amount of waste in communities continues to increase. Many community members aren’t aware of where our waste goes. In a majority of the states our waste fills up landfills, taking valuable land space and requiring extensive engineering and monitoring to protect our environment. Both landfills and waste to energy facilities are used at the same time to reduce the use of landfills. Waste to energy facilities are costly to run and necessitate careful air quality monitoring to protect public health. 

To reduce cost and risk, increase operational efficiencies, and be a strong community leader, WSB is conscious of the waste that is generated every day, and we work with clients on waste reduction strategies. We are taking the opportunity to look at how we contribute to food, paper, plastic, and other wastes. To improve on waste management, we are focusing on pragmatic changes and also encourage community members to do what they can. There are various tactics to make a difference in the amount of waste we generate. Below are a few that can make an impactful difference for events and operations:

  • Rethink if you need to purchase an item in the first place. Is there something you could repurpose or re-use?
  • Think upstream and design the event, process, system, or product for recycling and re-use downstream. If you buy or design something differently, how can it be repurposed down the road instead of ending up in a landfill?
  • Buy second-hand items.
  • Participate in local organics composting program to keep food waste out of landfills and allow it to be turned back into a soil amendment. Check with your community about these programs.
  • Store leftovers in reusable containers to reduce waste.
  • Bring a waste free lunch to work by purchasing in bulk and putting foods in reusable containers.
  • Work with local vendors and caterers to reduce disposables and increase re-usable food service, catering and event supplies.
  • Say no to plastic straws when eating out, this helps environmental waste.
  • Buy in bulk to reduce purchasing products with a lot of packaging. Excessive packaging fills up landfills and is harmful to earth’s ecosystems.
  • Recycle plastic bags to reduce waste of resources and landfill.

There are many other programs and initiatives to advance strategic, comprehensive community goals that are the focus of WSB’s services to write Climate and Sustainability Plans. Many cities where we live, and work have these plans in place written by consultants like WSB and other firms; participating in your local community to advance the waste and climate portions of the City plans will offer another avenue to engage with local leaders. There are many more areas where you can reduce waste. The Environmental Protection Agency provides more ideas here: Reducing Waste: What You Can Do | US EPA

We can all make a difference and reduce our waste generation by making changes, big or small. We encourage everyone to try a few this year. If your business is interested in learning about the ways we’ve helped our clients with waste reduction strategies, please contact us

Rebecca is a senior project manager in the water resources field with over 25 years of experience. She has worked closely with water resources issues at the county, city, and watershed district level. She has managed stormwater management relating to MS4 permitting, wetlands, floodplain, and drainage.

[email protected] | 763.438.7475

Construction Staking

The Future of Construction Staking

March 7, 2024

By Matt Minton, Construction Survey Project Manager, WSB

In the ever-evolving landscape of construction, precision is not just a goal; it’s a necessity. As we stand on the cusp of a new era in construction technology, the role of construction staking has never been more pivotal. Modern construction staking is reshaping the industry and embracing this change is crucial for future success.

Innovation at the Forefront

Construction staking is the unsung hero of the building process and a critical step that translates visionary 2D plans into tangible reality. With the advent of advanced technologies such as GNSS, laser scanning and drones, the accuracy and efficiency of construction staking have reached unprecedented levels, and as the technology evolves, so too must construction staking. These innovations allow for rapid, precise measurements, ensuring that every stake set is a step toward perfection.

Leveraging technology to share staking data, updates and changes in real-time assists in moving the industry forward and increasing productivity at all levels. Tools like construction management software are being utilized more to effectively streamline communication and reduce wasted time using outdated plans and data.

Sustainability as a Guiding Principle

As environmental stewardship becomes increasingly important, construction staking plays a vital role in sustainable building practices. Accurate staking minimizes resource waste and environmental impact, laying the groundwork for projects that not only stand the test of time but also respect our planet’s delicate balance. The environmental impacts of construction are the responsibility of all parties involved.

Collaboration: The Keystone of Success

The complexity of modern construction projects demands a collaborative approach, and construction staking is at the heart of this synergy. The single commonality of all parties in construction is the successful completion of the project. By fostering clear communication, construction staking ensures that every stake is placed with a shared vision of success.

Educating the Next Generation

Thought leadership in construction staking also involves mentorship and education. By sharing knowledge and experience, seasoned professionals pave the way for the next generation of surveyors, equipping them with the skills and insights needed to continue the tradition of excellence. Through effective training, evolution of the construction industry will not leave behind the future surveyors.

Eliminating Common Errors in Construction Staking

Construction staking is a critical step in the building process, but it is not immune to errors. These mistakes can lead to costly delays, rework and even safety hazards. However, with diligent planning and execution, most common staking errors can be avoided. By utilizing the available technology effectively, errors created by plans and calculations can be eliminated, and surveyors can focus more on eliminating the human errors that are often the cause of construction staking errors. It is essential for surveyors to adhere to standards and build in independent checks to eliminate errors and maintain consistency.

During the staking process, potential errors with the project can be identified early on. For instance, a project manager can physically see if a portion of a building is too close to a property boundary line or does not allow enough room for a walkway. This proactive approach allows for adjustments before they become expensive problems.

Establishing a Clear Chain of Command

A well-defined chain of command facilitates efficient communication and decision making. It is crucial to establish who is responsible for conveying staking information and who the contractors should contact when questions or concerns arise. Typically, the field crew are the ones in front of the contractors. Quick decisions can be made on the fly; however, requests outside of planned tasks should always be rerouted to the project manager to ensure that budget and time constraints are not impacted.

Maintaining Quality Checks

Regular quality checks of communication help prevent errors that could arise from miscommunication. This includes verifying that all parties have received and understood the latest staking information. This includes proactive communication by all parties prior to the work taking place.


Construction staking remains a fundamental part of the building process. It ensures accurate and safe construction, adherence to codes and regulations and minimizes costly errors. From planned improvements to actual site mapping, construction staking bridges the gap between the 2-dimensional development plans, and the 3-dimensional executed reality.

How WSB Can Help

The highly trained team at WSB uses cutting-edge technology and industry leading best practices to ensure every project is completed safely, accurately and efficiently. Contact us to learn more about how we can set your project up for success.

Matt has been working in the surveying industry for over 25 years. In 2007 he founded his own surveying company that specialized in construction surveying, for 5 years he served many communities and worked on various construction projects. In 2012 he continued his survey journey by focusing on enhancing construction surveying practices at other companies. At WSB he has implemented innovative training programs such as GPS/GNSS systems and improved project procedures. He addresses common challenges in the field leading to a reduction of high-risk issues associated with construction staking.

[email protected] | 720.302.3242

Four Ways to Build a Resilient City Through Zoning and Urban Development

March 11, 2024
By Nate Sparks, Sr Professional Community Planner, WSB

In the last several years, the federal government has passed many programs that provide funding for projects and communities who incorporate sustainability and resiliency. Cities across the country are looking for ways to integrate these concepts into their community planning, not only because they are important and meaningful ideas, but doing so can open their community up to additional funding. Here are some tips to get started for community leaders that are interested in becoming a more sustainable community.

Establish Community Goals in the Comprehensive Plan

What does being a sustainable community mean? Do your residents want to encourage alternative energy sources? Are they concerned about stormwater management? There are many different forms that this can take.  It is important that you have an established community vision. Adding a chapter into your city’s Comprehensive Plan is the ideal approach to take. Setting a big picture vision helps to establish what ordinance changes you pursue.

Prioritize Stormwater Management

The intrusion of improper elements into a city’s stormwater system can be very detrimental. To mitigate against such impacts, it is important to incorporate stormwater management techniques into your zoning ordinance. Setting an impervious surface maximum per building site in lieu of a lot coverage standard is a key first step. Establishing creative ways to allow exceptions for non-conforming lots or protecting sensitive areas with further limits in can be an ideal way to establish proper protections. Both options require careful consideration and proper ordinance writing.

Zoning For Alternative Energy Sources

Reduced energy demand may improve the reliability of the electricity grid. However, a city’s zoning ordinance may prohibit certain alternative energy systems. Solar panels and wind energy conversion systems that residents wish to use may not be allowed. Setting reasonable standards around such uses is a good way to encourage alternative energy solutions. Solar farms are not always appropriate for all areas and creating a thoughtful framework around this concept is of the utmost importance to a community. Finding solutions to resolve conflicts between competing community goals and proper management is ideal.

Subdivision Ordinance Innovation

Subdivision ordinances establish regulations necessary to allow the division of property for additional development rights. Establishing a framework for environmental protection in your subdivision ordinance will allow for a reasonable balance between development rights and environmental protection. For example, many communities explore concepts where population density can be increased if, in exchange, additional protections are offered to ensure long-term management of protected areas.

How we can help

The professionals at WSB can provide guidance and expertise in improving your regulatory systems to achieve your sustainable community goals in relation to sustainability. We have expertise in comprehensive planning, grant writing, and the preparation of ordinances that can help your organization achieve their goals related to sustainability.

Nate has been a community development professional for over 20 years. He has worked with a wide variety of communities providing guidance to municipalities of various sizes and types on a broad array of topics. He has significant experience working in townships and smaller cities which often face unique issues. His work includes writing comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances for several area communities, as well as serving the community point person for planning and zoning issues for 10 area cities and townships.

[email protected] | 952.221.0540

What Does the Mild Winter Mean for Spring

March 11, 2024
By Jake Newhall, Director of Water Resources, Mary Newman, Sr Environmental Scientist, and Emily Ball, Forestry Program Manager, WSB

As Midwesterners, we always expect Mother Nature to throw us some curveballs when it comes to weather. The winter of 2023-2024 has been no exception. El Nino weather patterns created unusually mild weather this winter and less snowfall. While cities may have benefited from things like fewer snow emergencies, what do these weather patterns mean as we head into spring?

Here are a few things to consider.

Stormwater Runoff

The lack of snowfall and warmer temperatures means that the ground is warmer than normal and contains less frost since there is not a layer of snow insulate the ground. The lack of precipitation and snowmelt could lead to drought this spring and into summer. Alternatively, if we do end up with significant snowfall in March and April, the thawed ground will allow water to absorb straight into the ground, resulting in less runoff and replenished groundwater sources.

If we don’t receive significant precipitation this spring, pond and lake levels are also expected to be lower than normal. While drought is a concern, the good news is that lower water levels provide an excellent opportunity for stormwater inspections. Other good news from a mild winter is that we are likely to see fewer environmental impacts this year from sanding, salting and runoff than in years with heavier snowfalls.

Lakes, Rivers and Streams

When thinking about water quality, it’s also important to think about what this mild winter will mean for lakes, rivers and streams.

Lack of snow cover and ice means that aquatic vegetation will have an early start this spring and likely result in an abundance, especially with invasive curly leaf pondweed. The increased abundance will have an impact on phosphorus levels in the water as these plants die back in the late summer. If the warm weather and low precipitation levels continue, this could mean a higher likelihood of harmful algal blooms which can put pets and animals when they drink the water. However, the increased cover may benefit the aquatic community in the meantime for those that depend on its cover for survival.

Many water managers have a plan for invasive curly leaf pondweed management. This year, harvest may have to occur earlier and more often to combat a late season phosphorus rise. As in most years, it will also be important to monitor algal blooms and inform lake users if sampling indicates harmful bacteria levels that would have an impact to human and animal health.

Trees and Invasive Species Management

For communities managing tree health, it’s also critical to explore how this year’s mild winter will impact trees. With many places in dry or moderate drought conditions, more trees will experience drought stress. If precipitation patterns continue, it’s important to build out a plan for regular watering throughout the summer to protect trees. Furthermore, drought stress and lack of adequate watering can make trees more susceptible to secondary pests.

The lack of subzero temperatures this winter also means that the invasive species Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) larva largely survived the winter. It takes 24-48 hours of temperatures of -30 degrees Fahrenheit to kill EAB larva. EAB is a serious concern to ash trees across the United States, occurring in 30 states including Minnesota, Colorado, and Texas.

Oak wilt disease is another concern. The normal oak pruning season is typically from November through early April to prevent oak wilt transmission. For 2024, it will end earlier, oak tree pruning should be stopped immediately to protect tree health and limit the spread of oak wilt. The University of Minnesota Extension provides an oak wilt status page on their website that should be monitored closely each spring to ensure you aren’t pruning during high-risk oak wilt season.

How WSB Can Help

This unusually warm and dry winter is creating both problems and opportunities for communities – from managing water quality to protecting wildlife and native tree populations. WSB has a team of experts who can help plan and execute sustainable solutions that protect ecosystems, enhance water quality, restore habitats, and meet the unique needs of your community.

Jake has more than 15 years of engineering experience designing and managing many types of water resources projects, including modeling, planning, design, maintenance programs, and construction. Jake has worked with various municipalities, counties and state agencies to solve challenging water quality and water quantity problems.

[email protected] | 763.231.4861

Jake Newhall

Mary works as an environmental scientist where she provides reliable field data collection and reporting that includes: boat electrofishing fish surveys, water quality sampling, in stream fish sampling, physical stream barrier observations and maintenance, various techniques for rough fish removal, fish tagging and tracking, and aquatic habitat improvement recommendations.

[email protected] | 763.762.2858

Emily is a ISA Certified Arborist, MN Tree Inspector that brings 20 years of experience, primarily in community forestry. She has extensive experience in contract administration, management of staff, AmeriCorps members and contractors, budget and grant management, plan review, tree health and condition inspections, outreach and education. She works closely with partner organizations, staff, and the community to educate, manage natural resources and provide excellent customer service.

[email protected] | 651.318.9945

The Value of Partnership to Secure Community Grant Funding

March 11, 2024
By Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning, WSB

Governments have a wide range of responsibilities when it comes to serving their communities. State and federal grant funding can be a boon, allowing local governments to get more value from their budgets and meet a variety of community needs.

However, the process required to receive grant funding can be complex and time intensive. For many county and municipal employees, finding, writing, filing and tracking grants may require the time and resources that staff just don’t have.

That’s where partnership with outside experts to help manage the grant process can give your community a competitive edge.

Currently, WSB is contracting with Otter Tail County in Minnesota to provide grant writing and administration services. Through WSB’s Community Planning team, Otter Tail County is able to relay priorities, receive up-to-date information on available grant options, have grants written and filed and receive administrative support after funding is received – freeing up critical time and resources for competing community priorities.

Here are some tips and ideas our experts bring to communities to help them compete and secure grant funding. .

Knowing How and When to File

Understanding when to apply and what grants best fit certain projects can be a bit of an art. For example, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) grants typically run on a July to July cycle where only a set amount of funding will be available each year. So what time during the cycle a community applies can have an effect on how much a project may receive. In addition, many state agency grant programs depend on funding from the Legislature where policy decisions directly impact what may be available in a fiscal year.

Through a regularly updated database of grant opportunities, counties and municipal staff are able to see what grants are available. Many communities use this database while also partnering with WSB’s subject matter experts to create a tailor-made grant strategy.

For instance, Otter Tail County is currently able to access a digital catalog of grant examples specifically crafted to fit their particular project focuses. This is on top of regular meetings with WSB’s team to dive into deeper specifics or adjust or expand their plans. If a client initially wants to focus on parks and trails, but then later wishes to include looking into housing projects they’ll have extensive information readily available with a trustworthy team ready to assist.

From Identification Through Administration

Just as identifying and writing grants can be a tall order, many communities can struggle with tracking funding and ensuring that all grant requirements are completed. For example, the partnership with Otter Tail County was generated from their staff understanding their own limits in time and manpower to manage the grants on top of their busy schedules. To meet that need, WSB provides support in the form of administering the grant throughout the entire process. Care and attention is paid to ensure that after funding is received, all grant requirements are adhered to – a unique service WSB provides to clients that helps provide peace of mind.

The Support Needed For Success

Counties and municipalities face hurdles – from staff time and limited resources to not knowing where to start with finding the right grant for a project. Digging through a multitude of agencies and grants and understanding the sometimes-complex requirements of each individual grant can be a tall order. That is why partnership and tapping into outside experts can make a big difference.

From initial meetings to discuss goals through receiving funding and providing administrative support, WSB works with communities from start to finish. If your county or municipality requires support maneuvering through the complex grant filing process, WSB is here to help and be a partner with your community.

Kim is a planning professional with over 30 years of experience overseeing a variety of complex planning projects. She has worked in high growth communities with developers and the public on entitlements for residential development and attracting business to the city.

[email protected] | 763.287.8303

Kim Lindquist