Damage prevention

Damage Prevention Awareness

January 12, 2023

By Nate Osterberg, Director of Strategic Growth, WSB

Impacts on the Oil and Gas Industry

According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), damages to underground facilities cost $61 billion annually. To protect the public, reduce costs, and incorporate asset management, damage prevention has become a relevant conversation for stakeholders across the construction industry. Advances in technology and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) are spurring more engagement throughout the country.

IIJA Impact

With the passage of IIJA, there is an increase in construction activity including utility, road, and renewable infrastructure. The current demand for utility locators is extraordinary and when coupled with the labor shortage and increasing demand, it is only becoming more challenging. In these circumstances, we rely on technology to guide us. To offset impacts from the labor market we incorporate digital mapping into production locating processes.

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE)
SUE is the investigation of buried utilities that identifies conflicts and mitigates risks in the pre-engineering phase of construction. Using survey grade-accuracy with cutting-edge locating and survey equipment, capable of sub-centimeter accuracy, we identify risk and conflicts. Our team captures the location information to digitally map the facilities. When unlocatable utilities are identified, our team of damage prevention specialists approaches the challenge with different means and methods.   

Cataloging for the Future

Locating the utility is the first step, but just as important is the data collection. Once a utility is located the information is documented and added to an asset management database. This process is having a major impact on the industry and is assuring accuracy for future locates. Construction plans are evaluated through a digital twin utility map, resulting in cost and time savings and enhanced design data. After decades of stagnant innovation, the industry is advancing quickly because of cutting-edge tools that allow for safer conditions and better planning.

Impact Across an Industry

With hundreds of field staff on active job sites, the collection of highly accurate location data for new and existing facilities is becoming vital to project performance.  With minimal impact on budget and a streamlined mapping process, data collection efforts reduce the time it takes to provide facility owners and 811 systems with updated and accurate records.

The Top Drivers in Damage Prevention

  1. Public Safety
  2. Infrastructure Act
  3. 5G initiative
  4. Increased Damages to Facilities
  5. Unlocatable and Untoneable Utilities
  6. Workforce Turnover & Experience

The Top 5 Ways that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Benefits Communities

January 11, 2023

Late last fall, Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which infused an astounding $1.2 trillion into our nation’s infrastructure. The package, which includes $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years, gave local and state governments significant opportunities to fund infrastructure improvements over the next several years, and many communities have already taken advantage of this influx of funding.

Transportation, clean energy, clean water, broadband expansion, and more, gave communities across the country an unprecedented opportunity to invest in projects that will have a meaningful impact on the future for residents, businesses, and the environment.

How Have Communities Benefited from this Funding?

Every community is different, and every community’s needs are different, but here are some of the top ways that local leaders, planners, and governments have benefited from IIJA.

Advancing Bigger Projects Sooner & Removing Financial Roadblocks

Whether a large metropolitan city or a small rural town, every community has a list of needed infrastructure projects, but funding and resources are often limited. Communities must prioritize, and sometimes put larger projects on the back burner due to budget constraints.

TheIIJA is helping to change that mindset for many communities, giving leaders a greater opportunity to think big. Whether it’s getting on a project funding priority list, putting forward a feasibility plan, or thinking more comprehensively about the environment, transportation, or other community infrastructure needs, the federal infrastructure law has provided meaningful opportunities to secure funding for projects that may have previously been out of reach.

Viewing Projects Through an Equity Lens & Involving More Voices in Community Planning

Equity is a major component of IIJA, creating a real opportunity for communities to invest in projects that benefit traditionally underserved communities, as well as advance sizable projects that create a better community for all. Including equity in infrastructure project planning not only enhances local communities and benefits residents, but it also gives projects a competitive edge in securing dollars from the federal funding package. 

Many communities are viewing their infrastructure projects through an equity lens and incorporating more voices as they plan for the future.

Addressing Climate Change & Infrastructure Resiliency

Our climate is changing, and “once-in-a-century” storms no longer occur just once in a century. Higher temperatures, drought, more intense precipitation, wildfires, flooding, and changing ecosystems are all issues that impact communities’ infrastructure planning. Building greater resiliency in projects and planning for more extreme weather and climate events is critical and recognized within the IIJA funding.

Green infrastructure, innovative stormwater solutions, water reuse systems, native landscaping, and more can help mitigate risk and better protect populations, native species, and habitats.

Developing Brownfield Sites

Brownfields – previously developed sites that are no longer in use – are underutilized space that present real opportunities for economic, social, and environmental revitalization. However, they are often costly to redevelop. With more than $1.5 billion allocated to brownfields in the infrastructure package, many communities are taking advantage of the opportunity to move forward with brownfield projects, and expand their city’s tax base, grow jobs, build housing, and develop sites in ways that benefit residents and the community at large.

Building a More Sustainable Future

Sustainability is a fundamental component to infrastructure, and IIJA allows communities to invest in forward-looking projects that will have long term, positive environmental and social impacts. From electric vehicle charging stations and energy storage to ecological restoration, greater investment in sustainability is allowing local leaders to make bigger, more thoughtful investments that will help address climate change and resiliency.

Navigating a once-in-a-generation opportunity

Our team of funding experts help communities navigate grant applications, data gathering, project design and engineering, sustainability planning, stakeholder engagement, and more. IIJA is a once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment opportunity, and communities of all sizes can and should tap into the extraordinary opportunity for infrastructure improvement and investment.

Healthy street

The Infrastructure Bill Helps Promote Healthy Streets and Bridge Gaps for Underserved Communities

October 14, 2022
By Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager and Eric Zweber, Sr Planner, WSB

The $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill opened the door to many new opportunities that can help improve historically underserved communities through healthy streets. With such a large infusion of money into our nation’s infrastructure, now is the time to ensure that future planning and investments in public spaces serve those who have been too often overlooked in community planning. 

Whether it’s reducing heat islands through pavement reduction or increased tree cover, reshaping public spaces to better meet community needs, or reducing the risk of pollutants and other health effects impacting low income and BIPOC neighborhoods, equity must be part of planning for healthy streets and public spaces. 

Where can communities start? Here are some ideas. 

Explore and Recognize Areas of Need First

Directing the money to the places that need the most investment can create the biggest impact. Communities must map out and understand the areas where BIPOC, low-income, low tree cover, and high-transit-needs are present.

Recognizing these areas of need is critical but listening to the people who live in these communities is even more important. Ensure that investments being made meet the needs of the community you intend to serve and that all voices are at the table. Infrastructure investments should make a meaningful difference for those actually living and working in those communities. 

Building Healthy Streets and Improving Public Spaces

What kinds of projects can improve public spaces in underserved communities? Thinking about all three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social, and economic – will help drive a project’s potential positive impact on the overall health and well-being of residents. 

Many communities are exploring installing and maintaining more sustainable pavement options to help improve safety, transit, and overall community health. For some communities in certain climates, pervious pavement, where water can be absorbed into the ground below and reduce runoff, is a sustainable choice. For others, installing light colored pavement instead of traditional asphalt can reduce heat islands. 

Tree canopies and cover are also important for both the environment and human health. Studies have shown that residents in low-income and urban communities face higher temperatures due to the urban heat island effect. Urban heat islands increase air pollution, energy consumption, compromise human health, and impair water quality. 

Finally, creating and improving pedestrian walkways and transit stop locations increases a community’s connection and grows opportunities for those who depend on public transportation. 

How WSB Can Help

Whether it is helping you explore and identify needs within your community, planning for the future, or assisting you in applying for grants – WSB can work with you directly every step of the way to ensure your community obtains all the resources it needs. 

Now is the time to make a big investment in your community, improve public spaces, and ensure you are doing it in an equitable manner that benefits traditionally underserved communities and people. 

Bridget serves as the Sustainability Program Manager at WSB, helping propel sustainability projects and opportunities forward for our clients to reduce costs while meeting their community and stakeholder needs. She has led the Sustainability Growth Coalition at Environmental Initiative and served as chair of the St. Louis Park, MN Environment and Sustainability Commission, moving forward progress on climate and energy, while engaging community members and business leaders.

[email protected] | 920.202.0234

Eric has over 20 years experience with community planning, renewable energy, and sustainability projects. He has worked cooperatively with a number renewable energies developers to develop both solar and wind resources and is a past board member of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industrial Association (MnSEIA). He has a passion for sustainable and resilient practices to address the needs of communities and larger public.

[email protected] | 612.581.0504

Equity Capacity

Equity Capacity Building Using the Infrastructure Bill

By Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager and Eric Zweber, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Communities across the country see big opportunities around the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill. With this funding, there is a real opportunity for communities to invest in projects for low-income and traditionally underserved communities and advance sizable projects that create a better community for all. Including equity capacity building in infrastructure project planning will not only enhance local communities and benefit residents, but it can also give projects a competitive edge in securing dollars as communities compete for funding.   

Here are some ways that communities should be thinking about building equity into their projects.

Understand the Needs of the Community & Those You are Working to Serve

As leaders look at the needs in their communities, it is critical that investments are made in a way that is not only smart and helps add value to communities, but that also shows they are listening to the voices of residents who are impacted by these projects and including them in the decision-making process.

When community leaders work with stakeholders to build consensus, it ensures they are building projects that improve equitable outcomes and make them more competitive for grants and funding to advance the projects. Tribal communities, for example, have been disproportionately impacted by natural resource extraction and land development. Low income and BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities often lack adequate investments in everything from transportation infrastructure to community development. Building relationships and trust with impacted communities is central to this work and can help advance the goals of all stakeholders involved when done in a meaningful fashion.

Bringing an Equity Lens to Different Types of Projects

Equity capacity building can be brought into may kinds of projects and there are three big categories to consider when thinking about advancing equity using the Infrastructure Bill:

  1. Improving access and accessibility to infrastructure for people of all abilities; including public transit, transportation access, and modifying infrastructure to meet current standards and management best practices.
  2. Investing in projects where there is a high percentage of BIPOC or low-income population.
  3. Advancing priorities for indigenous communities that elevate equity, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.

Whatever type of project you are working on, understanding how it advances equity and how to communicate that can help secure funding and move it forward.

Comprehensive Plans & Big Picture Thinking

A community comprehensive plan brings together leaders and stakeholders to look forward at population growth and development opportunities to create a vision for the future. Plans need to be forward-looking, while also flexible enough to meet changing demands as communities grow and change. Equity and sustainability are important elements to consider and weave into community planning.

What’s more, community plans often include big projects and changes that can drive meaningful community progress. However, sometimes resources are limited or other projects take precedence. With the massive investment in infrastructure from the federal government, this is a chance for communities to look at their comprehensive plan and move the big picture projects with long-term benefits forward.

This is a unique opportunity to go after projects that build equity and will positively impact communities and citizens for decades to come.

How WSB Can Help

Whether it’s reviewing and updating community comprehensive plans, using community engagement, designing, writing grant applications, or seeking out partners to support your project, WSB has a team of experts who can help your community navigate and execute on projects that improve your community and build equity capacity.

The infrastructure bill is a once in a generation funding opportunity, and a chance for local leaders to fund big, bold projects that will benefit communities for generations to come.

Bridget serves as the Sustainability Program Manager at WSB, helping propel sustainability projects and opportunities forward for our clients to reduce costs while meeting their community and stakeholder needs. She has led the Sustainability Growth Coalition at Environmental Initiative and served as chair of the St. Louis Park, MN Environment and Sustainability Commission, moving forward progress on climate and energy, while engaging community members and business leaders.

[email protected] | 920.202.0234

Eric has over 20 years experience with community planning, renewable energy, and sustainability projects. He has worked cooperatively with a number renewable energies developers to develop both solar and wind resources and is a past board member of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industrial Association (MnSEIA). He has a passion for sustainable and resilient practices to address the needs of communities and larger public.

[email protected] | 612.581.0504

Infrastructure resiliency

Green Infrastructure & Improving Project Resiliency

By Jake Newhall, Project Manager and Ray Theiler, Project Engineer, WSB

Extreme rainfall events are seemingly occurring more frequently than in the past. The frequency at which Americans are experiencing severe weather events due to climate change means building resiliency into infrastructure is more critical than ever. The influx of funding made available from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package is giving many communities unprecedented opportunities to make significant infrastructure improvements, and it’s important for community leaders to explore how resiliency in planning and building can bring both short and long-term benefits.

One solution to build resiliency in planning is through green infrastructure, which helps absorb water and emulate natural water cycles. Green infrastructure can significantly reduce environmental impacts and pollution and can also be far more resilient and economical for communities.

Exploring Green Infrastructure & Solutions to Improve Resiliency

As communities explore resiliency and green infrastructure, they must first consider their specific needs and impacts. From there, they can determine projects that most greatly benefit from investment in green infrastructure. Resiliency comes in many forms and can be built into a wide variety of community projects.

Is your community prone to flooding? Stormwater-related infrastructure including stormwater re-use for irrigation, allowing park space to flood during large events, incorporating overland overflows into drainage systems, tree planting to improve canopy, and slope stabilization can all be environmentally friendly and help reduce impacts from extreme weather events. Does your area often face drought or water shortage? Reuse of stormwater for irrigation also reduces the burden on potable water and depleted aquifers. There are also private entities and smaller public projects that can build in conservation practices to reduce impact like rooftop gardens or native landscaping. Aging service lines can be replaced to improve resiliency and drinking water quality.

Transit and roadway improvement can also include green infrastructure that strengthens resiliency and reduces environmental impact. Some alternatives include tree trenches, native plantings, vegetated depressed medians, incorporating linear best management practices, and evaluating retrofits to the existing storm sewer system as part of transportation infrastructure planning will improve sustainability.  

Think Ahead & Think Big Picture

With the influx of additional federal dollars available for infrastructure projects, communities must think ahead and think big. Whether it’s getting on the project priority list, putting forward a feasibility plan, or including green infrastructure early in a transportation project planning process, thorough, thoughtful preparation is key and can help ensure your project secures funding.

It’s also vital for communities to go back and look at projects that may have been previously out of budget or may have not quite made the cut due to other projects competing for limited grant dollars. The federal infrastructure law provides another meaningful opportunity to secure funding for projects that may have previously been out of reach.

Plus, if a community plans a project with big picture thinking – like a transit project that includes all the green infrastructure planning up front, for example – it can improve the odds of scoring higher in the grant application process, as well as provide long-term social benefits and economic savings. It’s often easier to build all at once, rather than do piecemeal fixes later.

How WSB Can Help

If your community is exploring how it can tap into opportunities to improve infrastructure resiliency and invest in green infrastructure, WSB can help.

Our firm can inventory lead water service lines with our GIS services. Our team can help review capital projects, risk areas, or identify how to score higher on project grant applications and better utilize funding. We design, plan, and build green infrastructure projects that help communities better manage and protect their water and other natural resources. WSB can also help communities navigate the project priority list and intended use plan process.

Every project is different, and every community is different. But as we face a changing climate and more severe weather events, green infrastructure and more resilient infrastructure is critical to communities, residents, and our environment.

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

Ray is a Project Engineer specializing in project planning, feasibility studies, computer modeling, preliminary and final design, bidding, construction management, grant writing, wellhead protection planning, risk assessments, emergency response planning, community engagement, and state water permitting.

r[email protected] | 612.360.3163


Brownfield Revitalization & the Infrastructure Bill

By Ryan Spencer, Director of Environmental Investigation and Remediation and Jeffery Rice, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Community leaders are always searching for ways to expand their city’s tax base, add jobs, build housing, and develop sites in ways that benefit residents and the community. Brownfields – previously developed sites that are no longer in use – are underutilized spaces that present real opportunity for economic, social, and environmental revitalization. Passed late last year, the federal infrastructure bill allocates $1.5 billion in new funding that can go toward revitalizing brownfields, providing meaningful opportunities for communities across the nation.

Whether a community is urban or rural, there is new funding available that can help revitalize and redevelop brownfields in a way that meets community needs, spurs growth, and reflects the priorities of residents.

But where to start, and how to tap into opportunities to revitalize brownfields? Here are some ways to start.

Evaluating Site Assessment & Cleanup

There are two basic categories that a brownfield falls into to qualify for grant funding. The first is an environmental assessment and the second is for site cleanup.

Communities must perform an environmental assessment (also called environmental due diligence) to determine if a site is contaminated and what kinds of contamination are present. This includes performing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) to identify recognized environmental conditions (RECs) and other potential hazards. If RECs are identified, then a follow-up Phase II ESA is recommended which includes advancing environmental borings and the collection of soil, soil vapor, and groundwater samples for chemical analysis. If historical buildings or other improvements are present at a site, sampling to determine the presence of asbestos, lead-based paint, or other regulated materials must be completed prior to demolition or renovation. The environmental assessment phase is useful to determine the scope/magnitude of cleanup or soil management necessary for redevelopment.

After a thorough environmental assessment is complete, the next stage uses grants to help fund site cleanup to spur redevelopment. A response action plan (RAP) is required for most cleanup grant applications. The RAP summarizes known types and locations of contamination at the site and outlines the response action methods and protocols that will be used to protect human health and the environment during redevelopment. For most projects, the goal is to manage the contamination encountered during redevelopment, not to clean up the site completely which typically is not feasible or practical.

Identifying Opportunities and Risk

Local government must be able to identify the value in brownfield assessment and clean up, obtain and maintain community buy-in for the investment, and find willing developers that are interested in working on redeveloping brownfield sites.

While some communities can be risk adverse on brownfields, the upside can be significant. Underutilized parts of a community can be revitalized to provide more low-income housing, grow the tax base, improve neighborhoods, and more.

The infrastructure bill was designed to reduce barriers to brownfield redevelopment and spur more economic and environmental development.

Collaborating with Partners

Partnerships in revitalizing brownfield sites can help position a project for success. Support from local leaders and city council, engagement with community stakeholders, and partnerships with developers interested in working on the project can all help build momentum for a project and improve its value.

Part of securing funding for brownfield projects is telling the story of how the change will revitalize and improve a community and explain how it has strong support within the community. This is especially important in the cleanup phase of the project.

How WSB Can Help

Brownfield assessment, cleanup, and revitalization involves many steps, but WSB works with communities and can help leaders navigate the process. That assistance can include environmental assessment services, assistance with grant applications and securing funding sources, community engagement, helping with project readiness, brownfield revitalization planning and design, and more.

Brownfield revitalization is a big investment that can pay off in big ways for communities, and the federal infrastructure bill provides additional funding to help jumpstart, assess, and cleanup sites across the country. The professionals at WSB are here to help you identify, apply for, and utilize money from the Infrastructure bill to help your community grow through revitalizing compromised land.

Ryan Spencer is Director of Environmental Investigation and Remediation. His expertise extends to Phase I & II Environmental Site Assessments, construction soil screening and documentation, contamination disposal and other hazardous material mitigation. He consults closely with both public organizations and private developers on their environmental needs.

[email protected] | 612.723.3644

Jeffrey has over 20 years of environmental experience including due diligence, asbestos and regulated material assessments/removal oversight and construction monitoring for response action plan/construction contingency plan implementation projects. He has provided a range of environmental services for commercial and industrial sites as well as municipal and state roadway and highway improvements projects.

[email protected] | 612.916.7067

City Planners Helping to Secure Federal Infrastructure Funding

by Lori Johnson, Sr Community Planner, WSB

Last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure funding package is a once-in-a-generation investment into our nation’s infrastructure. Because there is such a large influx of dollars for communities in every corner of our country, this is also a once-in-a-generation opportunity for city planners to make strategic investments in projects that improve communities’ livability, development, sustainability, and more.

City planners may think that this bill has little to do with their daily activities because of the bill’s infrastructure focus. This is not necessarily true and now is the time for planners to think outside the box and help their communities take advantage of this historic funding. Here are some thoughts to consider. 

Explore and update your comprehensive plan.

City Planners are the keepers of a community’s comprehensive plan and are often responsible for the implementation of this document, which usually contains chapters on transportation, water/wastewater, sanitary sewer, and sustainability. Now is the time to take a deep dive into your plan and think about what items are on your wish list. This may include projects that have previously lacked funding or need to be bumped higher in your priority list. With so much funding available, don’t be afraid to think big. 

Now is also the time to think about master plans. If you have been waiting to do a master plan on a specific area of your community due to time or budget constraints, the new bill can help fund some of your implementation measures. 

Collaboration is key. 

Additionally, now is a great time for city planners and engineers to come together and assist each other in the completion of city-wide projects. Interdepartmental cooperation can strengthen relationships and provide amazing learning opportunities, and planners can often assist in helping do research, writing grants, and more. 

Make sure your city ordinances are up to date. 

Federal funding is helping spur infrastructure investments in areas like electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, broadband, and more. If your community’s ordinances are not up to date, you may miss out on key funding opportunities, so now is the time to examine your local laws and work with the city council and planning commission to make changes as needed. City planners may also need to examine their staffing levels and hire to help facilitate and manage some of these investments. 

How WSB can help. 

Whether it’s taking a look at your ordinances, creating a community sustainability plan, applying for grant funding, or planning and designing infrastructure projects – WSB can work hand-in-hand with city planners to take advantage of the federal infrastructure funding. 

City planners are advocates for their community and its residents, and WSB can help ensure your community is competitive when pursuing infrastructure dollars to advance your priorities. 

Lori has more than 25 years of experience working in a municipal planning department, having worked her way up through the planning department at the City of Blaine to become their city planner. She has worked in all aspects of city planning activities including project management, site plan and application review, public participation and long range planning.

[email protected] | 612.364.3029

Learn How the ‘Safe Streets for All’ Program Can Strengthen Rural Communities

By Mary Gute, Sr Transportation Planner, WSB

Funding for the ‘Safe Streets for All’ (SS4A) program is now available thanks to the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill passed in Washington last November. The SS4A Program aims to improve road safety by significantly reducing or eliminating roadway fatalities. This program could help your community make strategic planning, infrastructure and safety investments to improve the lives of residents. 

The notification of funding for SS4A, as well as the application process, went live in May of this year, and the deadline to apply is September 15, 2022. The first round of funding will make $1 billion available to communities, with more rounds expected to be available annually through 2026.

Who Qualifies?

The grant program is targeted for local, tribal, and regional entities. States, including DOTs are not eligible. However, applicants should consider coordinating with state agencies as appropriate.

This program is structured with equity in mind, to ensure equitable investment in safety needs of underserved communities. To this end, 40 percent of the SS4A funding is intended to go to low income and underserved communities. This includes rural areas to address disproportionality high fatality rates. Rural communities, especially if have lower income levels or experience persistent poverty/inequality, may benefit from SS4A funding.

Partnership is Important

By partnering with other communities, or applying for funds to address multi-community or regional safety issues, applications are more likely to receive approval and receive larger awards. The grants cover up to 80% of plans for projects and recipients are expected to match at least 20% on their own from non-federal sources; which is another reason cross-entity partnerships are beneficial. Identifying and collaborating with partners for larger, strategic projects can create a greater advantage to receive funding. 

Two Application Categories

Communities can apply for funding under one of two categories: action plan grants or implementation plan grants.

Action plans are created to study and understand what safety issues exist and what strategies would best address safety issues. The award amount for an action plan, based on cost assessments, is between $200k and $1 million. 

Implementation grants are for the actual project design and construction to make safety improvements to infrastructure. The possible award amounts are between $5 million and $30 million for approved projects. 

Applicants may only apply for one grant type – an action plan or an implementation grant. Receiving a grant to prepare an action plan grant will not preclude applying for and receiving an implementation grant in future rounds of funding.

The SS4A program will not fund:

  • Projects where the primary purpose isn’t safety
  • Projects focused on non-roadway modes of transportation
  • Capital projects to construct new roads
  • Projects to expand capacity or improve mobility for motorists
  • Maintenance activities

How WSB Can Help 

Is your community looking at how SS4A funding can help support safety-related projects? WSB can help determine if your proposed plan or project would be eligible; identify partnership and collaboration opportunities; help write applications; and answer any questions you may have about the process.

The federal infrastructure bill provides once in a generation funding for critical infrastructure needs and can greatly help enhance rural community infrastructure. 

Mary has 20 years of progressively complex transportation planning and project management experience, gained from working on a variety of transportation projects for modes including roads/bridge, transit, and trails. Several these projects have included environmental documentation considerations – either pre-NEPA, or through NEPA and/or MEPA processes.

[email protected] | 612.741.7055

The Federal Infrastructure Bill & Its Impact on Ecological Restoration Projects

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

By Tony Havranek, Director of Fisheries, WSB

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.

[email protected] | 651.286.8473

Electric Vehicles

Understand How the Infrastructure Bill Supports Expanding Electric Vehicle Fleets and Charging Infrastructure

By Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager and Eric Zweber, Sr Project Manager, WSB

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is opening opportunities for states, local government, school districts, and tribal communities across the U.S. to expand electric vehicle (EV) fleets and related infrastructure. Included in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan funding package is more than $7.5 billion to help accelerate the adoption of EVs and associated charging infrastructure. As part of this funding, states are each receiving tens of millions in funding through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program. There is also funding earmarked for charging and refueling infrastructure grants, which go through the U. S. Department of Transportation to state and local governments, as well as metropolitan planning organizations to help fund alternative fuel corridors. Furthermore, some funding is earmarked specifically for competitive grants that will support innovative approaches that expand charging infrastructure in rural and low-income communities and corridors. 

So, what exactly does the Infrastructure Law mean for EV infrastructure, and how can communities take advantage of this historic funding investment? Here are a few thoughts.

Make a Plan

Many communities are unsure what model will work best for their needs. There is not a one-size-fits-all model, and leaders should ask questions like these below to make a plan that works best to meet their unique needs:

  • Does it make sense to take on an ownership model where the community owns the EV charging stations and related infrastructure while assuming responsibility for the long-term operations and maintenance?
  • Will it make sense to own and then lease EV infrastructure, recovering fees through a third-party vendor?
  • Should our city plan to let a third-party install and manage EV infrastructure completely? How can we meet the needs of all of our residents, including those that don’t live near highways or shopping hubs, or those living in multi-family complexes, etc.?
  • How can transportation electrification help advance economic development and meet climate goals?

Having a strategy is critical if communities want to be ready to tap into grant and funding opportunities for charging infrastructure when they become available later this year. Looking to, and updating, a community’s comprehensive plan can help to navigate and plan for the future of EV’s. It will also position a community to successfully submit a competitive grant application to fund their plan.

Vehicle Purchasing and Fleets

Just as the Infrastructure Bill is expanding access to EV charging infrastructure, it also will help fund EV purchases for communities and school districts. Specifically, there is $5 billion in funding for school districts that want to upgrade their school buses to clean or zero-emission models.

But whether looking to update city vehicles, public buses, or school buses, it’s important for leaders to understand how EVs can benefit them and build a plan that meets their needs. Questions to ask when thinking about updating to electric fleets include:

  • Are the vehicles in need of upgrades? Are they in an urban or rural community? How far does a vehicle travel on average per day?
  • Is our community in a hot or cold weather climate which may mean fewer efficiencies in extreme weather? How can we begin with a pilot project so that we can learn how the vehicles meet our needs and build capacity for EVs in our organization?
  • What kind of grant should we pursue – charging infrastructure and/or fleet updates? What is our plan to phase out the work as these grants are released? Do we have internal staff to do this or do we need additional help?

There are many ways to update EV fleets and charging infrastructure that will significantly benefit communities and the environment but ensuring the investment fits with the needs of the school district or community is important.

How WSB Can Help

The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act is a massive funding package that provides meaningful opportunities to accelerate EV fleet and infrastructure adoption, reduce emissions, and meet the needs of communities. Here are some of the ways WSB can help leaders navigate and tap into accelerating EV fleet and infrastructure adoption:

  1. Updating comprehensive plans to plan for EV infrastructure adoption.
  2. Strategizing and helping create an ownership model for a community’s EV charging infrastructure.
  3. Engineering and public works services to help design and plan for EV charging stations.
  4. Navigating regulations and zoning requirements.
  5. Helping prepare for, and assisting with, grant applications for EV-related projects.
  6. Nesting your EV work in your broader sustainability, resiliency, and climate goals.
  7. Designing spaces for EV charging infrastructure that meet accessibility requirements and work with landscape architecture, signage, etc.

If your community does not have the staff capacity or resources to manage EV infrastructure internally, WSB is available to discuss options and strategies. Residents, consumers, and businesses are demanding more sustainable transportation options including electric vehicles. Now is the time for communities to explore options, target historic funding investments, and advance their vision for the future.

Bridget serves as the Sustainability Program Manager at WSB, helping propel sustainability projects and opportunities forward for our clients to reduce costs while meeting their community and stakeholder needs. She has led the Sustainability Growth Coalition at Environmental Initiative and served as chair of the St. Louis Park, MN Environment and Sustainability Commission, moving forward progress on climate and energy, while engaging community members and business leaders.

[email protected] | 920.202.0234

Eric has over 20 years experience with community planning, renewable energy, and sustainability projects. He has worked cooperatively with a number renewable energies developers to develop both solar and wind resources and is a past board member of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industrial Association (MnSEIA). He has a passion for sustainable and resilient practices to address the needs of communities and larger public.

[email protected] | 612.581.0504