Olsson Associates


Working with nature to achieve environmental success

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sarah Ferdico, Communications

Providing solutions to interesting and challenging environmental projects located across the country is all in a day’s work for Olsson Associates’ Environmental Assessment team. Over the years, Olsson scientists have worked on such projects as rehabbing soils at the St. Louis Gateway Arch Park; turning a 430-mile natural gas pipeline to a crude oil pipeline; monitoring environmental elements for wind energy projects; restoring soils at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas; and designing a stormwater bioretention garden that will serve as a nationwide demonstration model in Omaha.

“We face challenges on varying levels every day because the solutions to many problems are not always straightforward,” said Ted Hartsig, a senior scientist at Olsson. “A key component of approaching project challenges is having as much information and data as possible with which to address and solve the problem. Sometimes that takes a bit more work, but it’s very well worth it to make sure that we can effectively achieve a successful project completion.”

Ted and other team members are seeing increased calls from clients that understand these issues, seeking their expertise with environmental projects across the United States.

“Overall, environmental assessment is often assumed to merely mean collecting and analyzing data from which to obtain a permit and get approval for a project,” Ted said. “It can and should be much more. We can use the environment to make all of our projects more successful, including improving water quality, energy management, economic development, and quality of life. What we are learning and applying with many of our current environmental projects will improve efficiencies and the success of future projects."

Putting “nature” back into projects is a big part of what guides Ted and the Environmental Assessment team. Below are just a few of the projects that exemplify this mantra and demonstrate the work the team has completed recently.

Jefferson National Memorial Expansion: St. Louis Gateway Arch

Ted and Olsson are providing key support for the new landscape design of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM) in St. Louis, Missouri. The major component of this project involves regrading and revegetating the park grounds surrounding the Gateway Arch. Much of the JNEM area and nearby downtown locations are built on old demolition debris. Olsson’s understanding of subsoil conditions, including drainage, structural stability, and surface soil, is essential for a successful, sustainable landscape.

“The project owner wants to reduce energy and cost inputs, improve park aesthetics, and increase overall sustainability as they rehabilitate the landscape of the Gateway Arch,” Ted said. “The existing environmental conditions present difficult management challenges. To address these issues, we needed to formulate an approach that will improve site conditions, understand ecology and biology of the vegetation that will be restored, and develop and introduce inputs that will achieve the client’s desired outcomes."


Tallgrass Energy Pipeline Conversion and Expansion

When Tallgrass Energy decided to convert its 430-mile Pony Express natural gas pipeline to crude oil and extend the line an additional 260 miles, Olsson provided a flexible, fast-moving group of engineers, scientists, environmental inspectors, and support staff members to quickly adapt to Tallgrass Energy’s needs.

Tallgrass Energy is a family of companies formed to own, operate, acquire, and develop midstream energy assets in North America. The Pony Express pipeline is currently a natural gas pipeline that originates in Wyoming, runs through Colorado and Nebraska, and terminates in Lincoln, Kansas. Olsson is helping Tallgrass Energy convert the existing pipeline from gas to crude oil service and construct an extension from Lincoln, Kansas, to Cushing, Oklahoma. To date, Olsson has provided a broad range of staffing expertise that includes environmental engineers, biologists, wildlife specialists, cultural resource specialists, stormwater inspectors, and environmental scientists.

"The (pipeline) conversion and expansion is a cornerstone project for Tallgrass, as well as Olsson,” said Dana Mack, group leader for Olsson’s Environmental Assessment team. “The successful execution of the project has been made possible through the collaborative efforts of a really dedicated and hardworking team of environmental professionals across Olsson.”

As part of the pipeline extension project, Olsson has provided services for several key aspects of the project: baseline water sampling, preconstruction environmental documentation, desktop and field ecological and cultural resource reviews, agency coordination/permitting, and environmental inspections.

Stormwater Bioretention Gardens

Bioretention garden modelFor several years, Olsson has supported the City of Omaha with developing and designing innovative stormwater best management practices. Olsson’s Environmental and Water Resources teams recently designed a stormwater bioretention garden for the City of Omaha that will serve as a demonstration model and key performance monitoring point for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey for applications across the country.

Wind Energy Environmental Monitoring

Harnessing the wind’s energy has become a specialty service for several of Olsson Associates’ teams. Associate Scientists Steven Walters and Dane Peterson have been leading much of Olsson’s environmental monitoring for these projects. Olsson's Environmental team works with developers to navigate the complex environmental and regulatory processes that include pre-construction, construction, and operations of wind projects. These projects vary in size and can range from two to more than 200 turbines. While primarily concentrated in Nebraska, projects have been worked on throughout the Great Plains and western United States.

Pre-construction services include avian surveys, bat surveys, grouse lek surveys, raptor nest surveys, viewshed analysis, wetland delineations, bird and bat conservations strategies, habitat assessments, and regulatory permitting, just to name a few. During construction, Olsson's role shifts to "bridging the gap" between the developer and construction contractor to ensure environmental commitments made to regulatory agencies and federal law are followed. Post-construction services are similar to pre-construction services, with the addition of mortality monitoring for avian and bat species.

"As environmental scientists and biologists, we are often involved in the early planning stages of projects and very rarely see projects to completion,” said Steve. “Working on wind projects provides us unique opportunities to work on the planning, construction, and operation phases of projects. Working on these later phases gives us new perspectives that allow us to be better biologists in the earlier phases of all the projects we work on."

George W. Bush Presidential Library

Ted Hartsig has again played a leading role in designing and constructing the George W. Bush Presidential Library grounds in Dallas, Texas. For two years, Olsson provided design and construction oversight services for the soils restoration, installation, and management for the center’s 23-acre grounds that were established as a native Texas landscape.

“The project was one where we developed leading edge practices with restoration, and we learned a great deal,” said Ted. “Soil restoration was recognized as a critical factor in establishing a successful landscape restoration.

”We were able to achieve a much more rapid, successful establishment of native vegetation than is typically seen because we were able to understand and give attention to small details that are often overlooked,” said Ted.

And the grounds were in full, rich display for the library’s dedication last year. Laura Bush said during the ceremony that the grounds reflected the native Texas landscape and were green and sustainable.

Using nature to achieve goals

These are only a few of the unique projects Olsson’s Environmental Assessment team is working on to help clients achieve environmental goals. In addition to Olsson’s expertise with wetlands, streams, environmental policy, and environmental remediation, Olsson’s diverse projects also include repairing moats at the JNEM; studying water reuse applications in Westminster, Colorado; restoring soils for a sculpture garden at the University of Notre Dame; designing and implementing a composting/bioremediation process at Ft. Hood, Texas; and developing stormwater management strategies throughout the regions where Olsson has offices. Understanding the ecology of the land, whether it’s urban or rural, is essential in developing or restoring successful environments, as the Environmental Assessment team has demonstrated time after time.

“Our goals are to achieve our client’s goals using the best science and understanding of environmental regulations as possible while always improving our work,” Ted said. “Too often we work against nature. We will see great success if we work with nature.”

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