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Sustainable Resilience Mini-Conference for San Diego and Imperial County Region

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The national EWRI Sustainability Committee began with a mission to stimulate thinking and action on sustainable engineering practices among our members. More and more, our members are bringing their own community initiatives back to the committee to be disseminated among the larger EWRI membership, which is a notable testament to the degree to which our mission is succeeding. A recent notable report we'd like to share comes from member Cory Jones, who described a Sustainable Resilience mini-conference he helped organize and execute in the San Diego and Imperial County regions of California. The seminar was sponsored by the San Diego Sustainability Committee, an organization that Jones chairs.

The San Diego Sustainability Committee has a mission to advance the practice of sustainable engineering in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of civil works within the San Diego and Imperial County regions of California. They organized a half-day Sustainable Resilience Conference to educate and help engineers and those in allied professions share lessons learned about sustainability and resilience. The introductory session reviewed sustainability and resilience basics and described the goals and mission of the committee. Then the ENVISION rating system was described by Jennifer Rivers, Technical Director of the Institute of Sustainable
Infrastructure, who presented via webex.

A series of diverse case studies followed. Rene Vidales from San Diego County described work with a neighborhood group to maintain sustainable features during a street improvements project along a neighborhood gateway corridor. Michael Pollard from Psomas showed a Los Angeles County project that converted a former solid waste disposal site into a neighborhood park with a man-made wetland treatment system. Adam Bogage of Moffat & Nichol described his work with the NAVY to use ENVISION to certify the redevelopment of their Fuel Pier. Colin Chung from GHD discussed the use of Triple Bottom Line Accounting in municipal scale Asset Management Plans (AMPs), pointing out that such plans are meant to go beyond water, wastewater, and pavement management systems. He noted that plans should include parks, urban forestry, building infrastructure, and stormwater as both natural and hard assets. Mark Norton, from the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) described their unique "One Water One Watershed (OWOW)" Plan and its implementation. OWOW is a guide for the 41 member organizations that are part of the joint use district. Originally the district was created to facilitate discharge of treatment plant brine discharge lines. Now, these agencies are using the
existing district to develop a regional approach to create multiple benefits in terms of development of regional water supply, water quality, environmental and habitat conservation, and developing the strategy to enhance community
benefits for the entire watershed. Finally, Bruce Smith, Senior Engineer with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), described how sustainable engineering was being applied to the Los Angeles - San Diego - San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) corridor. These practices include selecting a sustainability rating system, addressing sea level rise, water quality, environmental mitigation, adaptable bridges, and new long-life concrete mix standards.

The seminar closed with a lunchtime guest panel that included representatives from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Ron Roberts of CARB, who is also a local San Diego County Supervisor, presented the CARB goals and legislative mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state. Wayne Chiu of SWRCB discussed their efforts to include collaboration with natural resource, municipality, and non-government organizations in development of the new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit program. Discussion among the panelists was very engaging, and it elicited a number of excellent questions from the attendees.

Panel members and all speakers received carbon off-set credits as a thank you for participation and all guests received re-usable and insulated grocery bags. The Committee was pleased with the impact they were able to have with a half-day event and plan to repeat it in 2014. The San Diego Sustainability Committee maintains a website at: www.sdsustainableinfrastructure.org.