Potential New Airborne Pile Driving Criteria for Marbled Murrelets

The marbled murrelet is a small seabird listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the Pacific Northwest. Most Pacific Northwest subpopulations are declining. In Puget Sound declines are about seven percent a year. If the decline goes unchecked, the species may disappear locally. As a result, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has developed conservative policies to protect the species from disturbances from waterfront development activities.

In 2011, the USFWS adopted new underwater criteria for evaluating the effects of impact pile driving (for steel piles) to diving marbled murrelets. Since these criteria were adopted, pile driving operations in areas where marbled murrelets may be present require using USFWS-certified marbled murrelet observers to patrol the impact zone during all impact pile driving operations.

These criteria don’t address temporary hearing loss or behavioral effects. For behavioral effects, the USFWS is considering extending the criteria to airborne noise and driving piles with impact or vibratory drivers. The agency believes that airborne noise in the range of 14 decibels above the background level can interfere with murrelet calls to each other on the water, potentially affecting foraging behavior. The concern is that foraging effectiveness may be decreased or compromised, particularly during the breeding season when the birds are actively feeding young. In the Pacific Northwest, marbled murrelets nest in old growth forest habitats, often great distances from the marine environments they feed in. The belief is that any delay or compromise in feeding efficiencies may affect reproductive success.

New airborne criteria, if adopted, may greatly affect the current zone of impact or distance from pile driving operations in which Endangered Species Act “take,” (harrassment or harm) may occur. The 14-decibel airborne sound level under evaluation is substantially lower than the current 92-decibel level, which is a general guideline with no enforcement authority. This could affect the nature, level of effort, and cost of future monitoring programs required during pile driving operations in Puget Sound. We will continue to post further developments of potential new criteria as they come available. Stay tuned!

Food Frenzy Raises Money and Food for Children

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Donations for Food Lifeline

Hart Crowser staff recently took part in Food Lifeline’s Food Frenzy competition, a creative competition between local businesses to raise funds and food for Food Lifeline to end hunger for children in western Washington. The “frenzied activities” extended over a couple weeks in July, and Hart Crowser came in fourth in the Design and Construction company category.

We also had a friendly competition within Hart Crowser to spur on the action. We created four teams to compete against each other: Team Geotech, Team Environmental, Team Edmonds, and Team Admin. 

In addition to food donations, Hart Crowser sponsored events to raise money, including a silent auction, breakfast buffet, book sale, and bake sale.  Each of the four teams created theme baskets for the auction and individuals or small groups came up with other creative items to make or obtain.  Maybe the most unique auction item was an offer by one employee to shave his beard that raised $230 alone.  We thank Geiger (promotional products) for their donation of a number of items for the auction.

Our teams raised $4,590, and donated 1,326 pounds of food.

And the winner?  Food Lifeline, which accumulated 22,000 food items and raised $490,000!

Lessons from the Great East Japan (Tohoku) Earthquake

Group at Tsunami Site

Reconnaissance Team in front of Disaster Prevention Building (destroyed by the Tsunami rather than the earthquake). Photo: Mark Pierepiekarz, MRP Engineering

The Tohuku Earthquake was the fourth largest ever recorded in the world.  Doug Lindquist of Hart Crowser was part of a reconnaissance team that traveled to MiyagiPrefecture in Japan last June after the earthquake and tsunami. Doug found the experience in the tsunami-impacted areas profoundly moving.  “The damage was incomprehensible. Nearly everything was gone.”

The goal of the team was to learn lessons to apply to the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Hawaii. After all, with the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the Pacific coast, the Big One around here may not be far off.

 A quick list is of the team’s findings is below. 

  •  Japan is the most prepared country in the world for both earthquakes and tsunamis.  We should continue to look at their examples to save lives and property in our own areas. 
  • Seismic retrofit and protection technology works.
  • CurrentU.S. building codes and standards for earthquake design of new structures are very good at addressing life-safety.
  • For a large earthquake, saving lives is not enough.  Building and infrastructure performance levels need to be higher so people can remain in buildings and the economy can recover quickly.