With every job I’ve ever held, safety has always been of utmost importance. As I’ve worked through countless and seemingly endless permitting and regulatory issues on projects, I’m often asked the question as to which is more important, safety or the environment? To me, the question is easily answered as safety is always most important; which typically shocks those that expect me to be an ultra-conservative simply because I have "Environmental" listed in my title. This is not to say that managing natural resources can’t be accomplished while considering and embracing public safety, after all, that is what 90% of the day-to-day activities of an Airport Manager are related to – ensuring worker and public safety. With last month’s successful water landing on the Hudson River by the US Airways flight 1549 crew following a bird collision, air travel safety related to wildlife conflicts is more of an issue than ever. Balancing resource management and public safety are difficult.
In 2004, Washington State’s DOT (WSDOT) Aviation Division set out to strike a balance between the standards set forth by the regulatory community for stormwater requirements with the needs to improve safety related to conflicts with wildlife near the airport. This effort was initiated by the State Senate to address Hazardous Wildlife Attractants near airports, but without the full support of the House Resource and Agricultural Lands Committee. As a result, WSDOT was asked to gather the appropriate parties to resolve the outstanding issues associated with this legislation. The resulting direction from two stakeholder meetings conducted in 2004 generated the common objectives of 1.) establishing a memorandum of agreement, 2.) convene a technical committee, and 3.) pursue funding to develop an aviation stormwater manual. As a result of these efforts, in 2006 a $190,000 grant was secured from the FAA to study and develop a manual addressing these hazardous wildlife attractants near airports. The resulting technical committee provided guidance to WSDOT, in partnership with the FAA, to develop the Aviation Stormwater Design Manual (ASDM). The development of this manual relied heavily on the technical expertise from the Highway Runoff Manual, developed by the Highway Division of WSDOT, as well as the Eastern and Western Washington Stormwater Management Manuals, developed by the Washington Department of Ecology. The resulting ASDM was developed as a supplement to these manuals, focusing more emphasis on the objectives of reducing the potential impacts of wildlife at airports. The resulting direction includes three primary components to evaluating individual airports:
1.. Assessment of individual conditions and facilities
2.. What are the wildlife needs – where do they coincide with treatment requirements?
3.. What are the options for applicable Best Management Practices?
Following a two year process of Task Force meetings, lead by WSDOT Senior Transportation Planner John Shambaugh, the draft design manual went out for public review. Following the review period, WSDOT was proud to receive a letter of support from the Washington Department of Ecology (WDOE), the state agency that regulates Waters of the United States as well as water quality requirements such as stormwater treatment. In particular, Shambaugh expressed great satisfaction in the fact that the WDOE accepted the manual as an equivalent to the Eastern and Western Washing Stormwater Management Manuals produced by the same agency. In fact, the letter of support from the WDOE was bound as the first page of the printed copies of the plan to ensure immediate recognition of the caliber of this manual. According to Shambaugh, WSDOT Aviation Division recently received the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Gold Award for the manual. The final version of the Manual (WSDOT Technical Manual M 3041.00) was published December 2008.
The manual can be viewed and downloaded at the Washington DOT Aviation website: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/aviation/AirportStormwaterGuidanceManual.htm
This manual appears to be another fine example of how collaborative approaches toward working with our regulations will help us achieve many common goals.