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January Upfront News & Views

January Upfront News & Views

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    Asian carp are known to eat up to 20% of their body weight in plankton daily and may grow up to four feet long. The species was released into the Mississippi River basin nearly two decades ago and is now within 50 miles of Lake Michigan.

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    Built next to Orange County's busiest train station, Irvine's four-story cast-in-place concrete structure serves 3,000 commuters/day and includes 6,000 square feet of retail space. Photovoltaic panels will be installed on the roof level to provide electricity for the entire facility. Photo: Bomel Construction Co. Inc.

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    Buying Pineywoods Mitigation Bank credits allows permit applicants to compensate for their project's impact on the surrounding environment. Photo: PBS&J

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    Public Works Director Scott McGolpin urged employees to find a system that ensures resources are available when a disaster cuts off access to communities beyond the county's borders. Photo: County of Santa Barbara

Alaska city to deploy ‘smart streetlights'

Anchorage is the first in the nation to deploy wireless networking technology to remotely monitor and control streetlights individually or in groups. The Echelon Corp. system is similar to one implemented by Quebec City in Canada. (See “Control freaks” on page 40 of our December issue.)

Credits on sale at wetlands mitigation bankOperations

Developers who want to build along 19,000 acres of the Neches River must minimize the negative impacts of construction by buying credits from the Pineywoods Mitigation Bank.

Launched by The Conservation Fund, the bank will use the money to restore 13,000 acres of bottomland forested wetlands and 6,000 acres upland to a self-sustaining forest, providing a wildlife corridor between Davy Crockett and Angelina national forests.

Getting one of the largest such banks in the nation off the ground required the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas General Land Office, and the Railroad Commission of Texas.

“It's been a real challenge, to say the least,” says J. Grant Barber, project manager for PBS&J, a consulting firm that's marketing the credits and providing oversight. “In the end, though, we struck a balance that will allow for the restoration of a massive ecosystem and help provide the funds for more of these projects in the future.”

Job prospects grow with green

More than half of the 4.2 million “green-collar” jobs expected to be created over the next three decades will be in engineering, the law, research, and consulting, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Today, 750,000 jobs are related to environmentally sustainable construction efforts.

Economy hurting outreach efforts

A Public Technology Institute survey finds that 38% of local government technology budgets are likely to decrease over the next two years. Most respondents said that public safety interoperability and e-government services, such as deploying tools for interacting with the public, were top priorities.

$545 billion proposed for transportation funding

The American Association of State and Highway Officials Transportation wants to cap earmarks at 5% of all spending, instead of the current 18%, and fund new spending under the next federal surface transportation bill with fuel tax increases, bonds, and levies on shipping containers, car sales, and number of miles driven. The association's wish list: $375 billion for highways, $93 billion for transit, $42 billion for freight, and $34.5 billion for intercity passenger rail.

Application guidance available for $1.7 billion in grants

Secretary Michael Chertoff says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is able to inform high-threat urban areas of their target allocations ahead of time. To learn how to apply for funding under the State Homeland Security Program, Urban Areas Security Initiative, Metropolitan Medical Response System Program, and Citizen Corps Program, visit www.fema.gov/grants.

Federal rule exempts state, local governments

In addition to completing Form I-9, employers must electronically verify the eligibility of only new hires assigned to federal contracts. This is one exception to an Executive Order, effective Jan. 15, that requires federal contractors to agree to use the E-Verify system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Social Security Administration to confirm that employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.