As part of its “Sustainable Boulevards” program, Milwaukee Forestry Department employees are installing and maintaining automatic irrigation systems at 300 sites throughout the city. Photo: City of Milwaukee

Much of the initiative's expected 10-year investment payback comes from upgrading to automated irrigation, which will eliminate the need to hire 18 employees during the summer. To minimize water usage, plantings will be watered with drip tubing systems activated from 4 to 6 a.m.

“This creative strategy will enable Milwaukee to ensure the longevity of its well-developed boulevard system in a cost-effective and proactive manner,” says Preston Cole, environmental services superintendent for the city's Department of Public Works.

Grants enhance coastal conservation

More than $20 million in National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants have been released to 11 states and one territory by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The grants will support the acquisition, enhancement, and restoration of more than 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands.

Projects are located in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico.

Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the grants will fund 29 projects to be matched by $46 million in contributions from state and local governments, private landowners, and conservation organizations.

NPDES permit not necessary for water transfers

Settling an issue that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on in 2004's South Florida Water Management District vs. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, the EPA codified its 2005 interpretive statement that the Clean Water Act intends resource-management agencies and other state authorities—not the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)—to oversee water transfers.

Prices of treatment chemical rises

Add one more item to the list of products and materials—fuel, concrete, and steel—whose increasing costs are squeezing operations: hydrogen peroxide. Beginning July 11, Solvay Chemicals Inc. is increasing off-list prices for all commodity grades by 6 cents/pound in the United States, about a 10% increase.

Letters to the Editor:Do consultants need Big Brother?

I'm disappointed by your suggestion that designs be subject to third-party review (To err is human, February 2008).

Consulting firms are well-paid organizations that employ professional engineers (PEs). Customers have every right to expect a quality product that doesn't require the expenditure of additional funds to double-check a vendor's work.

Consultants should have quality control and quality assurance programs that preclude a customer from receiving less-than-accurate service, particularly on critical components. These programs should recognize that people make mistakes, but that it's unacceptable for that mistake to reach the customer.

Rather than additional oversight and expenditure of public money, why not establish standards that ensure the customer gets what it paid for? The buck has to stop someplace: with the stamp on the drawing and the consulting firm's quality process.

Maybe the engineering discipline should stop fighting quality initiatives such as ISO9000 and Six Sigma and get on board with modern day quality processes to develop true quality consciousness.

— Troy Oestreich Jr., operations manager, Lacey, Wash.