President’s Message

Landon Blake, President

Fires in the Wine Country of California recently took the lives of over 40 people. Many are still missing, and the death toll will grow. This tragic disaster took place shortly after 2 devastating storms,(Hurricane Harvey flooded huge parts of Houston and Hurricane Irma destroyed a swath up the West Coast of Florida.)

What do these recent natural disasters teach us about the design of resilient communities in California?  There are a couple of key lessons from the fires in Wine Country.

The first lesson is that natural disasters have the nasty habit of devastating places we consider “safe”. In Santa Rosa, wildfires jumped from rural areas over highways to torch homes in urban neighborhoods. Many of these looked like a desolate moonscape after the flames had finished. Very few people expected fires to wreck damage right inside a Northern California city.

The second lesson is that infrastructure needs to be better designed with disaster resiliency in mind. This includes thinking about the evacuation of large crowds. It also includes reducing the costs of reconstruction. In the Wine Country fires damage to cell phone towers wiped out communications. People died because they couldn’t quickly navigate the road system to stay in front of the fires.

Engineers (with the support of land surveyors) play a key role in making California communities tougher. Engineers can do this in 3 key ways:

1) Design better buildings. In areas prone to severe storms, we should not make flimsy homes. In areas prone to flooding, living spaces and appliances should be raised well above ground level. In areas susceptible to fire, we need to think more about fire resistant building materials.

2) Design better infrastructure. We should have flood and fire proof communication towers that operate without a connection to the electrical grid. Our road systems should be able to handle mass evacuations and provide alternative routes around choke points.

3) Let the free market system provide realistic pricing and allocation of risk. One reason we fail to build more resilient communities is because we spread the costs of disaster recovery to all tax payers. This sets up a perverse incentive system built on the strong desire to help our neighbors. In this incentive system, middle class and low-income tax payers foot the bill for the reconstruction of expensive beachfront homes. We need to make people pay the real costs to insure against fire, earthquakes, and floods. This would mean more building in the right places, and less building in the wrong places.

I never thought I’d see more than 40 civilians die during a fire near my home. This brings great sadness, but also a reminder that the role engineers play in the design of communities can save (or cost) human lives.

Landon Blake

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November 15, 2017 Meeting: Panel on the “Duty to Defend” Contract Language & QBS Update from Jennifer Teasdale

Kathy Wickam, Vice President

Our November 15th ACEC-CA Sierra Chapter meeting will feature a short presentation by Jennifer Teasdale, ACEC-CA Policy Outreach Coordinator on QBS, the procurement method that federal, state, and local agencies are required to utilize in their selection of engineers, land surveyors, and other design professionals.  Jennifer is spearheading a campaign to equip ACEC California’s members with an understanding of QBS law and educate local agencies about QBS statute and benefits.

Jennifer will be followed by a panel discuss on the recent Senate Bill 496 and the “Duty to Defend” language in Professional Services Contracts. The panel will include Rick Liptak, Dokken Engineering, Jerry Way, former City of Sacramento Public Works Director, and Steven Rudolph, City Attorney for the City of Rocklin.  Each panel member will give their perspective on the issues with the current language in contracts, followed by Q/A.

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Meeting Recap: ACEC Sierra Chapter/S.A.M.E. Joint Meeting Wednesday October 18—Speaker: Eric Tsai, PE (DWR)

Debanik Chaudhuri, Secretary/Treasurer

Our speaker for the October 18, 2017 meeting was Mr. Eric Tsai.  Eric currently serves as the Acting Chief of Flood Planning Branch, California Department of Water Resources. The subject of Eric’s presentation was the 2017 update of the Central Valley flood protection plan (CVFPP). Eric described the planning process including evaluation of flood risk and allocation of limited resources.  The CVFPP includes basin-wide feasibility studies for both Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins, with emphasis on conservation and investment strategies.

Based on the basin-wide study, improvement plans have been developed for both river basins. The improvement plans include a number of projects including Lower Elkhorn Basin Levee Setback Project, Paradise Cut Bypass expansion projects. The plan projects between $17 and $21 billion investment (capital and O&M) over next 30 years. Eric mentioned that the planning process involves numerous stakeholders, which makes it especially challenging.

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Tim Fleming Memorial Scholarship – Now Accepting Applications

Marco Palilla, Chapter Director

Tim Fleming, Sierra Chapter Past President, 1995—96

I am happy to announce that the Tim Fleming Memorial Scholarship is now accepting applications! Now in its 7th year, the annual scholarship is awarded to a Junior or Senior majoring in Civil Engineering/Transportation at California State University Sacramento, University of California Davis, or University of the Pacific. Last year we honored two winners: Micaela Robertson of the University of the Pacific and Morgan Wilson of UC Davis. Applications are due by December 15, 2017.

The official flyer is attached to this newsletter. The scholarship is administered by the California Transportation Foundation. If you know a college student that qualifies, please pass the flyer on to them.

The Tim Fleming Memorial Scholarship was established in the name of our good friend and Sierra Chapter Past President, Tim Fleming, who passed away unexpectedly in November 2010 at the young age of 51. Tim was a graduate of the University of the Pacific and Stanford University and served our industry tirelessly as a leader and colleague. This scholarship honors his legacy and reminds us all that life is precious.

This year’s winner will be selected and then honored at our next Past Presidents Dinner scheduled for February 21, 2018.

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WRECO – An ACEC Member Profile

WRECO performed hydrology and hydraulics for the Morton Road emergency repairs project in Placer County, which won a Project of the Year award in 2017 from the Sacramento Chapter of APWA.

WRECO has been involved in more than 1,000 transportation infrastructure and water resources projects in California. We have established long-term relationships with our clients in the private and public sectors, including transportation authorities, local municipalities, public works departments, flood control and water conservation districts, utility companies, parks districts, and permitting agencies.

WRECO staff takes compaction tests on aggregate base for the New York Ranch Road paving project in Amador County.

WRECO provides communities throughout California with innovative solutions in the fields of civil engineering, environmental compliance, geotechnical engineering, and water resources. We pride ourselves in finding cost-effective solutions that prioritize both our clients’ goals and environmental considerations. Our President, Dr. Han-Bin Liang, P.E., founded the company in 1995. Our headquarters is in Walnut Creek, and our branch offices are in Oakland, San Jose, Roseville, Elk Grove, and Los Angeles.

WRECO performed hydrologic and hydraulic analyses for the historic Maybert Road Bridge in Nevada County, which was constructed in 2017.

A small but diverse business (California Unified Certification Program Disadvantaged Business Enterprise No. 30066), WRECO is composed of exceptional professional civil engineers, hydraulic engineers, geotechnical engineers, hydrologists, biologists, geologists, environmental scientists, water quality specialists, Qualified Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) Developers and Practitioners, Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioners, CASQA-qualified National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Construction General Permit Trainers of Record, and CADD technicians. Additionally, we have an in-house materials testing lab.

Cultivation of relationships, sustainability, and innovation are some of our key values.

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