10 Questions with PS&S’ Bill Salmon

With the NJAFM conference now only about a month off, we caught up with some of our members about what they’re looking forward to this year and what kind of floodplain management issues are on their mind. Bill Salmon, PE, CFM, Vice President, Site / Civil, for Warren, N.J.-based PS&S, one of this year’s conference sponsors, had this to say:

 

HOW MANY NJAFM CONFERENCES HAVE YOU BEEN TO AND WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART?

I’ve attended approximately a half-dozen NJAFM conferences. I always find the conference very informative with a great deal of collaboration with both peers in the industry and regulatory agencies.  The New Jersey Chapter also seems to find great speakers that are captivating and floodplain management relevant.

PS&S WAS WIDELY RECOGNIZED IN THE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING COMMUNITY FOR ITS WORK ON DAYLIGHTING THE SAW MILL RIVER. WHAT DO YOU FEEL MADE THAT PROJECT PARTICULARLY SUCCESSFUL?

The Saw Mill River Daylighting project converted a very industrialized and urbanized watercourse to a significant public amenity while incorporating sustainable design concepts, improving water quality and marine habitat all while maintaining acceptable floodplain characteristics. The project has been recognized by many regulatory agencies and associations, including being named project of the year by the New York Society of Professional Engineers.

DOES PS&S HAVE ANY DAYLIGHTING OR FLOODPLAIN REMEDIATION PROJECTS GOING ON RIGHT NOW? IF SO, WHERE?

PS&S has a Daylighting project under construction in Watchung, New Jersey that’s associated with a proposed residential development. We’re also in the conceptual design phase on two additional sections of the Saw Mill River Daylighting project in Yonkers, New York. With land availability at a premium, PS&S is consistently working on development projects that include a floodplain management component.

WHEN PS&S IS CALLED IN ON A FLOODPLAIN PROJECT, WHAT DO YOU FIND AS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECTS?

One of the most challenging aspects of a floodplain project is to design a creative solution that is aesthetically pleasing, cost effective and hydraulically sound in theory and practice all at the same time. That’s what makes the Saw Mill Daylight Project such a great project, it achieved those elements, included being hydraulically tested with the recent rainfall events.

WHEN YOU CONSIDER CONSTRUCTION AND THE USE OF PERMEABLE MATERIALS, ARE YOU SEEING WIDER ADOPTION?  ARE THERE NEW SOLUTIONS OR COMBINATIONS OF SOLUTIONS THAT YOU FEEL HAVE SIGNIFICANT POTENTIAL?

That’s a great question. There’s definitely an increased use of permeable material in all aspects of land development design. New Jersey recently passed Stormwater Management legislation requiring additional water quality and infiltration provisions in site design.  I think we’ll be seeing an increase in the use of pervious pavement in parking areas and permeable paving stones in driveway applications.

DO YOU FEEL THAT THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON FLOODING PARTICULARLY IN THE NORTHEAST IS ACCURATE OR OVERBLOWN?

I’m on the side that believes that the impact of climate change is real and accurate. It’s fairly well documented that we’ve had statistical rainfall changes and increase in extreme flooding events well over the last 30 years or so. We are also seeing other drivers associated with climate change such as increases in surface temperature and seal level rise. PS&S was recently retained to evaluate flooding conditions caused by Hurricane Ida adjacent to the Raritan River in New Brunswick. This particular area of the Raritan River is interesting because the upper fluvial section of the river is greatly influenced by the lower tidal reaches. The higher tide elevation negatively impacted and created the higher fluvial elevation, increasing the width and depth of the floodplain.

HURRICANE IDA RECENTLY DROPPED A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF RAIN IN THE NORTHEAST.  WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE FLOODING THAT OCCURRED, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WERE THE MOST BASIC THINGS THAT COULD BE FIXED?  WHAT ARE SOME OF THE EASIER, FRONTLINE STEPS WE SHOULD ALL BE TAKING? AS PROFESSIONALS? AS HOMEOWNERS OURSELVES?

When I look at the flooding that has occurred over time and even more recently, I think that the one basic thing still seems to be that the general public needs to take advanced Emergency Management warnings more seriously and get themselves out of harm’s way. We generally understand that a typical rainfall of 0-1 inches is a nuisance in certain locations, so when we hear that a potential rainfall of 8 inches is in our path, we need to understand that it could be catastrophic.  I don’t believe the solution is easy — a multi-pronged approach of education, increased regulation, and climate resilient infrastructure design is necessary.

THE DUTCH RECENTLY CREATED A 1,300-ACRE FLOODPLAIN ALONG THE MAAS RIVER IN THE NETHERLANDS.  COULD YOU SEE UNDERTAKING PROJECTS OF THAT SCALE IN THE U.S.?

Yes, I think we’ll see an increase of land acquisition in some parts of the United States where land is more readily available. Reverting high density areas like the Northeast into large floodplain expanses will be a little more challenging. However, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection does have a voluntary floodplain management program in place called Blue Acres. The Blue Acres program was a bond act that allocated monies for the acquisition of lands in the floodplain of major rivers and associated tributaries should a property owner wish to sell their flood prone property. A big hurdle associated with the program is land valuation. As you can imagine, land valuation is always a very big concern for property owners in New Jersey. Many property owners can’t afford to leave their flood prone homes due to the low market value, it’s a real catch 22.

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THE NEW JERSEY FLOOD HAZARD AREA CONTROL ACT WAS ADOPTED IN 2007 AND WAS AMENDED IN 2016.  DO YOU FORESEE ANY NEAR-TERM AMENDMENTS COMING? WHAT’S BEING TALKED ABOUT?

Yes, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is discussing potential amendments to the Land Resource Protection Rules to help protect against climate threats. The proposed amendments address a few major areas concerning Sea Level Rise, the establishment of an Inundation Risk Zone, a redefining of Tidal Flood Hazard Areas and a redefining of Fluvial flood hazard areas are the major areas of discussion. I’m sure we’ll hear an update from the State regulatory personnel at the conference this year, including themes such as enhanced stormwater design and permitting to encourage renewable energy and green infrastructure.

WHAT YEAR DID YOU BECOME A CERTIFIED FLOODPLAIN MANAGER (CFM)? WHEN YOU LOOK AT ALL THE ASPECTS OF FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT, WHICH PARTS AND PROJECTS DO YOU PERSONALLY FIND THE MOST INTERESTING?

I became a Certified Floodplain Manager about three or four years ago. The most rewarding aspect of floodplain management is designing a project based upon sound engineering principals as well as state-of-the-art design techniques, having it tested by real-life occurrences and having the project stand up to the challenge. I had the opportunity to work on a particular land development / floodplain project along the Middle Brook in Bound Brook that was associated with the U.S Army Corp Green Brook Flood Control project. The project was designed, permitted, and constructed in coordination with the Army Corps, NJDEP and Somerset County. The U.S. Army Corp levee system and the interior flood control measures performed as anticipated on multiple occasions, protecting the western portion of Bound Brook and our particular project.