WI Council Awards Consulting Engineering Excellence

Staff | September 28, 2010

The Engineering Excellence Awards presented by the Wisconsin chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACECWI) highlight the best of the best in the professional consulting engineering industry. Ever since the program began in 1970, the Best of State winners have shown creativity, timeliness, cost effectiveness, and engineering ideas brimming with fresh thinking.

A panel of nine judges selected six projects to receive Best of State awards, based on the total points each project earned from various judging criteria.

One of the six Best of State winners will receive the Grand Award for Wisconsin, and all six of the Best of State winners can compete in the ACEC's national Engineering Excellence competition.

Here are Wisconsin's six Best of State projects:

Greater Bayfield Wastewater Treatment Plant

Strand Associates, Inc., Madison

Client: Greater Bayfield Wastewater Treatment Plant Commission

Category: Water and Wastewater

This project surpassed regulatory requirements while being efficient and environmentally sensitive.

Stewardship of Lake Superior was a high priority for the city of Bayfield and Pikes Bay Sanitary District, which enjoy its recreational and tourism benefits. Although the existing 1970s-era wastewater treatment plants met discharge limits, there was concern about whether they would meet long-term demands.

Strand determined that one regional treatment plant would achieve a higher standard of treatment in an environmentally friendly way. The new plant applies oxidation ditch activated sludge technology with biological removal of nitrogen and phosphorus, minimizing the use of chemicals. After clarification, cloth disk filters polish the effluent to well beyond typical DNR standards. High-efficiency ultraviolet disinfection occurs before discharge to Lake Superior. Biosolids are managed with reed beds that provide natural dewatering through transpiration, an energy-efficient technology that requires sludge removal only about every seven years. Online since January 2006, the new treatment plant has consistently achieved its goals.

Little Lake Butte des Morts Trail

Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer & Associates, Inc, Green Bay

Clients: city of Menasha and town of Menasha

Category: Transportation

This successful recreational trail project serves as a physical and symbolic link between two growing communities situated on opposites of the lake.

The firm turned potential hurdles into assets, giving the trail a historic theme, low-maintenance construction materials and unique design elements that enhance the user experience. An alternative for bypassing the "active rail" causeway led to a boardwalk that crosses a shallow bay and wetland area. Finding a visually pleasing way to combine the trail's linear nature with the required 52-inch safety railing posed a significant challenge. The solution was a cable railing that proved cost effective while maintaining visual openness on the trail. The 1,600-foot-long trail is the longest pedestrian trail crossing a body of water in Wisconsin. It incorporates four unique elements. From east to west, trail users encounter a European-style lift bridge crossing the navigation lock. The trail then transitions onto a traditional asphalt path followed by an elevated boardwalk. The boardwalk follows the shoreline, overlooking a wetland habitat supporting various types of wildlife, including geese, pelicans and ducks. Finally, the trail continues onto the trestle for a 360-degree view of the lake and surrounding shore areas ending with an asphalt path on the west shore.

Marquette Interchange — North Leg

Milwaukee Transportation Partners, Milwaukee

Client: Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Category: Transportation

Milwaukee Transportation Partners, a joint venture of CH2M Hill, Inc. and HNTB Corp., won by delivering the mega project with minimal impact to the community and within an aggressive two-year schedule.

The North Leg of I-43 handles 140,000 vehicles a day though an existing canyon section, traveling below several main east-west arterials and a system interchange with Fond du Lac Avenue through downtown Milwaukee. Minimizing right-of-way impact while expanding the freeway, correcting unsafe freeway access and converting an interchange to a tight diamond required development of unique grade-separated braided ramps and 2.5 miles of retaining walls. Variable groundwater levels and the inability to excavate behind the ultimate wall location required use of innovative secant pile walls as the predominant wall type on the North Leg.

One key was advanced construction of temporary roadways and utility relocations. Early relocations, temporary re-routes, and incorporating sewer and water relocations on behalf of the city helped keep the project on schedule. Weekly utility coordination meetings helped develop a spirit of cooperation between the utilities, highway officials, designers, and contractors. These efforts permitted averaging over $1 million per week in construction activity in order to complete this project on schedule.

Olde Stone Quarry Harbor of Refuge

STS Consultants, Ltd, Green Bay

Client: Door County Parks Department

Category: Water Resources

This $4.1-million harbor of refuge and protected boat access won by developing an old quarry to meet Door County's need for a harbor of refuge and boat launch facility. With excellent fishing in the waters near the former quarry site, a boat launch and adequate car/trailer parking made this a desirable site for fishermen. Safety was a major concern for boaters along this 18-mile stretch of open water between Sturgeon Bay and Egg Harbor. In addition, the existing boat ramp at the site left boaters unable to use the dock when waves covered the ramp.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would only allow a minimal footprint on the existing lake bottom, so most of the harbor had to be built within the old quarry. Besides the non-uniform bedrock conditions, STS encountered old boat slips from quarry operations, old shipwrecks, winter weather, severe waves, ice, and the need to keep open a county road that ran through the site. Using numerical modeling and value engineering, STS saved an estimated $500,000 in initial harbor construction costs and reduced long-term maintenance expenses. The project was completed in less than one year and the community received a safe harbor, protected boat access, restrooms, gazebo, and other park amenities. Boat launches in 2007 are expected to increase 250 percent from 2003.

Shorewood Downspout Disconnection Project

Bonestroo, Rosene, Anderlik & Associates, Inc, Mequon

Client: village of Shorewood

Category: Studies, Research, and Consulting Engineering Services

This project was recognized for its unconventional and effective method of reducing the amount of stormwater that enters the sewer system, while beautifying homes and public space.

Bonestroo was originally selected to help Shorewood with capacity improvement of the combined sewer network. However, it was clear early on that the solution the village was seeking needed to be more than pipe replacement. Recognizing that a more holistic solution was needed, the firm performed hydrologic and hydraulic modeling to create a model of the combined sewer system, and also performed door-to-door assessment for downspout disconnection and rain garden installation.

The Shorewood Wet Weather Management Program educates residents about the serious effects of having downspouts connected to the sewer system and disconnects them for interested homeowners. Homeowners were then given the option to add rain barrels and/or have rain gardens installed. Once a downspout is disconnected, water can be left to run onto a lawn before being absorbed by the ground, or it can be directed into rain barrels or a rain garden.

Installing rain gardens can help prevent sewer overflows, reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering waterways and beautify a neighborhood. With rain gardens, downspout runoff is channeled directly into a depression in the lawn that is filled with topsoil and specially selected native wildflowers and grasses. The flowers can absorb up 30-percent more stormwater than a lawn, and the native species attract birds and butterflies.

Southpoint Commerce Park Regional Stormwater Facility

Earth Tech, Inc., Milwaukee

Client: city of Appleton

Category: Water Resources

This project exhibited creative engineering solutions in the planning, design and construction of the stormwater facility. It demonstrates green, sustainable components can be effectively incorporated into regional stormwater management facilities. One judge gave it high marks for having a management plan that continues to measure and monitor the biological diversity at the site.

The Southpoint Commerce Park Regional Stormwater Facility reduces post-development stormwater flows from its 402-acre watershed to pre-establishment levels and reduces total suspended solids leaving the city from this drainage area by 80 percent. From a regulatory perspective, the facility is a series of ponds that meets both stormwater quantity and quality goals. The wet and dry stormwater detention ponds store and treat stormwater from new development in the southeastern section of Appleton.

Green elements included emulating a natural stream in the low-flow channel in the dry pond: concave meanders have floodplain terraces; undulating floodplains mimic natural floodplains; native prairie and mesic prairie vegetation; and pool structures and riffles typical of natural streams.

The ponds were planted with self-sustaining native vegetation that needs no mowing, is drought resistant, and has deep roots to enhance infiltration in the upland and upslope areas.