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On March 28, 2019, four of QK’s environmental scientists attended the 2019 Natural Communities Conference (2019 NCC) sponsored by California State University, Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley chapter of The Wildlife Society. The annual one-day event “was an opportunity for biologists conducting research, management, regulation, and conservation activities for natural communities and biota in the San Joaquin Valley Chapter area to exchange information, ideas, results, and progress of their work.”https://wildlife.org/san-joaquin/conferences/

Conference attendees included biologists from the Endangered Species Recovery Program, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Caltrans, various utility and oil and gas companies, local universities, environmental professionals from the private consulting industry, and environmental advocates from throughout the Central Valley.

This year, QK was excited to be selected to deliver four presentations at the conference, snippets of which you can find below. Each presentation was based on ongoing QK work and all presentations were highly recognized and well received by our peers.

“Review of Potential Regulatory Changes and Implications for Permitting and Compliance” – Presented by Carie Wingert, Senior Environmental Scientist.

In our continuously evolving framework of environmental laws and regulations, tracking and understanding changes to these laws and regulations is of vital importance to supporting our client’s needs. Ms. Wingert highlighted proposed and enacted changes to federal and State regulations at the 2019 NCC. Ms. Wingert discussed the current White House administration’s proposed changes to the definition of “Waters of the United States,” and how that affects treatment of tributaries and wetlands. She summarized several House bills aimed at reducing the regulatory power of the federal Endangered Species Act, briefly reviewed the new State definition of wetlands proposed for adoption by the California State Water Resources Control Board, and discussed many other proposed and enacted regulation changes that affect biological resource consulting in the United States and the State of California. Ms. Wingert briefly touched on the legality of the Xerces Society’s 2018 petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to list four species of bumble bee, and also noted recently listed species in California including: Fisher (Pekania pennant) Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis), Lassics lupine (Lupinus constancei), and Coast yellow leptosiphon (Leptosiphon croceus). Ms. Wingert discussed how these changes might affect project permitting, mitigation, and compensatory mitigation requirements within the industry.

“UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in Field Biology – Presented by Dylan Ayers, Associate Environmental Scientist

Drones are an emerging technology in the environmental consulting industry and their use in supporting our client’s needs continues to evolve. Mr. Ayers is a Part 107 Certified UAV Pilot which he has used to support wetland delineation and mitigation monitoring projects in Florida and California. Mr. Ayers has advanced this technology at QK and during his presentation discussed hardware and software options, photography and video capabilities, orthomosaic accuracy, 3D Point Cloud as a product of the photogrammetry process, and the ability to easily produce photographic longitudinal site documentation. Mr. Ayers specifically discussed the benefits of using high-resolution, georeferenced imagery collected by drones for use in habitat assessments and tracking the progress of restoration and enhancement activities.

“Caltrans State Route 58 Road Rehabilitation and San Joaquin Kit Fox – Presented by Eric Madueno, Associate Environmental Scientist

Environmental compliance is at the heart of QK’s Environmental Services portfolio and is crucial to the successful construction of projects that benefit the public. Mr. Madueno spent his time at the podium discussing an ongoing construction project for which QK currently is supporting Caltrans. This project, located on a 4.3-mile section of State Route 58 in eastern Bakersfield, involves removal and replacement of concrete slabs on the eastbound and westbound number two and three lanes, repaving the existing outside shoulders, and widening the inside shoulders. QK is performing pre-construction surveys prior to ground disturbing activities, with special attention paid to the federally endangered and State threatened San Joaquin Kit Fox. Many San Joaquin Kit fox dens were discovered during the pre-construction surveys, including two natal dens. Environmental Sensitive Areas (ESAs) were established to protect the dens and monitoring was conducted during construction operations document the effectiveness of the protection measures and to determine kit fox behavior relative to construction activities. Mr. Madueno discussed the effectiveness of the measures, changes in kit fox behavior caused by construction activities, and noted the success of two families of kit foxes that coped with ongoing activities.

“Bridge Replacement Biology” – Presented by Theresa Brickley, Associate Environmental Scientist

Bridge construction projects are among the most complex types of projects in terms of environmental compliance. Having provided biological surveys, permitting, and monitoring services on more than 40 bridge projects throughout California, QK’s resume of experience is uniquely extensive. Ms. Brickley, an accomplished bat specialist, presented on how QK has assisted clients with biological compliance for these bridge projects. She touched on a variety of common compliance and safety challenges that arise when working near bridges, including rigorous regulatory requirements, bird nest and bat survey timing and methods to achieve maximum effectiveness, the importance of concise but accurate Worker Environmental Awareness Training (WEAT), seasonal changes in water levels under these bridges creating unsafe working conditions, and even the challenges of obtaining a contractor’s schedule for planning compliance surveys and site examination. Ms. Brickley specifically touched on the requirements for examination and repair of exclusion netting, searching for and monitoring bird nests, prompt removal of new nest starts, and monitoring for permit compliance.

“The Natural Communities Conference was insightful,” said Madueno. “It was a great place to network, socialize with our peers, and shed some light on the great work QK conducts on a daily basis.”

For copies of QK’s full presentations, please contact Carie Wingert, Senior Environmental Scientist at (559) 449-2400, or email Carie.Wingert@qkinc.com.