UConn CLEAR

Gregory Desautels: Reflection on my Extension Internship

Gregory Desautels interned with Dr. Mike Dietz of UConn Extension in the summer of 2019, working with Dr. Dietz on projects for UConn CLEAR. Gregory has continued working with Dr. Dietz on projects funded by Connecticut Sea Grant during the fall 2019 semester. In the article below, Gregory reflected on his summer internship.

Greg standing behind wooden tables during a summer project for his internship
Greg Desautels during his summer 2019 Extension internship. Photo: Mike Dietz

Through my summer as an Extension intern at the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), I learned skills and had experiences, which may shape my future.  I learned technical skills, working in GIS programs such as Arc Pro and AGOL, as well as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. I improved my organizational skills, learning how to manage multiple iterations and edits of data files so they could be referenced in the future.  I learned how to work independently and improved my problem solving while working on projects that were challenging, and sometimes over my head. Finally, I was able to practice communicating with coworkers and supervisors.

The technical skills that I developed this summer were one of the most valuable parts of this experience. Through projects such as the Shellfishing Atlas and Campus LID Map, I had to use many of the skills developed in my previous GIS classes. Furthermore, these projects required me to work outside the confines of my previous experiences and to learn new skills, often by reading tutorials and self-teaching. In programs such as Excel, which I had previously considered myself adept, I found that there was still a lot to learn, and hands on experience was the best way to do so. I consider these experiences valuable not only for the skills learned, but also in learning how to teach myself. In my career, I expect there will be times when I do not know how to solve a problem and I will need to use all the resources available to learn how to solve it.

Organizational skills, specifically in reference to managing files for GIS were one of the most practical skills that I developed. Through my own processes of trial and error, as well as through new iterations becoming available, I was often left with multiple seemingly identical files with small but vital differences. My previous nomenclature wasn’t sufficient to keep track of all these files, however several of my coworkers taught me how to build and manage file databases. This has allowed for a cleaner workflow and the ability to backtrack and reference previous steps, both important skills when working in GIS.

This internship was also a valuable experience in communication. In communicating with coworkers, supervisors

Greg using an electric screw driver to place legs on tables
Photo: Mike Dietz

and faculty members, I learned to adapt my communications to them. As someone who defaults to excessive formality, I often had to tone back and learn how to match someone else’s level. I found that the formal “Thank You, double space, sincerely, double space, signature” format lauded by schools is not always practical or necessary and that being overly formal can actually hinder clear communication.

In terms of my career goals, I don’t feel that this summer has wildly altered my trajectory, however I do feel that I have a better understanding of what to expect. Seeing the “behind the scenes” work related to securing grants and funding, as well as how this office fits into the larger body of UConn has been eye-opening. This internship was valuable in more ways that I can say, and I am confident that as I progress through my career, I will find many more instances where this experience has helped me.

Article by Gregory Desautels, CLEAR Intern Reflection

Land Use Academy Advanced Training

Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy
Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy.

The Land Use Academy is offering an Advanced Training session on October 26, 2019. Registration at 8:30. Training from 9:00 AM-3:30 PM at the Middlesex County Extension Office in Haddam, CT.  The  topics covered are listed below. Cost is $45 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and course materials. 

Follow the registration link at the bottom to register online or to obtain a registration form.  We hope to see you in October!
Advanced Training
In response to feedback from both professional planners and land use commissioners, we are offering an all-day advanced training covering three topics in-depth.

For more information visit the Academy website.
ADVANCED TRAINING TOPICS COVERED:
  
Bias, Predisposition and Conflicts
Atty Richard Roberts, Halloran and Sage
Implementing and Enforcing Land Use Decisions
Atty Kenneth Slater, Halloran and Sage
Running a Meeting and Making the Decision
Atty Mark Branse, Halloran and Sage
4.5 AICP CM Credits Pending
For More Information click on the Academy link to the left.
 Click the below to register

SLAMM (Sea Level Rise Model) Map Viewer & Webinar

sea level rise map viewerSea Level Affecting Marsh Migration (SLAMM) is a mathematical model developed by NOAA that uses digital elevation data and other information to simulate potential impacts of long-term sea level rise on wetlands and shorelines. CT DEEP recently completed a project to run the SLAMM model for the Connecticut coastline, to better understand how Connecticut’s 21 largest coastal marshes and coastal area roads may respond to sea level rise (SLR).
  
The model results have been turned into a new viewer on CT ECO, and there will be a webinar on October 16 to review the results (see below). 

 

Webinar
Sea Level Rise Affecting Road Flooding & Marsh Migration along the Connecticut Coast 
Wednesday, October 16, 2:00 to 3:00 pm
Get an overview of SLAMM and its results, and a live demo of how to use the Viewer on CT ECO.
Presenters
   –  David Kozak, CT DEEP
   –  Emily Wilson, UConn CLEAR 

New Training! Intro to ArcGIS Online & Storymaps

The CLEAR Geospatial Training Program (GTP) has just launched a brand new workshop! It is called Introduction to ArcGIS Online and Esri Story Maps and includes presentations, demos, hands-on exploration and hands-on exercises. The morning of the day-long workshop covers ArcGIS Online and the web map in particular. Topics include:

  • Introduction to GIS and ArcGIS Online
  • The ArcGIS Online Web Map
    • Getting started
    • Adding and working with data in the web map
    • Sharing and printing

The afternoon of the workshop is all about Story Maps. Topics include:

  • What is a Story Map
  • How Story Maps work
  • Building a Story Map Journal
  • Building a Story Map Tour

By the end of the day, students create a Story Map Journal called The Connecticut Valley Railroad: Then and Now. It is about the history of the railroad whose tracks and historic stations exist in the backyard of the Middlesex County Extension Center in Haddam where the workshop is held. The Story Map Tour, Stations of the Historic Connecticut Valley Railway, is a tour of a few of the historic stations along the railroad. Read more…

Telling Stories With Maps

story map image
Story map images show housing density
that bears live in from 6-50 houses/km2

Cary Chadwick, UConn CLEAR, used the research results on black bears in Connecticut to create a companion “story map,” an application created by GIS industry leader Esri that enables the seamless combination of online maps with other types of information such as images, videos, graphs and graphics. Story maps are designed to communicate complicated information, data, and analysis to the public in a user-friendly, interactive story-telling experience.

The Bears are Back story map includes information about the research project, including:

• Recolonization of historic black bear range in northwestern CT

• Sow (female) & cub sightings by town

• Reported incidents and conflict frequency maps

• Locations where conflict can be predicted based on incidents and landscape characteristics

• Research methods and location of field sites

• Wildlife camera trap photographs of corral visitors

• Bear counts and estimated “center of activity” per individual

• Extent of “exurban” areas in CT where ideal development patterns may lead to higher concentrations of bears

• Estimated distribution map of current estimated bear density across northwestern CT

• Links to more information about how individuals can become “bear smart” and co-exist peacefully with CT’s black bears

• Link to research published in Landscape and Urban Planning

• Additional information from UConn’s Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Center and CT DEEP.

Visit the Bears Story Map: https://s.uconn.edu/bears.

CT MS4 Guide

maps and other tools are available online for municipalities working with the MS4 guidelines
The CT MS4 Guide is all available online through UConn Extension’s NEMO program.

The CT MS4 Guide website (http://nemo.uconn.edu/ms4) was established to provide a repository for NEMO trainings, materials, tools, and templates that towns can use and modify to meet local needs. Every year, NEMO will also be providing webinars and workshops to help towns and institutions address the more complex portions of the permit.

In the first year of this program, NEMO educated towns on the new requirements through a series of webinar presentations reaching nearly 500 viewers, travelled to 20 town halls to help staff understand and plan for the new requirements, and held a statewide workshop on detecting and eliminating pollution from the stormwater system. NEMO’s Connecticut MS4 Guide (http://nemo.uconn.edu/ms4) is an online repository for guidance, templates, data, and other tools to help communities comply with new statewide stormwater regulations. NEMO also developed templates that towns could use to create a Stormwater Management Plan, an annual report with town progress for DEEP and citizens, and model local ordinance language to respond to requirements in the permit.

Article by Amanda Ryan, Dave Dickson and Chet Arnold

Supporting Communities Responding to New Stormwater Regulations

a group works with Amanda Ryan from UConn Extension on municipal stormwater regulations or MS4UConn Extension’s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program is a national leader in developing innovative approaches to help communities address water quality issues. NEMO has been working directly with Connecticut municipalities for 26 years, won multiple national awards, and inspired a national network of sister programs in 33 states. Over the past year, the program has undertaken an innovative new role, as NEMO has become an advisor, helper and cheerleader for the 121 municipalities in the state charged with meeting stringent new stormwater regulations.

In 2017 a new statewide regulation under the Clean Water Act went into effect that significantly changed the way municipalities and state and federal institutions must manage stormwater runoff. The long-awaited update to the State’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit is more targeted, specific and extensive than the previous permit, placing a great deal more responsibility on municipalities to reduce the amount of pollution entering waterways via local storm drain systems. Many municipalities were overwhelmed by the challenge of learning, planning, and budgeting for the new stormwater control measures, particularly in the midst of increasingly strained local funds.

In an effort to lessen that burden on towns, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) entered into a unique partnership with the NEMO program, part of the Center for Land Use Education and Research, or CLEAR – a university center based out of Extension and the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. DEEP is providing support to NEMO through a grant to create and implement a multifaceted assistance program for MS4 towns and institutions throughout the five-year term of the new regulation. The NEMO program hired a new Municipal Stormwater Educator, Amanda Ryan, as a “circuit rider” available to work with any towns or institutions to explain the new requirements and how they can go about complying with them.

This nationally unique approach of providing outreach in partnership with Extension to lessen the burden of complex new regulations appears to be paying off. Last year all of the 121 regulated municipalities submitted their permit registration within the first 6 months of the effective date of the regulation, that was much quicker than under the previous permit without NEMO support for communities. As DEEP staff put it, “When we originally issued the MS4 permit in 2004 it took over 2 years to get all the towns registered. We also issued over two dozen Notices of Violation in 2006 and three Consent Orders in 2008 for towns that either hadn’t completed the registration process (it was a two-step process back then) or hadn’t submitted any annual reports or both. Needless to say, this time around has shown much better success. Frankly, our success in getting such good compliance this time around has to do with you folks (NEMO).” This program has also saved DEEP staff time answering individual questions from towns and enabled the development and dissemination of guidance on some of the murkier permit requirements, two roles that NEMO has taken on in this first year.

From the towns’ perspective, the templates and tools NEMO developed saved them the time and expense of developing those on their own and/or hiring consultants to develop them. NEMO also developed a new MS4 map viewer (http://s.uconn.edu/ctms4map) that will help the towns prioritize where to focus their efforts to most effectively impact water quality. The map viewer identifies water bodies considered impaired by stormwater runoff and areas of high impervious cover. In addition, the towns now have an alternate source to consult for advice on complying with the permit, rather than ask those who are also responsible for judging their compliance with the MS4 permit.

As one town put it, “I would like to thank the Center for Land Use Education And Research (CLEAR) for the assistance it has provided to the Town of East Hartford and other communities in the State with the MS4 program. The information and assistance provided by CLEAR has enabled our Town to save precious resources while complying with the requirements of the MS4 Permit.” – Warren Disbrow, Assistant Town Engineer, East Hartford, CT

The effort is also showing ancillary benefits to the state. One of the data layers in the MS4 map viewer is a new statewide high resolution impervious cover data layer acquired by NEMO to help communities identify high impervious cover areas. A geospatial expert at Esri, the primary GIS software company, found the new layer and combined it with parcel and address data to create a new statewide building address layer. The state Office of Policy and Management (OPM) reports that the new layer saved the state more than $500,000 to acquire on their own.

While just over a year in to this 5-year partnership, the initial results suggest a potentially efficient and cost effective new model for states to launch and manage new environmental regulations. For a small investment, this approach makes it easier for MS4 communities to meet more stormwater requirements and results in a higher level of compliance – not to mention the additional environmental benefits of improving stormwater management practices across the state.

Article by Amanda Ryan, Dave Dickson, and Chet Arnold

Another Win for Rain Gardens

By Amanda Ryan

Originally published by the Center for Land Use Education and Research

aerial image of retention pond in residential neighborhood
Image of retention pond from Activerain.com

It’s well known that rain gardens are great for infiltrating stormwater but people may not realize that they also help destroy common stormwater pollutants. Several studies have found that rather than accumulating pollutants in their soils, rain gardens tend to biodegrade them instead. One study (LeFevre et al., 2011) investigated petroleum hydrocarbon levels in 58 rain gardens in Minneapolis, MN representing a wide range of sizes, vegetation types, and contributing area land uses. The researchers found that petroleum hydrocarbon levels were well below regulatory limits in all the rain gardens sampled. And a tip for future rain garden installers, rain gardens planted with more robust vegetation with deeper roots did a better job at breaking down pollutants than those planted with only turf grass.

A rain garden’s ability to biodegrade pollutants is in contrast to what happens in more conventional stormwater management structures like retention ponds. Retention ponds are often installed with larger developments to receive a large volume of stormwater from impervious areas (ex. houses and roads in a subdivision, roof and parking lot of a Home Depot). Other studies (Van Metre et al., 2009; Van Metre et al., 2000; Kamalakkannan et al., 2004), found that pollutants like PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), a type of petroleum hydrocarbon, accumulate in the sediments of stormwater retention ponds. This creates a very expensive maintenance issue for retention pond owners when the time comes to remove and dispose of built up contaminated sediments.

Side note – stormwater can pick up PAHs from dust on pavements treated with coal tar  sealants which are commonly used on parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds (but they have recently been banned from use on State and local highways in CT).

If by now you’re energized to install one or many rain gardens on your property, check out NEMO’s  rain garden site and Rain Garden App!

Connecticut Statewide Impervious Surface Map Layers

By Emily Wilson

Originally published by the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research

impervious surface map layer in ESRIWith funding from CT DEEP, CLEAR has acquired and made available on CT ECO a new statewide, high-resolution, impervious cover data layer. While acquired to support new stormwater regulations, the layer can be used for other purposes as well.

What is it?

Statewide, 1 foot resolution raster (pixel) data where each pixel is one of three classes (buildings, roads and other impervious).

Why do we have it?

The 2017 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit regulation requires certain towns and institutions to calculate directly connected impervious area. To assist communities in meeting this requirement, CT DEEP funded the acquisition of the a statewide impervious layer (based on 2012 imagery) that may be useful in calculating directly connected impervious area and tracking disconnects of impervious cover.

How was it created?

A company called Quantum Spatial did the work.  They used 2012 statewide aerial imagery which has 1 foot pixels and classified it which means identifying all pixels in the imagery that represent buildings, roads and other impervious.  The rest of the pixels were excluded as they were not impervious land cover. In some places, towns and/or regional governments contributed detailed GIS data that was incorporated into the layer.

How do you get it?

The CT ECO website has a whole section devoted to the Connecticut MS4 Supporting Layers which includes the impervious surface data.

View. Take a quick peak at the layer. Or view it in context in the CT MS4 Viewer (look for Statewide Impervious Cover (2012) down a ways on the Layer List).

Connect. GIS users can connect to the map services of impervious surface. Three flavors are available.

The original raster data is available as map services in two different projections. One is in Web Mercator Auxiliary Sphere (service called Impervious_2012) which is best for online mapping and web viewers.  The other is in Connecticut State Plane NAD83 Feet which is better for desktop GIS mapping when other layers are also in the Connecticut State Plane coordinate system (service called Impervious_2012_StatePlane).  The smoothed vector version (see formats section below) is also a map service in Connecticut State Plane NAD83 feet (service called Impervious2012_simplified_vector_StatePlane).

Download. GIS users can download the files.  Formats available described below.

What are the different formats?

The impervious surface data is available in several different flavors that all originated from the same base.

Raster.  The raster format is the original. Download by town (extended area*).

Vector Original. The vector format was created by taking the raster layer and converting it to polygons instead of pixels.  Polygons have area. Here, the polygon edges are still jagged because they originated from pixels. The outlines are shown as an example. Download by town in a geodatabase contain a clip of just the town boundary and one of the town extended area*.

Vector Smoothed. Through a fortunate turn of events, there is also a smoothed version of the vector. Here, the jagged vectors have been smoothed through geoprocessing methods. Download statewide layers for buildings, roads and other impervious.  Each is in a separate file.

* Extended area refers to a rectangular area larger than the town (detailed explanation here).

Stormwater Research from Extension

stormwater running into a street drain

Our UConn Extension educators working in land use, and the environment have recently published two articles:

Extension Educators Mike Dietz and Chet Arnold have an article, Can Green Infrastructure Provide Both Water Quality and Flood Reduction Benefits?, in the May issue of the Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment. You can read the article online at: http://s.uconn.edu/476

The UConn CLEAR NEMO team recently wrote an article on our State of LID in Connecticut study that was published in the Watershed Science Bulletin. The study looked at what is being required for stormwater management practices by Connecticut municipal land use plans and regulations. Much of the leg work for the study was carried out by our Extension intern a few years ago. The article can be read online at: http://s.uconn.edu/477.