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Category: Publications: Environmental Laboratory (EL)
  • Advances in Dredged Material Evaluations for Inland and Ocean Aquatic Placement: Modernized Processes and Supportive Tools

    Abstract: As part of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ mission to evaluate and move dredged material (DM) to maintain navigation channels, environmental evaluation of the prospective material is required by the Code of Federal Regulations. While existing guidance manuals provide useful guidance to DM regulators, they are over 30 years old and not reflective of the latest science. However, efforts to update procedures and publish the documents individually or as a combined dredging manual have been thus far unsuccessful. These issues, coupled with a lack of consistent reporting and decision documentation, lead to delays arising from challenges addressing project-specific issues not clearly covered within the existing guidance, revisiting previously resolved issues or negotiating disputes between permitting authorities. This technical report provides a path toward modernization of the environmental compliance aspects of DM evaluation guidance in part through software executables guiding the management and decision process and through a structured, evidence-based approach. The value added is an updated approach to DM testing and evaluation decisions.
  • Stormwater Management Practices, Monitoring, and Maintenance Plan for US Army Garrison at West Point, NY

    Abstract: Structural stormwater management practices (SMPs) are designed and installed with the goal of reducing runoff and improving water quality through a variety of built (e.g., underground chamber and filter systems), nature-based and natural features (e.g., rain gardens, swales). In compliance with Section 402 of the US Clean Water Act (CWA), US Army Garrisons at West Point MS4 operators are required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit or a New York State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES). These permits require development of stormwater management plans to reduce pollutants to meet the appropriate water quality standards. Over 62 structural SMPs have been installed at the US Army Garrison (USAG) to meet permit requirements. Monitoring and maintenance are essential to maintain and understand the effectiveness of these structures, track their maintenance needs, and improve their function. This document provides guidance for conducting stormwater management practice, inspection, and maintenance at the United States Army Garrison at West Point. The objectives are to inform installation managers on general SMP functions and designs, highlight key maintenance triggers affecting SMP functionality, and provide guidance on when and how to conduct inspections and maintenance actions specific to USAG SMPs and in accordance to NYS DEC.
  • Technical Guide for the Development, Evaluation, and Modification of Wetland Rapid Assessment Methods for the Corps Regulatory Program

    Abstract: The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Regulatory Program considers the loss (decrease) and gain (improvement) of wetland functions as part of Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting and compensatory mitigation decisions. To better inform this regulatory decision-making, the Regulatory program needs accurate, transparent, objective, and defensible approaches to assess the function and condition of wetlands. Additionally, wetland assessments must balance the need for objective decision-making with the concurrent need to make Regulatory program decisions in a timely manner. Consequently, it is often necessary to assess wetlands using rapidly attainable proxy measures of ecological function or condition by evaluating a suite of metrics that represent structural and compositional attributes of a wetland. In response, this document describes a set of guidelines to effectively develop, evaluate, and modify wetland assessment methods, specifically for the Corps Regulatory Program.
  • Eelgrass Functions, Services, and Considerations for Compensatory Mitigation

    Abstract: Coastal-marine eelgrass habitat is a critical resource within New England and throughout the world. Eelgrass habitat provides functions and services including providing structure, biogeochemical cycling, erosion reduction, habitation provision, and water quality improvement. Declines in eelgrass distribution are often due to anthropogenic processes impacting temperature and water quality. Declines in distribution and abundance highlight the importance of protecting the existing eelgrass, improving environmental conditions allowing for ecosystem restoration, and identifying viable in-kind and out-of-kind compensatory mitigation measures. Considering the limited availability of New England sites for in-kind compensatory mitigation, additional approaches for out-of-kind compensatory mitigation should be considered. These include (1) creation of alternative plant or kelp habitat, (2) using a multi-pronged, multi-habitat and structure approach, (3) contributing to the development of water quality improvement initiatives to encourage current eelgrass bed expansion over time, (4) reduce physical impacts to eelgrass habitat, (5) and identifying locations for future eelgrass habitat suitability based on climate predictions and investing to create future compensatory mitigation habitat in these locations.
  • Exploration of Two Polymer Nanocomposite Structure-Property Relationships Facilitated by Molecular Dynamics Simulation and Multiscale Modeling

    Abstract: Polyamide 6 (PA6) is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic used in many engineering applications due to good strength, stiffness, mechanical damping, wear/abrasion resistance, and excellent performance-to-cost ratio. In this report, two structure-property relationships were explored. First, carbon nanotubes (CNT) and graphene (G) were used as reinforcement molecules in simulated and experimentally prepared PA6 matrices to improve the overall mechanical properties. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with INTERFACE and reactive INTERFACE force fields (IFF and IFF-R) were used to predict bulk and Young's moduli of amorphous PA6-CNT/G nanocomposites as a function of CNT/G loading. The predicted values of Young's modulus agree moderately well with the experimental values. Second, the effect of crystallinity and crystal form (α/γ) on mechanical properties of semi-crystalline PA6 was investigated via a multiscale simulation approach. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Glenn Research Center's micromechanics software was used to facilitate the multiscale modeling. The inputs to the multiscale model were the elastic moduli of amorphous PA6 as predicted via MD and calculated stiffness matrices from the literature of the PA6 α and γ crystal forms. The predicted Young's and shear moduli compared well with experiment.
  • An Ontology for an Epigenetics Approach to Prognostics and Health Management

    Abstract: Techniques in prognostics and health management have advanced considerably in the last few decades, enabled by breakthroughs in computational methods and supporting technologies. These predictive models, whether data-driven or physics-based, target the modeling of a system’s aggregate performance. As such, they generalize assumptions about the modelled system’s components, and are thus limited in their ability to represent individual components and the dynamic environmental factors that affect composite system health. To address this deficiency, we have developed an epigenetics-inspired knowledge representation for engineered system state that encompasses components and environmental factors. Epigenetics is concerned with explaining how environmental factors affect the expression of an organism’s genetic material. The field has derived important insights into the development and progression of disease states based on how environmental factors impact genetic material, causing variations in how a gene is expressed. The health of an engineered system is similarly influenced by its environment. A foundation for a new approach to prognostics based on epigenetics must begin by representing the entities and relationships of an engineered system from the perspective of epigenetics. This paper presents an ontology for an epigenetics-inspired representation of an engineered system. An ontology describing the epigenetics of an engineered system will enable the composition of a formal model and the incremental development of a more robust, causal reasoning system.
  • Safe and Rapid Development of Advanced Materials: A Research Case Study for Safe Development of Nanoenabled Environmental Sensors

    Abstract: The enhanced understanding of nanomaterials properties and processing has led to increased use of nanotechnologies, which has also led to greater scrutiny on the commercialization and acquisition of emerging nanoenabled technologies. Caused by knowledge gaps on the unique behaviors, risks, and liabilities of novel engineered nanomaterials, this caution, when not evidence based, slows production and stifles innovation. Reducing the uncertainty surrounding the environmental risks and benefits of nanoenabled technologies, including their resilience in harsh environments, will speed the development and transition of advanced material technologies. In this work, a multifaceted research program generated data and processes to reduce that environmental uncertainty. Specifically, this case study examined printed, nanoenabled environmental sensors and their components to develop toxicological data and parameterize a life-cycle assessment. The study tested the sensors’ resilience in environmental weathering studies that considered both the potential release of the ingredient nanomaterials and the performance of the sensors after exposure to several harsh environmental climates and then created life-cycle inventories to determine environmental impact and reduce cost of research and development. Finally, this case study developed software tools to mitigate the cost of research and provide a framework for presenting toxicology data.
  • Estimating Present Value Cost of Invasive Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) on USACE Project Lands

    PURPOSE: The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for stewardship of approximately 12.5 million acres across the United States. USACE’s Environmental Stewardship program mission is to protect, preserve, and restore significant ecological resources on USACE project lands. Since the early 2000s, non-native and invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in the US, becoming the most destructive and costly invasive forest insect in North America. This research effort estimates the cost of managing EAB damage to USACE projects including treatment, removal, or removal and replacement of dying/dead ash trees. The results suggest potential impact to more than 122,800 USACE project acres in currently infested counties including 181,000 ash trees. While not all damaged trees require removal, many USACE recreation sites have ash trees that pose an increased risk to humans and structures thus requiring removal of EAB infected trees. The widespread and pervasive impacts of EAB will have significant costs associated with removal and replacement of ash trees that could be hazardous to recreational users at the projects. Data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) database, and methods developed by Kovacs et al. (2010) were utilized to calculate yearly present value costs of EAB to USACE projects from 2006-2026. Overall EAB impacts are estimated at $121.6 million across 201 USACE projects evaluated in this study. Increased efforts to limit EAB spread and perform measures of control are warranted to reduce potential cost to USACE.
  • Remote Sensing Tools to Support Ordinary High Water Mark Delineation

    Abstract: This document is a technical note (TN) that describes existing and recently developed tools to support ordinary high water mark (OHWM) identification and delineation. It also presents a case study to demonstrate how utilizing the tools provide supporting lines of evidence in OHWM delineations.
  • Swan Island Resilience Model Development; Phase I: Conceptual Model

    Abstract: This report documents the development of an integrated hydrodynamic and ecological model to test assumptions about island resilience. Swan Island, a 25-acre island in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, was used as a case study. An interagency, interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers came together in a series of workshops to develop a simplified resilience model to examine the ability of islands to reduce waves and erosion and the impacts to nearby habitats and shorelines. This report describes the model development process and the results from this first key step: model conceptualization. The final conceptual model identifies four main components: vegetative biomass, island elevation, waves/currents, and sediment supply. These components interact to form and support specific habitat types occurring on the island: coastal dunes, high marsh, low marsh, and submerged aquatic vegetation. The pre-and post-construction field data, coupled with hydrodynamic ecological models, will provide predictive capabilities of island resilience and evaluations of accrued benefits for future island creation and restoration projects. The process and methods described can be applied to island projects in a variety of regions and geographic scales.