The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently announced its final rule to elevate the status of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) to a threatened species under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Due to a declining population, this species has been a candidate for listing since 1999. The final rule, which offers protection in the states where the eastern massasauga occurs, takes effect Oct. 31, 2016.

Identifying the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is among the smallest of the North American pit vipers. The average length of an adult is approximately 2 feet. It’s characterized by its gray or light brown skin with large brown spots on the back and smaller spots along the sides.

It typically lives in low-lying, wetland areas, but it may also appear in river floodplains, riparian corridors and adjacent upland areas in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions of North America, specifically Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake preys upon frogs, lizards, other snakes and small rodents. In spring and fall, it’s active during the day when its prey is most active. In the heat of the summer, the eastern massasauga becomes nocturnal. During the cold winter months, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes hibernate in abandoned rodent burrows, and in crevices and caves of rock outcroppings on hillsides.

The Need for Protection

Draining wetlands and converting native grasslands to farmland has reduced and fragmented the available habitat for this species and, as a result, populations of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake have declined significantly. According to the USFWS, nearly 40 percent of known populations are now extirpated and the status of an additional 15 percent are uncertain. The known populations of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake are typically small, isolated and occur on public land, privately owned natural areas, and remnant prairies, bogs and wetlands that haven’t been developed. The USFWS hasn’t designated critical habitat for this species.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Range MapHow the Rule Affects Linear Facilities Projects

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake could pose an issue for development and permits of linear facilities projects — like pipelines, electrical transmission lines, railroads and roadways — that cross wetlands, river floodplains and riparian corridors in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. The conversion of woodlands, wetlands and native grasslands along linear facility corridors may fragment and/or eliminate potential habitat of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake and its prey.

So what does this mean for your project? Habitat assessments and surveys may be required to determine if a project could adversely affect potential eastern massasauga rattlesnake habitat. The USFWS survey protocol for the eastern massasauga rattlesnake recommends a minimum accumulation of 40 person-hours distributed over a standard field season (April-October) before any evaluations are made regarding the presence/absence of eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Per the USFWS, the majority of the survey hours should be expended in two-time windows reflecting the presumed maximum activity levels of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake: 1) spring emergence, 2) mid- to late-summer basking and birthing period. The timing of surveys can be crucial in project planning to avoid potential project schedule delays.

We have a team of biologists that can assess a project’s potential for protected species issues and offer a variety of avoidance, minimization, survey and mitigation options. Want to learn more? Comment below or send me an email, and I’d be happy to help.

Brian Roh is a threatened and endangered species specialist, wetland scientist, and aquatic ecologist at Burns & McDonnell. He has a wide range of experience with wildlife species identification and habitat assessments. Connect with Brian on LinkedIn.


Looking Ahead to DBIA 2016

by Bill Quatman on October 26, 2016

Looking Ahead to DBIA 2016I’ve long been an advocate of design-build as a project delivery method. Who can argue with its many documented benefits, like single-point responsibility, time and cost savings, fewer disputes and top-notch design, to name a few? As it gains momentum in the AEC industry, owners who aren’t considering it as a project delivery method could be missing out.

Next week I’m headed to Las Vegas with other like-minded professionals for the 2016 DBIA Conference & Expo. The conference offers a platform for the industry to share best practices, lessons learned, and the challenges and emerging trends associated with design-build project delivery.

Here’s a sneak peek of the topics you can expect to learn more about:

Achieving Innovative Design through Design-Build

It’s a common misconception that design-build produces lackluster designs, and is better suited for industrial or simple projects — not for complex architectural projects. But that’s simply not the case. There have been phenomenal designs achieved through design-build — from courthouses to stadiums, museums, aquariums, schools, bridges and office buildings — all of which can stand up to any AIA design award winners in terms of design excellence. Need further proof? Check out DBIA’s annual award winners to see examples of innovative design resulting from design-build.

Using Design-Build to Alleviate Infrastructure Challenges

There’s no doubt that design-build can alleviate the challenges associated with the massive backlog of public infrastructure needs. There are many examples of emergency projects that were re-built or completed in record time using design-build. When time is of the essence, design-build is absolutely the way to go. Now that most states have the legal authority to use design-build for public works, more officials are turning to this method of procurement to get projects out of the backlog and into production.

And thanks to private financing options like design-build-finance-maintain (DBFM) and public-private partnerships (P3), the public sector can more easily reap the benefits of design-build project delivery.

The Growth of Design-Build

We’re already seeing design-build in 40 percent of the market — a huge growth in the last 30 years — and that percentage will only continue to inch upwards in coming years. With the passage of more design-build legislation, including new P3 laws, we will continue to see this method grow in the public sector, both at the federal and local levels. For private owners and developers that aren’t already utilizing design-build, I anticipate that more will come on board as they witness the benefits in time, cost, quality and teamwork that collaborative and integrated methods of project delivery bring to the table.

In the private sector, EPC markets are already established and will continue to use design-build. It’s hard to say where it will peak, but the future is bright for those designers and contractors who are playing in the design-build market.

Design-build is a topic I’m passionate about and one I never tire of discussing. If you’re headed to DBIA 2016, I hope you’ll join me and other industry leaders for the “State of the Union” panel discussion on Friday, Nov. 4 at 8:00 a.m. to learn more about the current state of design-build and what’s in store for the future.

There are a lot of other great presentations on deck as well, including from my fellow Burns & McDonnell colleagues:

  • Holly Streeter-Schaefer will co-present “Standard Form of Contract for Progressive Design-Build” on Friday, Nov. 4 at 9:45 a.m.
  • Anthony Beeson and Jason Schaefer will co-present “Managing Design for Left Hand Water District’s Dodd WTP Upgrade” on Friday, Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m.

You can check out the full DBIA conference program here. And if you’re in the exhibit hall, be sure to stop by booth #520 to visit with our team. In the meantime, be sure to check out this white paper, Taking Design-Build Further for Maximum Project Value.

Bill Quatman is senior vice president and general counsel at Burns & McDonnell with more than 35 years of experience in the AEC industry.


Missouri’s New Design-Build Law: Three Things Municipalities Need to Know

by Ron Coker September 13, 2016

Mayors, Administrators and City Managers across the Show-Me-State now have a new tool in their tool-belt to rebuild and maintain infrastructures within their communities. On August 29 the long-awaited Missouri House Bill 2376 went into effect authorizing local Missouri public agencies to use the design-build construction process for everything from roads and bridges to water […]

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Giving Back Offers a Capstone All Its Own

by Christine Hobson September 12, 2016

At Burns & McDonnell, we like to say, “We invest for a better world.” Giving back is among our core principles — because we see the needs, because we care about our communities, and because we know we’re in a position to help. That’s among the reasons I’m proud to have completed my third year […]

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First Cross-Border Mexican Wind Farm Powers American Homes

by Aaron Anderson August 23, 2016

As California’s utilities face the deadline to produce one-third of their power from renewable sources by 2020, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is tapping into one of the strongest wind resources on the West Coast: the Sierra de Juárez mountain range in Baja California, Mexico. The more than 155 MW Energía Sierra Juárez (ESJ) […]

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Resilient and Energy Efficient National Guard Readiness Centers

by Pete Karnowski August 17, 2016

Creating resilient and energy-efficient facilities is vital for the future of the Department of Defense. For the Army National Guard (ARNG), that means creating places where soldiers can plan, train, perform missions and provide a community-centric location in case of emergencies. The average age of most readiness centers, or armories as they’re sometimes called, is […]

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