Volume 1, Number 8
eMDE is a monthly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. Additional monthly features include: MDE public meetings and hearings schedule, enforcement and compliance notes, and permitting activity.
By Richard McIntire
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Annapolis native Gilford Parker recently earned the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) top employee honors for his continued work on one of the nation’s largest road projects.
Recognized for his outstanding inspection and coordination efforts at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, Parker coordinates compliance activity with the permittee. His efforts assure that the bridge builders, contractors, and state and local authorities in Maryland and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work together so that the process flows smoothly. During the course of the project, Parker has provided guidance and direction to maintain compliance. He also offers technical assistance, having performed 23 inspections in the third quarter of 2004 alone.
Above and Beyond the Call of Duty
“Gil is going above and beyond the call of duty to help external and internal customers to ensure that Maryland’s environment is protected while this monumental project of regional importance progresses,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Gil is another fine example of the dedicated, talented and determined people with whom I have the pleasure of working at this agency. He provides quality customer services, does outstanding work and is an invaluable asset to the department and the citizens of Maryland.”
The secretary made the announcement during MDE’s recent annual meeting. “I’m still dumbfounded,” Parker said of his career achievement. “I was shocked when he called my name. It made me feel real good. I couldn’t even sleep that night.”
One of the Top Two Projects in the Nation
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is a $2.43 billion project replacing the 1.1-mile bridge over the Potomac River. This operation is currently one of the top two largest transportation construction projects in the United States. There are currently 24 active permits for sediment and stormwater, tidal and non-tidal wetlands, not including mitigation sites for wetlands impacts, and waterway construction permits. There are also permits to remove and modify 12 stream blockages in the Anacostia River drainage basin.
Parker, along with other duties in southern Prince George’s and portions of Charles County, has effectively coordinated on-site activities with multiple jurisdictions and multiple permits. Wetlands and waterway approvals are orchestrated with the Army Corps of Engineers, while sediment and erosion and stormwater management are coordinated through the county’s inspection authority.
“It’s a new project. It’s a big project,” Parker said of the Wilson Bridge’s reconstruction. “They’ve got equipment and technology we’ve never seen before. With all the information sharing, you’ve got to work together so everything is up to our standards. The challenges change every weekday. It’s like working on a new project everyday. I feel like I’m the tour guide there. When I started, there were just trees down there. But it’s going to be a good-looking project.”
Plans Change Like the Weather
As the project progressed from initial sediment and erosion control and
stormwater management through maintaining those structures, to waterway
construction at the shoreline and over open water, to tidal and non-tidal
wetlands impacts and mitigation for resource losses, Hurricane Isabelle hit.
Numerous downpours this past spring played havoc on the stabilization of the
site. Plan modifications and interim controls for sediment and stormwater were
necessary to address damages from weather events and changes in construction
sequences. These events overlapped Prince George’s County sediment and erosion
control authority outside of State Highway Administration approvals. Parker was
faced with harmonizing local concerns with the general construction contiguous
with the highway/bridge construction.
“While there were times when earth moving activity and construction in wetlands became complex and difficult, Gil was able to help get the project back on track with no major non-compliances with plans or permits,” said Darwin Feheley, Parker’s supervisor.
Parker continues to provide inspections and assistance on the mammoth project.
It’s Not Just a Job…
“I love the adventure,” the Severn resident said of his job. “You never do the same thing twice. One day I’m a pollution inspector. The next day I’m looking at someone’s boat ramp.
“I went into this for the construction phase and environmental part of it,” he said in his humor-filled, folksy manner. “The Department of the Environment is a part of everything - it’s fun. I enjoy it all. You get to cruise around the countryside solving problems.”
In his 20-plus years of state service, Parker said the public’s perception of environmental protection has changed.
“People are aware that we [MDE] are out there,” he said. “People are more informed now and we have greater contact with them and contractors. They ask, ‘What do we do now and next week?’ And it helps [in complying with environmental laws]. But I wish we could have more enforcement.”
MDE’s 2004 employee of the year said one his most memorable experiences was handling a complaint for “loud frogs.” “These people had four ponds out back on their property and just couldn’t take it [the sound]….” he chuckled.
MDE’s Program Variety Makes for Interesting Employees
MDE employees are engaged in a wide range of environmental program specialties. The waste management, coal and mineral surface mining and stormwater management. Employees provide professional assistance to facility owners, plant managers, corporate officers, and attorneys in planning, designing and managing the environmental impacts of their projects.
MDE's primary mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland's air, water, and land resources. The department works to ensure achievement of the state's environmental goals while fostering economic development, safe communities, and environmental education.
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