REGION 9 REPORTS – OCTOBER 2020 NEWSLETTER
by Kwame A. Agyare, P.E., ENV SP, M. ASCE
Outgoing ASCE Region 9 Director and Chair, ASCE Region 9 Board of Governors
The October 28th American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2020 Annual Convention will mark the end of my term as your Region 9 Director, and Chair of the Region 9 Board of Governors. This will also represent the conclusion of my seven years on the Region 9 Board of Governors: four years as a Region Governor, and three years as Chair of the Board. October 28th will thus mark the conclusion of my extensive volunteer service with ASCE so far. Spanning more than 25 years, my volunteering with ASCE began as an ASCE student member at the University of Arizona, and continued with activities to help form the Southern Arizona Branch Younger Member Forum, and subsequently with service as the Phoenix Branch President, while also serving as the Chair of several important ASCE Society-level committees including the Committee on Younger Members, and the Committee on Leadership and Management. It has been a tremendous pleasure most recently however, serving members in the State of California and the four Region 9 Sections: Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, as your representative on the Society’s Board of Direction. I had no idea when my volunteer service began those many years ago that I would eventually serve ASCE at this high level.
I would like to sincerely thank all the current Region 9 Governors, Committee Chairs, Committee Members and the volunteer leaders of the Sections, Branches, Younger Member Groups and local Institutes for their hard work and support of ASCE. You have all greatly contributed to making my term on the Region 9 Board such a pleasant experience over the past total seven years, and the past three years as Society Director. I believe Region 9 has accomplished so much during that time in support of the Society’s strategic initiatives, all due in huge part to the fantastic volunteer officers that serve this Society.
Serving on the ASCE Board of Direction
The past three years serving on the ASCE Board of Direction have been a rewarding experience that has been a highlight of my civil engineering career. Despite the tremendous workload of having to be on travel almost 40 to 50 days out of the year, having to attend four in-person Society board meetings each year and participate on several task and standing committee, and seeking to accomplish all the necessary work to address and resolve some of the most critical issues facing civil engineers, it has been a great pleasure serving with the other 9 Region directors, 3 technical directors, 2 at-large directors, and the 3 presidential officers on the Society Board. I would like to think that both my career expertise and my volunteer experience provided good input towards many of the key decisions that the Society Board addressed during the 2017-2020 period, and helped in generating outcomes that would benefit the majority of ASCE members and the profession as a whole.
The mission of the Region 9 Board of Governors is almost fully intertwined with the ASCE Society Strategic Plan, and my primary role as Chair of the Region 9 Board was to help steer that board towards activities that assisted the Society Board achieve its strategic planning goals. As you may be aware, in October 2018, the Society Board of Direction approved a new Strategic Plan for the Society. This new plan can be found here: https://www.asce.org/uploadedFiles/About_ASCE/Content_Pieces/ASCE_Strategic_Plan_online_FINAL.pdf , adopted 6 new strategic goals that would replace the former 3 ASCE strategic initiatives which were Sustainable Infrastructure, the Grand Challenge, and Raise the Bar. These 6 new goals can be summarized as:
- – Engage Participation by both Members and non-Members in ASCE
- – Encourage Innovation and State-of-the-Art Practices
- – Promote Safe, Resilient, and Sustainable Infrastructure
- – Advance Educational and Professional Standards
- – Promote Public Awareness of the Value of Civil Engineers
- – Excel in Strategic and Operational Effectiveness
The activities of the Region 9 Board towards this effort are summarized in this Infographic, http://ascecareportcard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Region-9-Infographic.pdf, which is a snapshot of all the activities that Region 9 Board coordinates during a typical year. These activities and accomplishments are summarized below:
- California Infrastructure Symposium – In any typical year, one of the flagship events organized by the Region 9 Board in conjunction with one of the four California ASCE Sections (Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco), is the Annual California Infrastructure Symposium, https://caisregion9.org/. The event rotates each year between these four Sections. The symposium is currently in its 14th year and was moved to a virtual event this year due to the disruption of all in-person events by the Coronavirus pandemic. The event typically reaches 300 members, and involves speakers from many agencies, consulting firms, and often prominent local and state officials. Key ASCE volunteer officers, including either the current or incoming Society President, typically attend and participate in this event as well. This year’s Region 9 collaboration was with the Sacramento Section, and was successfully held on September 25th, 2020 virtually. I would sincerely like to thank all of the four ASCE California Sections for their historic and ongoing collaboration with the Region 9 Board in this event, and for their stellar efforts in coordinating venues, programming, and other logistics towards the continued success of this worthwhile event that has experienced successively increasing attendance and revenue growth during my seven-year tenure on the Region 9 Board.
- Region 9 Annual Awards Recognition Program – Held in conjunction with the California Infrastructure Symposium each year, the Region 9 Awards Recognition program serves to highlight the impressive work that civil engineers carry out during the year, both on an individual and project level, and also seeks to encourage civil engineers to recognize their peers for the great engineering work that they do on a daily basis. Having served as the Region 9 Awards Committee Chair for several years, I have had personal witness to the innovation, dedication, and pride that California civil engineers bring to their work, and it has been a passion of mine to help encourage ASCE members to seek to present their work for consideration for a Region 9 award. During my tenure of the Board, Region 9 sought to automate the entire awards selection process, from the Branch level through to the Region level, thereby making the awards submittal and evaluation process smoother. I would like to recognize the Orange County Branch, Los Angeles Section, and private contactor JubJub, Inc., for helping to facilitate the technology that made this possible. But my biggest thanks would go to Matthew Kennedy of GHD, the Awards committee chair who succeed me, for facilitating the full automation of this process between the Region and the Sections. I would also like to congratulate all the 2019 Region 9 individual and project awards winners who were recognized at a ceremony held virtually on September 24, 2020. http://asceregion9awards.org/
- Region 9 2018 California’s Surface Transportation Report Card – Every 4 to 6 years or so, the Region 9 Board seeks to update its Report Card for California’s Infrastructure, to provide the public with a plain language assessment of the state of infrastructure and infrastructure funding within the Region. In 2018, ASCE played an increased role in the California infrastructure policy debate when we issued the California Surface Transportation Report Card just prior to the November 2018 elections. The report card was released at two simultaneous events in Los Angeles and in Berkeley http://ascecareportcard.org/event-photos/. As Region Chair, I also authored the opposing view on a ballot measure that would have defunded previously authorized laws regarding increasing transportation funding in California. The Region 9 Board unanimously agreed that it was important that these funds be maintained, a position that was consistent with ASCE Public Policy statements. A summary of the report card can be found at
- Region 9 Statewide Infrastructure Report Card – In 2019, ASCE Region 9 updated its statewide Report Card for California’s Infrastructure, and upgraded the report from the previous 2012 version that comprised 8 categories of infrastructure, to encompass an evaluation of 17 different categories of infrastructure. This report card is typically issued by ASCE Region 9 every 4 to 6 years. The 2019 effort was a monumental task that required recruiting close to 100 volunteers from ASCE members in California, many who responded and agreed to participate in the process by the call to action put out by the conference co-Chairs in newsletters and emails, or from receiving a personal direct phone call. I am personally grateful to all these volunteers who stepped forward to apply their expertise towards evaluating all the required infrastructure categories. I would however reserve my greatest thanks to the two co-Chairs of the effort, Tony Akel of Akel Engineering, Inc., and John Hogan, of DEA, Inc., both former Region 9 Governors, who led and steered this task from inception to conclusion, with great expertise. Thank you, Tony and John, and also many thanks to the Report Card steering committee as well! The Region is grateful also to all the volunteer leaders who participated in the effort. The report card website can be found at http://ascecareportcard.org/, and the report card summary brochure can be found at https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/state-item/california/.
- Combined Report Card Release & Region 9 Legislative Day – The aforementioned 2019 Report Card for California’s Infrastructure was released during the annual Region 9 Government Relations Legislative Day visit to the State Capitol, in May 2019. ASCE 2020 President K.N. Gunalan was on hand to deliver remarks prior to the release of the report card. ASCE Region 9 continues to have one of the most active legislative advocacy programs in ASCE, and this event brought together many ASCE members to witness the unveiling of the report card, and to subsequently deliver copies of the report card to every single legislators office at the Capitol. This event was also held in conjunction with the annual Infrastructure Week events that occur nationwide each year, and that Region 9 seeks to be a participant in. The Region 9 Government Relations committee also seeks to annually participate with other engineering entities in California in celebrating Engineers Week every February. In 2020, a group of women engineers from the ASCE Sacramento Section and CSU Sacramento met at the State Capitol with State Assembly Member Rivas for the introduction of two Assembly Concurrent Resolutions to commemorate both Engineers Week and also Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day that occurred on February 20. I continue to applaud our California ASCE members advocacy efforts on legislation and in government relations, which I believe continues to positively impact issues surrounding infrastructure and the civil engineering profession. I strongly encourage all the ASCE groups at the local level who are engaged in such advocacy to continue their efforts, as it does make a positive difference!
- Region 9 Transportation & Development Committee – The Region also has a very active Transportation Committee that follows pending legislation that impacts the State’s transportation infrastructure. In addition to participating in the Legislative Day Fly-In, the Transportation Committee annually holds another visit to state legislators and representatives of state committees directly involved in transportation issues. The committee also provides significant input into the speaker schedule for the California Infrastructure Symposium. Many thanks to the various chairs of that committee, David Schwegel, Steven King, and Tapas Dutta for all your hard work in steering the efforts of this committee these past three years.
- Region 9 Water & Environment Committee – The Region 9 Water Committee, chaired by Xavier Irias, follows pending legislation impacting the state’s water resources and the environment. In addition to participating in the Legislative Day Fly-In, the Water Committee also annually holds another visit to state legislators and representatives of state committees directly involved in water issues. I appreciate all the hard work of that committee through the years, and a special call out to ASCE members Elizabeth Bialek, Mark Norton, and Darren Mack for your leadership.
- Region 9 Sustainability Committee – This committee focuses on activities to promote inclusion of all the tenets of sustainability in all civil engineering projects. As long-time Chair of the Region 9 Sustainability Committee, Mark Norton has sought to continuously developed this active committee which includes representatives of all four Sections. The Committee promotes the concept of sustainability and the new sustainability rating system, Envision version 3, for civil engineering projects to our members, legislators, and the public at large. The Committee also encourages members to obtain their Envision® Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) credential and seeks annually to host a workshop to provide the training for this certification. In November 2019, Mark successfully chaired the International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure which was held in Region 9 in Los Angeles. By all accounts, this event was a resounding success and was very well attended by participants from all over the world! My many thanks to Mark, and all the committee members, for their stellar work.
- Region 9 Disaster Preparedness Committee – Chaired by Region 9 member Doug Taylor, this committee primarily seeks to train ASCE California members to be prepared to respond to calls from the State of California during the disaster response phase of natural and man-made disasters. Several hundred ASCE members have been training in the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) Safety Assessment Program (SAP) protocols, and this came into good use in November 2018 when about two dozen ASCE members assisted building officials from the Town of Paradise to perform rapid inspections to approximately 15,000 homes and commercial properties following the Camp Fire. I delivered a presentation on this stellar response by ASCE volunteers at the 2019 ASCE Annual Conference in Miami last year, and it was well attended and very well received by all participants. My many thanks to Doug and the committee for all your work.
- Region 9 History and Heritage Committee – Chaired by Chuck Spinks (former Region 9 Director), the committee seeks to recognize and promote awareness of the great civil engineering projects within the state of California. In 2019, the committee partnered with the ASCE History and Heritage Committee last year to jointly host a celebration commemorating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in a ceremony in Sacramento. This symposium included sessions on the construction of the railroad and included a tour of some historic rail cars. Chuck and the committee continue to coordinate with the Sections and Branches on identifying worthy historic projects deserving of recognition, which helps to let the public know about the significant civil engineering projects that improve their quality of life. Kudos to this committee!
- Region 9 California PE Board (BPELSG) Committee – Region 9 continues to maintain a committee that endeavors to send a representative to every Board of Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists Board meeting to show ASCE’s support of the board and to remain current on actions affecting professional Civil Engineers. In August 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed outgoing Region 9 Governor Rossana D’Antonio to the BPELSG board, and ASCE Region 9 is thrilled to have such representation on this important committee. Congratulations Rossana, on your appointment!
- Region 9 Younger Member Forum Committee – Following on from the stellar work accomplished by previous Chair Gidti Ludesirishoti, current YMF Committee Chair Guy Hopes has worked to create a viable and energetic committee that has sought to keep the Region 9 Board informed of the various activities of the younger member forums, thus allowing the Region 9 Board to be proactive in supporting their activities. The committee is currently in the process of transforming their operations into a Younger Member Advisory Council framework that will mirror similar operations in other Regions. I wish to express my many thanks to Guy and all the Section YMF representatives on this committee for your participation.
- Region 9 Monthly Newsletter Articles – Region 9 continues to provide each of the four ASCE California Sections with over 20 newsletter articles each year, for publication in their own Section newsletters. The Region 9 Board continues to believe that this collaboration is an effective way of communicating ASCE and civil engineering matters to ASCE’s California members.
- Region 9 Board Student Conference Participation – There are 21 ASCE Student Chapters within California, and students in these chapter belong either to the Pacific Southwest Student Council or the Mid-Pacific Student Council. In most years, either one (or both) of these Student Council’s hosts their student conferences in California. The Region 9 Board continues to provide direct support to these student conferences either by helping to solicit sponsorships for the events or in seeking judges to help judge their student competitions. Last year, I attended both student conference events, held at Cal Poly SLO and San Jose State University, and also served a judge in the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition held in Melbourne, Florida, where Region 9 made a good showing. The Region 9 Board will continue to support all the ASCE Student Chapters to facilitate student transition into full ASCE membership upon graduation.
- Region 9 Social Media Channels – In addition to maintaining several Region websites to improve the dissemination of information to Region 9 members, the Region 9 Board administers several social media channels with the help of the chair of the Region 9 Committee on Communications with Sections and Branches, Elizabeth Ruedas. These include our Facebook Account, https://www.facebook.com/ASCERegion9, our Twitter Account, https://twitter.com/asceregion9, and our Instagram account, https://www.instagram.com/asce_region9/ . These channels allow the Region 9 Board to better connect better with all ASCE California members, but especially with younger members and students.
- Region 9 Board Multi-Regional Leadership Conference Participation – Region 9 Governors participate each year in the Multi-Regional Leadership Conferences which are typically held at the beginning of the year. This year’s MRLC was held in San Francisco and was attended by a record number of California ASCE members. Over 550 members from Regions 8 and 9 participated in the event in which Region 9 Governors assisted the effort by moderating sessions and by participating in breakout groups and networking events.
Beginning on October 28th, 2020, Kenneth Rosenfield, the current Vice Chair for Region 9, will become the Director of Region 9 and will serve on the Society Board of Direction. I have the greatest confidence that he will continue the great work being done by our committees and members and will move our Region forward in providing benefits to our members.
Also, I could not have been successful in my role as Chair of the Region 9 Board of Governors without the support of Region 9 Administrator Anne Ettley, and Region 9 Legislative Advocate, Richard Markuson of the Pacific Advocacy Group. My sincere thanks to both of you for your excellent assistance to me and the Region 9 Board of Governors.
Lastly, I would like to thank all the Region 9 Governors I have worked with during my tenure as Region 9 Director. It has been a pleasure collaborating with all of you during these past three years.
I have no definitive plans for my future involvement in ASCE, but I know that I will continue to support our organization in any way. Civil engineers must continue to exhibit bold leadership during uncertain times, and I urge all of you to do your part to help build a better quality of life for your fellow citizens. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at: email@example.com or my cell phone at (602) 481-8663.
Mark R. Norton, P.E., LEED AP, ENV SP
Chair, ASCE Region 9 Sustainability Committee
My, what a year, 2020, has been! Who would have expected that the tides of public attention to sustainability, resilience and climate change response would be so subsumed by such an all-encompassing concern as the COVID-19 virus as well as sweeping social justice concerns across the world. It was only about a year ago, we were celebrating the 2019 International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) in Los Angeles. The event was intended to really ramp up our efforts to build new coalitions, develop stronger messaging and expand implementation of sustainability practices by designers, architects, engineers, managers, contractors, suppliers, and policy makers everywhere. We sought to accomplish this by designing a program of dynamic speakers and leaders, a focused pre-conference summit with industry and public agency leaders and a unique interaction program called “Let’s Connect…in LA” bringing engineers, technical experts, policy makers, academia, developers, infrastructure investors, asset managers, philanthropy, social impact investors, and the insurance industry together to explore new business opportunities. Overall, the planned events went very well combined with the conference sponsorship funding which went far to support the ASCE Foundation which far exceeded our expectations and goals. For those who attended the conference last November, everyone considered it a great success. It was a tremendous pleasure serving as chair of this event.
As I reflect on that event and our keynote speaker, Dr. Jared Diamond’s, UCLA Professor, and Pulitzer Prize author of Guns, Germs and Steel and the internationally recognized book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, talk, I believe it could not have been more appropriate in addressing our conference theme but also to the challenges that we face today. In his talk, he cited examples in the past in which science and industry have banded together to deal with world-wide challenges. For example, he described the challenge that our planet faced when a hole in the earth’s ozone layer was discovered by scientists in 1985. The hole was growing because of the unchecked use of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. Collective and immediate action by all nations to deal with this severe environmental problem became clear. Soon after, the Montreal Protocol which banned the use of CFCs was signed and came into effect in 1989. Within two and half decades, scientific evidence showed that the ozone hole was beginning to close and we have effectively reversed course from a potential doomsday scenario. Another example Dr. Diamond described was the worldwide effort to eradicate polio from the planet. Due to the joint efforts of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative led by national governments, World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we have seen a decline in polio by 99% between 1988 and 2013 with four regions of the world certified as polio free—the Americas, Europe, South East Asia and the Western Pacific.
Dr. Diamond’s talk was referencing the need for a worldwide response to climate change at the time of the conference, but today, the COVID-19 virus is our clear and present danger which we must first overcome. Progress is being made across the globe and one day a vaccine will be developed and administered to the populace. Will life ever return to normal? Probably a new normal. Phrases that we once used and still use in adapting to the changing climate seem even more applicable as we see the world around us change forever.
So how is our progress towards world sustainability going despite the current viral crisis? As many of you probably have experienced, our work lives have changed with many still working remotely full time or part time. The face-to-face luncheons, conferences and summits have been replaced by Zoom or MS Teams virtual events. For some this has been a tremendous annoyance and set back but for others, with perhaps a more optimistic view, we may be entering a new business normal where face-to-face interaction will occur more often by computer interactions. I remember as a kid visiting the Bell Lab Picturephone exhibit at Disneyland and so looked forward to the day that we could see the other party on the phone by viewscreen. Developed in 1970, the ability to interact face-to-face by computer never really took off until now. Today it seems like second nature as we adapt to social distancing and virtual meetings.
Despite the hinderances, the cause of sustainability and resilience preparation continues and remains strong. Virtual meetings have had the unintended benefit of reducing our carbon footprint as less automobile transit occurs. The impacts of reducing the number of concentrated human gatherings may also have a positive impact on the environment and still need to be studied. Statewide, local Section and Branch sustainability committees are adapting now to virtual meetings and in some cases increasing the number of online participants compared to past conference calls. Many ASCE YMF’s who participate in these calls are also interested in knowing what more can be done to ensure social justice issues are being addressed. In August, the ASCE Los Angeles Section Sustainability Committee held a virtual event to share The Living Future Los Angeles (LFLA) Strategic Plan, a strategic 5-year plan to create a socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative future for Los Angeles including equitable housing, zero-carbon buildings other equity programs. Awareness is increasing that the needs of disadvantaged and economically distressed must be a part of any sustainability solution.
The Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) is also still growing in membership and becoming less dependent on its original sponsoring organizations for support. To address an expanding membership in Canada, ISI, announced the French translation of the Envision v3 Guidance Manual will be this fall. To expand support for Envision and its new ongoing credential maintenance requirements, ISI is now offering free webinars reflecting Sustainability Educational Opportunities that qualify for Envision Credential Maintenance every two to three months. Meanwhile, our local sustainability leaders here in CA are still make great strides. Recently, the Engineering New Record awarded its 2020 Award of Excellence to LA Metro’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Dr. Cris Liban, who is always thinking of new ways to advance the cause of sustainability throughout the world. Cris Liban, who also serves as ASCE Committee on Sustainability Chair, along with other ICSI Steering Committee members worked to establish a new partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy as part of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure. The collaboration, announced in December 2019 at the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 25, aims to advance practical solutions to adapt infrastructure to a changing climate, close the resilience investment gap and break down barriers to action across the globe.
As the ASCE Region 9 Sustainability Committee Chair, I also want to send a shout out to all those who are speaking up for a better world that is sustainable, resilient and safe. These worldwide goals are shared by so many ASCE members and non-ASCE members across the State of California who are working to promote and support sustainability in their profession and society. If you would like to be involved and want to learn more about what ASCE is doing, sustainability committee events in your area or Envision certification, feel free to contact me, Mark Norton, Chair, ASCE Region 9 Sustainability Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.