The Categorical Exclusion (CE) environmental document for the Nickel Plate Trail-Bunker Hill Extension Project (Des. 1401127) in Miami County was approved by INDOT Environmental Services on March 2, 2017. The entire CE document can be viewed here. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the approved CE, please contact Erin Mulryan at Green3.
Indiana is home to many wonderful animal species, but perhaps some of Green3’s favorites are bats. Bats are the only mammals capable of flight and use echolocation (simulated sonar!) to navigate in the dark and hunt insects. Bats are a vital part of our Indiana ecosystem because they help control insect populations, such as mosquitoes. By controlling mosquito populations, bats help protect our communities from the many diseases that mosquitoes carry.
Threats to Bats
Many bat populations in Indiana have seen steep declines in the past few decades. These declines in populations can be attributed to impacts to hibernacula (caves and mines), loss or degradation of summer habitat (forests and riparian habitat), and deaths caused by wind turbines. However, the most significant threat to bat populations is the rapid spread of White-nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that causes mortality in bat species. Two species are at great risk in our state, the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalist) which is state and federally endangered and the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) which is federally threatened and of state special concern. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Indiana bat has had a 27% decline in population since the first signs of White-nose Syndrome were found in Indiana in 2011. Throughout the range of the northern long-eared bat, numbers of some populations have declined by up to 99%. The fight to stop the spread of this disease, learn how to treat it, and research its spread is being fought by countless groups and agencies, such as the USFWS, DNR, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, universities around the world, and wildlife conservation groups.
Green3’s Work with Bats
In our environmental work with bridge, road, and trail projects, Green3 surveys sites for evidence of bat roosting and suitable bat habitat. Bats love to roost in trees with loose hanging bark, dead trees, and under structures such as bridges and in culverts. Before any work can be done on bridge or culvert projects, we inspect the structure for signs of bats. This involves checking for roosting bats, urine stains along concrete, and guano (bat excrement) deposits. We characterize the nearby habitat and note the types of trees that are nearby. These findings are shared with the USFWS, who ensures that construction activities will not impact roosting bats or suitable bat habitat. The USFWS has records on bat sightings, hibernacula locations, and critical habitat that they refer to when reviewing a project’s potential impacts. We take pride in our work at Green3 because it ensures that endangered and threatened species are not disturbed or impacted by construction activities. Protecting threatened and endangered species isn’t just something governments and scientists can do though, you can too!
How You Can Help
Help bats by spreading the word about how awesome and helpful bats are!
Donate to your state non-game fund on your taxes or here: http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3316.htm
Donate to the Organization for Bat Conservation (https://batconservation.org/) or Bat Conservation International (http://www.batcon.org/resources/getting-involved/bat-houses)
Stay out of caves and mines where bats are known to hibernate.
If you are hiking, caving, or camping, always be sure that you clean and disinfect your gear before every adventure to prevent the spread of invasive species and diseases like White-nose Syndrome.
The Historic Invasion
In the fall of 1822, a westward migration of squirrels across the state of Indiana decimated crops and caused immeasurable damage to farmland. It is believed that this migration was caused by an inadequate food supply in the forests to the east.
According to the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis:
Local Attorney Calvin Fletcher reported “many people lost whole cornfields” and the region’s corn crop was “literally destroyed,” noting that 12 squirrels were capable of as much devastation as one hog. Fletcher cited one local farmer who “killed round one corn field 248 [squirrels] in 3 days.” Others who hunted in their fields observed that the “massacre made no impression on their countless numbers.”
“Numbers Incomprehensible to the Modern City Dweller”
When Beth Eby, registered architect at Green3, and her husband Chad Eby, an assistant professor at the IUPUI Herron School of Art & Design, answered the call for entries from the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) they conceived of a mini golf hole that would introduce players to a fun and quirky piece of Hoosier history and The Shadow-Tailed Scourge was born. Their design highlights the “Great Squirrel Invasion of 1822” by pitting mini golfers against five oversized squirrel invaders set to terrorize an Indiana farm. Each squirrel is on a pivoting spindle, which allows the squirrel invaders to be moved after play—to your advantage or the disadvantage of your opponents.
Green3 challenges you to take on The Shadow-Tailed Scourge…..can you stop the menacing invaders before our corn crop is decimated?
To find out more about Mini Golf at the IMA and explore the full course, which is based on Indiana history, heritage, and landmarks, visit: http://www.imamuseum.org/minigolf
If you are interested in the “Great Squirrel Invasion of 1822,” you can start your research here: http://www.brookspublications.com/files/SQUIRRELS.pdf and http://www.indianahistory.org/blog/squirrel.
Karen Wood, Green3’s staff historian, presented a paper at the inaugural Hoosier Women at Work Conference, hosted by the Indiana State Library and held in Indianapolis on March 26, 2016. Karen’s presentation was especially timely given the conversations taking place today about equal treatment for women in the workplace. As a Women Owned Business, Green3 is proud to share an abbreviated summary of Karen’s presentation.
As dean of women at IU, from 1938 until 1946, Dr. Kate Hevner Mueller researched and wrote curricula for women before, during, and after the war; supervised the maintenance of women’s residence halls and sororities; led a support staff; chaired numerous committees; and assisted women students in establishing self-governing bodies on campus. Simultaneously, she was an assistant professor of Psychology and collaborated in the Aesthetics of Art with her husband. She was a busy woman!
In November of 1942, Mueller attended the “College Women and the War,” conference. Mueller later observed that she had “seldom spent two days with so much profit, both in concrete information and in stimulation to my own thinking on these problems.” Some of the observations from industrial executives and managers illuminated the uphill battle that women were fighting in working in the public sphere. One of the managers expressed that college women found it difficult to work with women of lower societal and intellectual status, and often fail in “executive and supervisory work” because they lack “emotional balance and stability.” One speaker admitted that he would prefer to have lesser-educated women run the production lines than a college girl because a “‘waitress or a beauty operator knows what it means to deliver to her employer an honest 8-hour day’s work. The college girl has never learned to assume that responsibility.’”
A couple of weeks later in the beginning of December, she wrote and published Indiana University’s Wartime Curricula for Women. Mueller included course programs for wartime careers such as personnel manager, production supervisor, x-ray technician, junior accountant, photographer, weather observer, junior meteorologist, cartographer, and junior business analyst. She stressed the “college-trained” mind and how the industries needed trained women to supervise the younger women without a college education. College women were the leaders in wartime society, bearing the responsibility of the war effort on their shoulders, which demanded “high intelligence and a wide educational background.” Soon after this wartime curriculum was distributed, Mueller was flooded with letters from university and even high school administrators from Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan requesting copies of her curriculum. In a letter to Herman B. Wells, President of Indiana University from 1938 until 1962 Mueller humbly acknowledged how popular her curriculum had become among higher education administrators.
After the war, Mueller took a poll on how the war impacted college life for women students. She found that women were doing more of the following: walking and hiking; knitting for themselves, not for soldiers; playing card games including bridge; going to the movies; reading books and magazines; studying because of the accelerated system; going to church; participating in extracurricular activities; and dating younger men. Women had become more self-reliant and resourceful, crafting leadership skills. Among the student organizations in 1945, all but one man was on the prom committee, and the president of student council and the student senior bodies were women. The student newspaper and yearbook were staffed with mostly women and the band, an all-male ensemble before the war, was evenly divided among the sexes. Amid the nationwide societal pressures of women becoming a housewife and homemaker a few years if not immediately after college, women at IU campus had become stronger individuals. Women were no longer seen as delicate and definitely not ignorant. They were well informed of current affairs and thought for themselves. The war had opened the eyes of young women, showing them that they were just as smart, strong, and resilient as the men in the workplace.
Mueller herself had been impacted by the war. During a tumultuous time that desperately needed female leadership, Mueller stepped up and took initiative, writing curriculum and documenting empirical studies of student personnel and guidance in higher education. The wartime curriculum that she had designed facilitated the ease and quickness of increasing the number of women who graduated from IU. Her research in the late 1940s led her to publish Educating Women for a Changing World in 1954, which predicted modern roles for women: that they would leave the household (thus sharing the household work with men) and work in the public sphere. Although she was no longer dean of women in 1946, she remained at IU, becoming a professor in higher education for the next twenty years and leaving a legacy of a woman who epitomized female empowerment, resilience, and strength.
Here at Green3 many of our projects require us to perform an official survey of project sites for the presence of any wetlands and the impacts on those wetlands. One of the questions we often get is: What is a wetland? Many people only have a vague understanding of what wetlands are. People see them in parks and nature preserves, they are aware of their protection by various government bodies and nonprofits, and they hear about how impacts from pollution and habitat loss are bad. But what does the term “wetland” actually mean? A wetland is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as:
“Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.”
Basically, a wetland is an area that is wet for a long enough period through the year that the soil becomes saturated and only allows growth of certain plants that can survive in such conditions. These plants are known as hydrophytic plants and their morphological, physiological, and reproductive adaptations allow them to grow, compete, persist, and reproduce in anaerobic soil conditions (soils deprived of oxygen). These soils are known as hydric soils. Ok, so we now know that wetlands: are definitely wet during some point of the year, have hydric soils, and have hydrophytic plants. So why exactly should we care about wetlands?
Examples of some common Midwest plants that are found in wetlands: American Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis) sapling seen center and Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) seen on the ride side.
Here are some of the reasons wetlands are important (according to the US Army Corps of Engineers):
- They reduce downstream peak water discharge and volume
- They help maintain and improve surface water quality by storing nutrients and removing contaminants
- They maintain groundwater storage
- They contribute to nutrient capital of the ecosystem through cycling of nutrients
- They maintain habitat for plants and animals
- Wetlands provide recreational, aesthetic, and educational opportunities to our communities
- Wetlands enhance decomposition and mobilization of metals
- They support aquatic food webs and downstream biogeochemical processes
Based on all those reasons, it is clear that wetlands are a natural part of our native ecosystem and that we should protect them. Without wetlands we lose thousands of plant and animal species, we lose out on thousands of gallons of water, we miss out on natural decontamination of our own water supply, and our soils can quickly become nutrient depleted. Without our protection now, future generations of Americans might not have the chance to enjoy the beauty of our nations natural wetlands. During the time of European settlement, the United States had approximately 221 million acres of wetlands and only about 103 million acres remained as of the mid-1980's. Wetlands were fast becoming one of the scarcest resources we had in the U.S, but we have only recently started to minimize these losses and start rebuilding wetlands. Protection of our water resources is possible through the combined efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. Wetlands are a finite and delicate resource and that is why Green3 is trying to do our part in ensuring the protection of these important features.
To learn more about wetlands, give Green3 a call or check out the following resources:
Indiana Department of Environmental Management - http://www.in.gov/idem/wetlands/index.htm
Indiana Department of Natural Resources - http://www.in.gov/dnr/naturepreserve/7384.htm
History of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States, by Dahl and Johnson 1991 - https://www.fws.gov/wetlands/Documents/History-of-Wetlands-in-the-Conterminous-United-States.pdf
EPA Wetlands Protection and Restoration - http://www.epa.gov/wetlands
Get out there and enjoy those wetlands!
Washed out Bridge Causes Train Wreck along the Monon Route North of Otis, Indiana, Killing Three—May 2, 1892
While conducting historical research for a project in La Porte County, Indiana, I stumbled upon this piece of Indiana railroad history. Enjoy!
~Your Friendly Neighborhood Historian
During the evening and overnight hours of May 2, 1892, a torrential thunderstorm tore through northwestern Indiana. The heavy rain raised the waters of the East Arm of the Little Calumet River, causing a dam about 330 ft. above the bridge to give way. The swollen creek surged toward the wooden trestle, rebuilt in 1886, washing it away. The large hole fractured the railway line and since the path was shrouded in darkness, it meant certain death.
Fig. 1: Newspaper Coverage of the May 2, 1892 Wreck along the Monon Route
Source: “Went Down in the Wreck,” The Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis, IN), May 4, 1892, p. 8.
The 11-car freight train traveling northbound toward Michigan City Louisville, New Albany, and Chicago Railway (also known as the Monon Route) approached the washed out bridge near midnight. Although John Murray, the engineer, slowed down as he came upon the bridge, he was not cautious enough, catapulting Engine No. 27 and the eight cars behind it loaded with pig iron into the dark void below, burying its massive frame into the mud. Three men, including John Murray, James Bowen, the fireman, and Elmer Brown, the brakeman, fell to their deaths. Luckily, the caboose and the penultimate car stayed on the tracks, and the conductor, John Litkey, and two other train workmen escaped without injury. These men ran to the railroad station in Otis, La Porte County to call for help.
Nothing could be done to help recover the wreck or bodies—assuming that the three men who were stationed in the front cars had not survived—in the dark until the morning daylight when the cleanup crew would be able to see and assess the damage. Except for the rushing water, silence echoed through the pile of freight cars. The main source of media, newspapers, covered this story, appearing in several newspapers around the region, including the Indiana State Sentinel, (see Figure 1 above).
On Friday morning, 5 days later, the plan to remove the fallen cars was in full swing: the engineers had built a temporary side track leading up to the main track to pull up the cars and place them upon the tracks. Once completed, a new bridge would be built. This time, though, the bridge—or to use a more accurate term, a “culvert”—would be made of Indiana limestone.
Fig. 2: Standard Double Stone Culvert (3’ x 4’). Norfolk and Western Railroad (1890)
Source: Webb, Railroad Construction: Theory and Practice, (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1903), 208.
Culverts were generally embedded into the earth. By 1850, railroad culverts in Indiana were constructed of wood or stone, in the pipe, arch, or box design. Since limestone was a common resource in Indiana, it had a direct effect on the building of infrastructure in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Before concrete was used universally for culverts in the 1910s, limestone was the preferred choice. The stone box railroad culverts built during the 1880s and 1890s typically featured cement-mortared cut stone walls that stair-stepped down to the ground, supporting cut stone lintels or reinforced concrete slabs, topping these walls. An embankment of earth covered structure, providing additional support by equally distributing the weight of the trains carried over the rails. These design features of a stone box culvert provided benefits including an inexpensive resource lasting longer than any other known resource and could be a single box or a double box depending on the size of the structure required (see Figure 2 above for the design).
Fig. 3: Facing northeast abandoned railroad stone double box culvert
Source: Taken by Karen Wood at September 28, 2015 site visit
This wreck and rebuilding of the railroad bridge demonstrates the technological evolution of innovative engineering techniques on strengthening bridges in efforts to avoid wrecks like this particular one (see Figure 3 above). Engineers continually worked on how to improve these structures, and in 1892, not only was stone a more permanent resource than wood and iron, proving it to be more cost-efficient, but also it was ultimately a safer one.
Green3 is a company that enjoys preserving the beauty of our native ecosystems and takes pride in the environmental services we offer, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any rare or endangered species when we are hired to perform field surveys. Coordination with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and a preliminary research of the surrounding area highlight any possible endangered or threatened species that could be found in a project area. One of our upcoming projects is known to be within close proximity of the state and federal endangered vascular plant species, Running Buffalo Clover (Trifolium stoloniferum). Running Buffalo Clover is believed to have been dependent upon large herbivores such as bison to disturb rich soils so that the clover’s small runners, or stolons, could take root. As the bison was overhunted, Running Buffalo Clover populations began to dwindle as their preferred habitat disappeared. Since its listing in 1987, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been taking action to protect and reintroduce this species. If you are interested in learning more about the endangered species near you, you can head to the Indiana DNRs website to view their interactive map. To learn more about helping the conservation efforts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, visit their websites here and here . Remember to volunteer and donate to your local conservation groups and educate your friends and family about endangered species.