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Wyoming Infrastructure News in Brief

Date: March 18, 2021

  • Cheyenne Regional Airport receives a $62 million infrastructure investment, mostly from federal sources. (WyomingNews.com)
  • Governor criticizes Biden administration for hampering oil and gas development. (Casper Star Tribune)
  • Business community has conflicting views on gas tax to pay for road improvements. (County 17)
  • The Rocky Mountain Region will receive $31.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service for 90 projects in a five-year program The funding will be used to address infrastructure and deferred maintenance needs, enhance economic benefits, and improve recreation and public access on national forests. (WyomingNews.com)

Solar Facility To Support UW’s Clean Energy Curriculum

Date: March 18, 2021

The University of Wyoming is partnering with a clean energy nonprofit on a research facility that includes a 3 MW solar installation, reports PV magazine. The effort is one step toward creating a clean energy engineering curriculum at UW. The facility, which is under construction, will be located on the Laramie ranch of a UW College of Engineering and Applied Science alumnus who is also cofounder of the 9H Research Foundation.

The 3 MW solar installation will be powered by Series 6 modules from First Solar, the largest US solar manufacturer. First Solar made a $300,000 in-kind donation to 9H, giving more than 2,000 advanced thin film solar photovoltaic modules totaling nearly 1 megawatt of capacity.

Governor Signs Universal Occupational Bill

Date: February 17, 2021

Late last year, we shared that WySPE had provided testimony before the Joint Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Interim Committee regarding proposed Universal Occupational Licensure legislation, including temporary permits for military spouses. Universal Occupational Licensure was signed into law by Governor Mark Gordon on February 9, 2021.

Introduced in January, SF18,  Universal Occupational Licensure, affects out-of-state licensees across almost all occupations becoming licensed in Wyoming.  Additionally, SF18 creates a three-year “temporary practice permit” for military spouses, “provided the military spouse is making progress toward satisfying the unmet licensure requirements, or until the professional or occupational license for which they have applied has been either granted or denied, whichever first occurs.”  The Wyoming Board of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors has received very few military spouse applications and processes them quickly.The bill was heard and passed by the Senate in late January.  Early this month, WySPE President Travis Conklin testified several times before the House Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee.

Again, WySPE shared the importance of the Professional Engineers license in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public.  We also expressed concern over three-year temporary permits for Engineers when the State Board can process permanent licenses expeditiously.  Shannon Stanfill, Executive Director of the Wyoming Board of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors, testified that 75% of licensees requesting licensure through reciprocity have a license issued in seven days or less.

WySPE, worked with Representatives Dan Laursen and Evan Simpson, P.E.,  on a successful amendment that requires “substantial equivalency” in academic requirements. This amendment will facilitate the Wyoming State Board to continue evaluating candidates based on education and experience and act as quickly as possible to help candidates become licensed when reasonable without the need to issue temporary licenses.


E-Week Program Features PE Who Climbed Everest

Date: February 17, 2021

Thursday, February 25th at 7pm, you are invited to attend “Reaching New Heights,” a virtual program presented by Professional Engineer Alan Mallory.

Following two years of planning, Alan embarked on a  two month expedition through some of the most exciting yet terrifying conditions imaginable climbing Mount Everest. Alan’s dynamic program is builtaround this incredible experience.   It is an engaging visual and educational journey packed with tools, strategies and innovative ideas that attendees can put into action to make positive changes in their professional and personal lives. Alan puts specific emphasis on maintaining a future mindset, adapting to challenges, mutual goals, overcoming adversity, empowering others, and developing professional relationships.

This live virtual event is presented by NSPE-Colorado, and they are extending their member rate of $20 to WySPE. Click here to register and get more information.


Bills Fund Water System Improvements

Date: February 17, 2021

The Wyoming House and Senate both approved two water bills that will fund upgrades to aging water infrastructure, reports WyoFile. Among the appropriations: $4.3 million to study replacement of the Ambursen-style LaPrele Dam and $7.3 million to rehabilitate the Salt Creek water line to Midwest and Edgerton north of Casper. One provision in the bills would transfer $7.5 million from a planning to a rehabilitation account to help fund the LaPrele reconstruction. The article says, “The 137-foot high, 325-foot long dam, finished in 1909, may be the poster child for suspect, aging infrastructure.” The 45-mile water line serving Midwest and Edgerton has its own problems. “Until it recently failed, part of the towns’ water system operated on a Windows 95 program and a dial-up modem, consultants wrote. Now operators manipulate valves manually. Water meters are plagued by freezing, poorly insulated pits and neglect.”


UW Program Aims to Improve Construction Training During COVID

Date: February 17, 2021

Two educators at the University of Wyoming tell about the civil and architectural engineering department’s effort to improve the state’s workforce training in the construction sector in an opinion piece for Engineering News-Record. While many companies had to recruit construction talent from other states, the department developed a four-year construction management degree and workforce training programs, along with a certificate training program. The authors write, “Lectures and class discussions as well as group projects are carried out on Zoom and other online platforms as if meeting in person. This teaching modality allows industry practitioners from across the state to participate in training without leaving their offices or jobsites.”


Wyoming Job Opportunities

Date: February 17, 2021

Engineering Project Manager
North Fork Engineering

Senior Civil Engineer/Project Manager
Trihydro Corporation

See other engineering job opportunities on the NSPE Job Board.

Pedestrian Safety Becomes Priority in Cody

Date: January 21, 2021

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is calling for a study of a busy road in Cody, near a middle school, according to the Powell Tribune. WYDOT’s goal is to create a safe crossing on busy Big Horn Avenue, which doubles as US Highway 14-A within the city. The road is a major route that links businesses to Cody and surrounding communities. Major housing developments built north of the highway, however, have not included long-range pedestrian mobility planning. “This plan must include school traffic, vehicular traffic and pedestrian movements on both sides of the highway,” WYDOT’s district engineer said, “so science-based engineering decisions can be made.”

Late last year, the US DOT issued what it is calling a “first-of-its-kind” Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. But with pedestrian fatalities on the rise, PEs and traffic safety consultants are up against what some are calling “the most shocking and disturbing trend in highway safety that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”


Power Plant Considered for Carbon Capture

Date: January 21, 2021

The Dave Johnston Power Plant in Glenrock, set for retirement in 2027, is drawing interest as a possible carbon capture facility, reports Wyoming Public Media. Jupiter Oxygen and Glenrock Petroleum both considering the 922 megawatt coal-fired power plant, owned by Pacificorp. Opponents say elected officials need to whether unproven carbon capture technology or readily available low-cost renewable energy will be better for utility customers.


Report Calls WYDOT Funding Levels ‘Unsustainable’

Date: December 16, 2020

The finances of WYDOT may be worse than thought. A report presented to the legislature stated that “the current level of unmet need is actually upward of $350 million across the agency’s entire budget, well in excess of the $135 million that WYDOT had previously estimated would be necessary to preserve the state’s highways as they exist today,” reports the Casper Star Tribune. Among the department’s challenges: budget reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, flat revenue from the state’s fuel tax, and “long-unaddressed funding concerns, like computer system upgrades.”


Highway Conditions Suffer Significant Decline

Date: December 16, 2020

Wyoming’s highway system ranks 36th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report. This is a 25-spot decline from the previous report, where Wyoming ranked 11th overall. Wyoming’s urban Interstate and urban arterial pavement condition rankings dropped to 50th this year. Read the state summaries.

WYSPE Update

Date: November 18, 2020

Earlier this month WySPE provided testimony to the Joint Committee on Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions on a proposed Universal Occupational Licensure bill. One of the major aspects of the proposed bill is allowing military spouses licensed in other states temporary licensure in Wyoming lasting up to three years, in almost all occupations and professions.

Erin Gates, P.E., WySPE member and Wyoming’s representative to the NSPE House of Delegates, spoke to the committee. She shared WySPE’s thoughts on the value of the licensed Professional Engineer to the health and safety of the public and the necessity for PEs understanding Wyoming law.  WySPE shared our support for military families but expressed
concern over the proposed duration of the temporary licensure. The Wyoming Board of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors typically completes the process for licensure in Wyoming quickly for those covered by the proposed bill and others.

The Joint Committee on Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions approved the proposed bill being introduced during the upcoming legislative session. WySPE will continue to monitor this and other legislation related to the licensure of Professional Engineers.

The WySPE Board of Directors approved updates to the WySPE Bylaws at the November board meeting. The WySPE Bylaws had not been updated for many years, and the boards work brings the bylaws into agreement with the Constitutional amendments that were approved resoundingly by membership earlier this year. The Constitution provides the broad definition and direction of WySPE. The Bylaws provide more of the detail and day to day process information. Per the Constitution, Bylaws are considered and approved by the board.

Many of the changes were simply clean-up of language or updating to current times. For example, the Bylaws were last updated before email. Language in the bylaws now include wording that allows for electronic notices or votes. Other changes included reflecting the current business model with NSPE, where dues are set and collected nationally in conjunction with the states. Our thanks to everyone who has been a part of the Constitutional amendments and Bylaws update process.


Wind Farm Regs May Include PE Requirement

Date: November 18, 2020

As wind energy projects gain traction, commissioners in Albany County are considering updating commercial wind energy siting regulations, reports the Laramie Boomerang. Among the supported rules is one that would require developers to use a Wyoming PE or architect to routinely inspect projects for compliance. Last winter, a Texas company proposed a 504-megawatt wind farm south of Laramie. The farm could include 85-150 turbines on 26,000 acres of state and private land. A draft environmental impact statement is expected by the end of the year.


A Shot at Highway Engineers

Date: November 18, 2020

In a guest opinion column in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, a Teton County commissioner takes aim at highway engineers for allowing high speeds and unsafe conditions on Hwy 390. The author opines that “we live in a dictatorship of highway engineers.” He adds:

“Here’s the challenge: WYDOT controls Highway 390. Its highway engineers are dedicated public servants. I am especially grateful to the local WYDOT folks who plow snow and maintain our highways. The issue is that speed limits are determined by an agency dominated by a single professional caste: highway engineers. These speed limits do not adequately account for competing values. Their priorities are not the priorities of folks who live along the road and certainly not the priorities of the moose and other critters that inhabit the corridor. The highway engineering profession creates conditions in which motor vehicles move fast and efficiently, while discounting competing values. Period.”

In an earlier article in the Rawlins Times about the issue on 390, a WYDOT district maintenance engineer said, “The multiple requests received to reduce the speed limit are just not supported by engineering data.” Some people, including the author of News and Guide opinion piece, argue that the highway should be the responsibility of the county, not the state, but others are concerned about the additional tax burden on residents.


Energy Plan Raises Commission’s Eyebrows

Date: October 28, 2020

The Wyoming Public Service Commission has concluded that the energy plan of the state’s largest electrical provider “lacks proper analysis, transparency and modeling, and doesn’t adequately consider other alternatives, such as nuclear power or adding carbon capture to coal plants,” according to an article by WyoFile. The 2019 plan, issued by PacifiCorp/Rocky Mountain Power covers electricity delivery over the next 20 years, called for the early retirement of several Wyoming coal-fired units and emphasis on renewable generation and storage. The PSC took the unusual step of investigating the plan, although no immediate action is expected.


Time to Replace Fuel Tax with Road User Charge?

Date: October 28, 2020

Under the pressure of budget shortfalls and deteriorating roads, WYDOT has proposed replacing the state’s $0.24/gallon fuel tax with a road user charge, according to Oil City News. A draft bill has been proposed but not introduced in the legislature. The draft proposes rates of 2.15 cents per mile for passenger cars and 2.87 cents per mile for pick-up trucks. Commercial trucks would pay 10.32 cents per mile. “WYDOT says it currently faces a $135 million annual budget shortfall and that the poor condition of Wyoming’s roads is having a compounding negative effect on its economy,” the article states.

WySPE Constitution Update

As we have shared in recent newsletters and at the annual meeting in February, WySPE is working to update the organization’s Constitution.

The governing documents for the Wyoming Society of Professional Engineers were last updated in 1981. WySPE is governed by a Constitution that provides the broad structure for the organization, and Bylaws that provide more operational details.

To amend the Constitution, a minimum of 20 percent of our membership must vote, and amendments must pass by a 2/3 or greater majority. The board is responsible for updating the Bylaws and will complete that when the Constitutional amendments are completed.

Recently, NSPE nationally changed the membership model and that impacts our Constitution. The ballot provides brief explanations on these issues. Also, over time there have been changes that need to be reflected in the governing documents (the ability to vote electronically, for instance). If you would rather have a ballot mailed to you or wish to object to our conducting electronic voting prior to that officially being recognized in an amended constitution, please let us know.

See the existing Constitution as amended in 1981.
(Attachment)

You are asked to vote on five questions, which group proposed amendments by topic. If you favor all of the amendments grouped on a question, vote yes. If you oppose any of the items in the grouping, vote no. You can only vote once.

If you have any problems voting, or have any questions, please contact Steve Conklin, our executive director, by email at steveconklin@q.com or at (303) 909-0479.

Access the ballot.


NTSB Report and NSPE's Action on this Issue

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent letters to the governors of 31 states named in its final report on the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, including Wyoming. The letter requests an end to the engineering license exemption for gas pipeline operators in these states, and asks for governors to provide an update to the NTSB with in 90 days.

When the NTSB began its investigation of the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, investigative staff reached out to NSPE seeking information about licensing exemptions. Through a series of conversations and emails, NSPE shared report data, information on the licensing process and requirements, and its Position Statement on licensing exemptions. Consequently, NSPE was successful in getting the NTSB to adopt a policy of addressing and eliminating engineering license exemptions within the gas pipeline industry.

NSPE’s national staff continues to be in conversation with NTSB staff, and will continue to share updates as they happen. We are happy to support state efforts at eliminating this exemption.

Read the full report from NTSB.

NTSB Report and Recommendations

Pipeline explosionA BURNED-OUT MASSACHUSETTS HOME AFTER THE GAS EXPLOSIONS
CREDIT: NTSB

NTSB has released an abstract of its forthcoming final report on the fatal Merrimack Valley pipeline explosion from September of last year. Final revisions are being made to the report, but in the report’s synopsis/executive summary, NTSB states that “requiring a licensed professional engineer to stamp plans would illustrate that the plans had been approved by an accredited professional with the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to provide a comprehensive review.” Acknowledging the importance of the role of the PE in preventing an event like this from occurring, NTSB recommends the elimination of the licensing exemption on natural gas pipeline projects in the 31 states that have the exemption in place, including the state of Wyoming.

Read the synopsis of the report.


Wyoming Engineering Society engineers met with Munger Mountain Elementary School 4th graders.

Wyoming Engineering Society engineers met with Munger Mountain Elementary School 4th graders to explain the exciting work professional engineers do. Y2 Consultants were able to share site plans of the school and show the students the design process for a new soccer field.

Continued participation in the project and a selfless contribution to the expansion of educational opportunities for the community’s youth are key values to many members of the society throughout the year.

Wyoming Society and students