Inside Engineering, untold stories and fascinating people from the world of civil engineering. This is Episode 16, recorded in December 2019 Permitting and Archaeology with Jean Cascardi and Catherine Cruz-Ortiz. Inside Engineering is an RK&K podcast. Learn more at rkk.com/podcast.
Welcome back to another episode of Inside Engineering. We're having fun here already; we had just gotten started, as you may have noticed, we are not in our typical studio here today, but we are instead in our studio here in our Fairfax office. And I'm really excited to have with us Catherine Cruz-Ortiz. Catherine, thanks for joining us. Thank you for having me. You're an Environmental Scientist. Yes, sir. You do stuff with the environment that it's a science based. Yes. So I'm told. And then we have summed up the episode. And and sitting to your left is Jean Cascardi. Jean, you are an Archeological Field Manager. You do archeological stuff in the field where you manage it. That's correct. Yeah. I'm so glad you're on. I'm on fire today. But thank you both for joining us. I mean, I'm excited to hear some of the stories that you have from the field because you both spent a good amount of time in the field doing stuff. And so. But first, why don't we kind of get out of the way what big picture you each do you kind of break it down for us and give us a feel for what you do and then we can get into some stories and then go from there sound good? OK. I'm glad you said yes, because if you hadn't I don't know what I'd do. That's good. All right. Catherine why don't we start with you since you're sitting right next to me. All right. So I'm an Environmental Scientist. What that entails is I help with the permitting and securing environmental permits to help a project go into construction. That could be from cradle to grave, meaning from a design perspective all the way through to monitoring and mitigation, if the project needs it. So generally speaking, I will receive some type of project boundary and they'll ask you to go out and look for jurisdictional features. These are features that under law, the U.S. Army Corps would have regulations over. And my
job is to go out and start counting trees, delineating wetlands and streams and then coming back reporting and then getting the ball rolling with the corps and any other agencies to help secure those permits for the project. With permitting we've had on the show before some people do permitting. We have Brian Leiberher on from our York office. And it's not the most exciting thing when you're looking at it for a big picture. Right. Because there's a lot of paperwork involved, I assume. But it's a super critical part of what we do. Yes. Can you can you talk about the critical nature of it or maybe. Well, it's funny, because I've supplied a quote already supplied a quote, so you can design the roadiest road that has ever roaded in the history of roads, but without our permits that road is never leaving the paper. The roadiest road. The roadiest road. That has ever roaded . That has ever roaded. In the history of roads. In the history of roads. Yes, but without your permit. Without a permit, it's not leaving the paper. Wow. Yes. This is this is we've just I think we've just taken Inside Engineering to a new level. Yes. I don't know if it's a level above or below where we bought it, but it's new. Well, a lot of times.
I don't want to say that we can take for granted the fact like the work that we do. But in reality, a permit really can make or break a project whether or not it goes into construction. If you don't secure the right permit or if someone were to not follow the permit stipulations, it can shut down a project until those things get fixed or until that permit is secure. So a lot of the times our work is more due diligence than it is actually writing a permit. Sometimes we don't have to write a permit, but we have to go out there to make sure that there's nothing in the project area that would require a permit.
Jean, what do you have to add to that? Well, so I to add to that, I've worked for several companies outside of Virginia where we did a lot of different archeological mitigations that larger companies who ignored the permitting process had to pay for millions of dollars worth of archaeology and mitigation because they've gone in without their permits and like destroyed sites and waterways and it can be very costly to designers and big companies building. Is there. What's a cool project that you either each individually or together have worked on? Do you ever have something that a project you're excited about? Probably my favorite project that I've ever been involved with actually had to do with mitigation rather than actual delineation, which is that's the bread and butter of my group is the permitting. But occasionally we do get to help design wetland sites. Just a little bit of background if there is enough, I guess, impacts to a wetland or a waterway, then we are required to provide mitigation a lot of times elsewhere. And what will that what that will probably entail is like if you're destroying so many acres of wetlands, you're going to have to recreate another wetland elsewhere. So my favorite project was actually a mitigation site and just going out and monitoring and seeing how that wetland has created from beginning to where it is now. You see at the beginning where it's just kind of dirt and little plugs of plants until now where it's it's a thriving area. And now we're seeing wildlife come in. We have a beaver building a dam. And it's it's just really cool seeing how nature can kind of just take things back.
Jean Well, I've worked on a lot of different projects and a lot of different places. I've been doing this a very long time. But I think probably my favorite project working with RK&K was at Bowers Hill Cemetery Delineation Project, where we found an unexpected cemetery and we had to go in there and dig a bunch of trenches after we had GPR come in and identify potential grave shaft. That was fun. It's it's it's interesting work. I mean, yes. I mean, you know, we only take off the top the top soil and we're delineating cemeteries and stuff. And then we just kind of see the stains in the soil that indicate that something has been there or something went into the ground and disturbed it. Got it. Well, since we're out in the field now and on your stories or on talking about some projects that you've been on. What are some fun stories that you have from the field? Family friendly. Family friendly stories, please, please.
Probably the coolest thing that I've ever encountered in the field was a rather large buck that was probably around seven or eight feet away from me. Just staring at you. It was literally just staring at us. We were doing a wetland delineation. I was playing around on the iPad, just trying to see where is the next place to go. My coworker, Michelle Hardin, shout out! She pauses and says to me "Catherine, don't move. There is a buck about 50 feet away." And I look up and there is this huge monster of a deer and I just freeze and she's like, OK, chill out. He knows we're here. We know he's here. And. A few minutes later, the buck leaves were like, OK, cool. Breathe a sigh of relief. We keep working, so we keep walking and we come to a clearing. And again, I'm on the ipad and then we hear the crack and I look up and the buck had doubled back on us and had entered the clearing and was literally eight feet away from us. It just pauses and it stares and we're just standing there just waiting. I'm freaking out. Michelle is very calm and collected. She's like, OK, you would have charged us if you wanted to. He's fine. He's just showing us who's boss. And then just like that. He gave a hough and walked away. And it's literally one of the most awesome
experiences I've ever seen. Awesome in the sense of like, yes, I was filled with awe I had never been that close to a wild animal that wasn't a squirrel ever in my life. And it was scary. But it was. It was. Unbelievable. You should spend less time on your iPad. It was for work. That's my takeaway. Wow, I yeah, I'm trying to imagine just from here to the other side of the room, essentially. Yeah, we we counted. He was like a ten point buck was huge. Huge. That's wild. Yeah, OK. So Jeanne, have you shared any similar levels of excitement. With rattlesnakes. Oh yeah. I thought we were going to get safer, but. No, no, no. I mean on the animal train or whatever. Yeah. I've almost stepped on lots of rattlesnakes. I mean, mostly out west when I was working out there. Yeah. So you stare at the ground a lot when you're doing archaeology and rattlesnakes tend to blend in a lot. And I was looking down and I was going to pick up a really nice chalcedony point. And I heard a very large rattle and it was in striking post about two feet from me. That was scary. But generally, when you're doing archaeology, you're usually like in the backwoods. And we run into a bunch of different animals like buck's, elks, out west, bears, grizzly bears. You can hear them from very far away. And that's pretty frightening. Yeah. You make me glad that I have an office job. I was on a site once where the property owner said, watch out for the goat.I'm like, what goat?Apparently, like two weeks prior, one of his most stubborn goats escaped his yard and they haven't been able to catch him. And he was like, yeah. Just watch out for the goat. He likes to charge people were like, okay, cool. Thank you. We never saw him. No. I've been charged by a goat. In the field. Yes. Yes. Yep. Yes. This episode is turning out to not be a great advertisement for those seeking a career in outside in the outside. Yeah. I mean, I oh, it like it's thrilling. Oh yeah. It is all of these things aside it's still thrilling. Well I mean when you're about to step on a rattlesnake, there's no greater thrill than the feeling of being alive. All right, great. Okay. How far you can jump? How far? Yes. Away. Is that what you did? Yeah. You just jumped backwards real fast. Yeah. And then booked it. No, I waited. I waited so that I could pick up the projectile point because it was really cool. Some may go away eventually. They're scared. That's why they're rattling. That's why they're rattling. This is great. It was a great snake tips and tricks. Welcome to Inside Snake Management, where we talk about. Okay. Well.
In terms of your careers, how has your career progressed to get you to where you are now? Jean, you first. OK. Well, I started doing archaeology back in 2003, a long time ago. Now that we're coming up on 20, 20 and I spent several years shovelbumming, which I believe you've heard about. Yes, I talked about shovelbumming with Karen Hutchins-Keim and Matt Bray a couple episodes back. And I learned something then. And so, yes, please tell us please tell us about shovelbumming. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I spent, I guess. Like 10. Yeah, I guess 10 years shovelbumming just traveling around the country That nomadic lifestyle that they were talking about. I've worked in 18 different states and I've worked on some really cool projects. I worked on a mission period aerial ground in California, in L.A. and I lived out in L.A. for like six months. Shovelbumming just for anyone who's who didn't see that other episode. Can you explain it real quick with shovelbumming is. Yeah, sure. It's contract archaeology where people temporarily hire you for different projects and you kind of get to pick and choose where you want to go and what you want to do. And it's really a lot of fun. And the shovel is in the word because you spend a lot of time hugging a shovel, a shovel, digging holes. Yes, there are lots of holes, but a lot of the jobs that we do are like phase one job. So when you get like a burial ground or something like that or a big archaic site that stratified on the Mississippi River, those are like, you know, sites that that really have a lot of information in them. So there are a lot of fun. You know, you get to find things that people haven't seen and, you know, a couple thousand years, which is really awesome. Yeah, absolutely. That's really neat. So then I decided after about 10 years of that, I got a job working for the Fairfax County Park Authority doing archaeology and went and got my master's degree. And once I finished, I landed here at RK&K. We're happy to have you. Thanks I'm happy to be here. Still, after almost two years. I mean, when you spend 10 years, right, working for a bunch of different companies. Right. This is out in the field. Yeah. Good. This is great. Yeah. We have coffee and it's free and it's free. Yep. Come work at RK&K and get a free breakfast Fridays. No, that's right. That's true. We like those. Me too. A lot. Catherine, how about you? I guess I've had more indirect approach to how I got here. I started out with a as a bio major and then kind of like, no, I like animals. And then you're back into your save animals, I need to save the environment. Yes, please. Well, yeah, I've I've always taken my career approaches, kind of rolling with the punches and seeing what opportunities arise. I started out in nonprofit world. From there, I went to kind of like a half academia, half nonprofit, working for the University of Delaware. We did a lot of extension work there and it was mostly watershed studies and whatnot up with the Nature Conservancy that was our biggest client. And then I met Jim Eisenhardt. Love you, Jim. And he helped me get a he told me about RK&K and the rest is history, and I've been here ever since. So, the last five years. If he hasn't gotten his referral bonus, he's gonna be looking. Yeah. No. Yeah. What? What's something that each of you in your realm of of expertise, what's something that you're super passionate about? I
didn't give you this question in advance, making you think right now. Or something that just really interests you like that. I do a lot of the public outreach work with a group called the Friends of Fairfax Archaeology, and that's for promoting in our community preservation and conservation of archeological sites and kind of just getting the word out to interested people what our cultural resources in Fairfax County in our community can do for us and what they mean to us and why we should preserve them and learn about them. And I really like connecting with the public on that kind of level. In terms of cultural resources, I'm going to go, I'll come back to you in a second. In terms of cultural resources and how would you explain to someone who maybe doesn't understand the purpose or the need of cultural resources, sort of the value that it provides to the community? Well, I think that the value it provides the community is it allows us to kind of see the progress that loops the progress we've made and the progress that we've made in building to where we are today. I mean. Cultural resources are like finite resources, so once they're gone, you can never get them back. But they represent. They represent all of us and an entire community. And like how we've gotten to this point and I don't know if that made sense. No, that's it. I think the thing about them being a finite resource, I think that's really interesting. I hadn't ever thought of it that way. But there's you know, there's you know, you often hear the word preservation. What you said that also, you know, so we're preserving these. But yeah, I think thinking them thinking of them in a way of once they're gone. Like if we haven't preserved them. That's it. It's gone. It's done. Yeah. I mean and that's you know. Yeah. And. I don't know. It's just it is important to me and I think that getting the public involved in preserving them is very important, too, because there's a lot of people who are interested in in the history of the area, but they don't actually know that they are. I don't know if that makes sense either. Well, I think it's in any place that you are and you live, especially if you've lived there for a while or grown up in that in that general area. Like a lot of people have. Once you start to realize that or really see the history of what's been there and you you see a picture from, you know, 50, 60 years ago from your neighborhood and you're like, oh, like, that's my house is right there now, you know, or, oh, you know, I grew up playing, you know, sports on that field. That's what it used to be this other thing. I think. I think when you can connect to it like that, I think it's really interesting. And so I think that's maybe what you're trying to say is, yeah, there's you do you don't realize it until you realize it. I feel like I just said something that didn't make any sense at all. It's OK. And I'll translate it some other language. Catherine.
I probably am most passionate about. I'm going to be really nerdy here stream assessments. OK. Why? Yes. Here we go. Well, this is gonna sound very like way up there.
Water is just such a powerful thing and everything is just so connected to water. I'm never tired of going out into a stream and seeing how it's affected the landscape, how it affects the topography, how it's currently affecting property values like it's just everything can eventually be turned back to water and just going out and looking at a stream and saying, like determining how healthy it is and if it's not healthy, what can we do to make it healthy again? How well. How will this stream at this one point affect
the Chesapeake Bay? That's like tons of miles away. Everything is just so interconnected and and really just the power of water is insane. Just seeing what it can do from just a tiny little rainstorm or tiny to us. But when you go out there and you see how much sediment and rocks and trees that is volume of water can move in such a small creek, it's astounding actually. When you go out. Well, let's jump into that for a minute, cause I think that's interesting when you go out to look at a stream and you've assessed it maybe before and after a storm. Is that how you would often do something, maybe see to see the change? If we're monitoring something, thats what we'll do. Yeah. So what are you looking for in changes between before and after a storm, for example? And you mentioned the Chesapeake Bay. Obviously, big thing and maybe some of the what some of those impacts can be of negative things happening to a stream. So in that sense, we would probably be mostly looking for sediment transport. How much has eroded from the banks? What is that that has eroded the banks going into and this is a tie in cultural resources. A lot of streams here in the mid Atlantic northeast coast. A lot of them are historic mill dams, for example.
These are streams that are no longer connected to their flood plains. So you're seeing sediment that is coming off of this land that's been there for hundreds of years from like colonial times. And it's releasing all these pollutants and stuff as the water comes out and it runs runs at off. So that's something that we would look at is what is what is being transported, how much is being transported and where it might go. Here we talked on episode 13, I believe we talk with Matt Slagel and he was talking about how phosphorus can affect the bond to sediment a lot and then we get releases into the water. And so that sounds really scary to have all that that because you wouldn't normally think like, oh, dirt going into water, like, so what? But it's not really the dirt itself. It's what the dirt is carrying. Yes. That those contaminants that's so things that have gotten into the soil, the soil washes into the stream and carries it downstream until eventually it's in the bay. Yes. And you're way if you're from the the Delmarva area, you know that the bay is has a lot of challenges in terms of its health. So. What haven't I asked you about that you want to talk about?
Field lunches. Field lunches. Not what I was expecting. I like it and tell me about it. Well, I'll tell you. I have like three. I'm going to tell you three of my field rules. OK. All right. That's that's what I'll talk about. No one is never get separated from your lunch. OK. Is that just a practical like you don't want to be hungry? Right. If somebody says, oh, we'll be back at the car for lunch. Don't believe them. Always bring your lunch with you. OK. Yes. Very true. I've gotten very hangry sometimes. I got it. I mean, people promise you things and sometimes they can't deliver. So never get separated from your lunch. Don't fall down because falling down is really bad. And that could lead to rule number three. Don't die. Nobody dies for archaeology. These are really... wow. Yeah. So very practical rules. And clearly, you know, well thought out. No, that's good. So don't get separated from your lunch. Don't fall down. Don't die. Yeah. Mm hmm. It's sort of, um. I can get down with those. That's good. I would add don't go out alone. Yeah. Let's get let's get about safety. You know, be smart. Yeah. Have a buddy. All right. Well, that means drumroll please.That
wasn't very good. It's time for your pick of the week's picks of the week. Pick whatever it is, it's time for you to pick something that you think we're going to like. Catherine, you're closer. Okay. Don't steal mine. Well, I'm gonna now. No, no, my pick of the week is that a Netflix movie, a new Netflix original Christmas cartoon, actually. It's called Klaus. Oh, I've seen it. I haven't watched it yet, but I've seen it. It's showing it's saying that I should watch it. It's very good. I watched it. What was it? I watched it a few weeks ago and it was mostly because my baby would not go to sleep. So I said to her, if you're going to be awake. Well, then let's be entertained. And we sat down. We watched Klaus. She fell asleep within half an hour. She's nine months old. But I keep watching it. It was great. It's like it's like a new take on how Santa Claus came to be. OK. Klaus there it is. Netflix, right. Do it.Two thumbs up. Two thumbs up. Let's not talk about the film system on Netflix. Huh? It's a thumb It's a thumbs up and thumbs down. Did you like it or did you not like it? There's no star rating anymore. It's terrible. Netflix, if you're listening, this is bad. I don't use that system. That's OK. I mean, it use Netflix, but not the thumb up and down. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So my pick of the week is also television related and it's his dark materials on HBO. OK. I love that show. It's really good. You should watch it. It's about the Golden Compass. Oh, it's all right. Yeah. There's a movie. The Golden Compass movie. Yes. It's a book first. I think there is two books and one of them is called His Dark Materials. And this is. So they made a full series or mini series. A full series or so. Yes. It's wrapping up next week. Real good. OK. All right. There we go. So Klaus and His Dark Material. All right. Thank you all for joining us for another episode of Inside Engineering. A new episode comes out every Tuesday. And you can watch or listen to every episode on demand at our Web site at rkk.com/podcast. You can also catch us on many of the podcasting platforms out there, including Apple, Spotify, Google, all a bunch of others where you can like rate review and share and do all the things you're supposed to do with the podcast. We also have a short anonymous survey on our website that lets us know how we're doing. And so give us some feedback. If you have a chance and thanks for watching. Thanks, Catherine. Thanks, Jean. Thank you. Thank you. You all are great. We'll see you all next time on another episode of Inside Engineering.