Orange County Branch Newsletter

September 2012

Secretary's Column

New EWRI Chapter

By Gary Gilbert, PE, GE

It was a pleasure being the ASCE Orange County Branch secretary this past year and in October I will be handing over the position to Cindy Miller's capable hands as I take on new duties as treasurer.  I hope you have enjoyed some of the new features and articles we have added to the newsletter and website to try and provide more value to the Orange County Branch members.  Next year we plan to continue to make improvements and expand beyond the recent focus on the newsletter and website.  Next year will be the Orange County Branch's 60th anniversary and we plan to revisit the past successes in the Orange County Branch and find ways to build upon the contributions of past members.  We are working on restructuring the branch to reduce the number of committees and actively search for new members who are interested in contributing to the profession by becoming more active in the Orange County Branch.  One way that we plan to improve the Orange County Branch is to start our first Institute.

The Orange County Branch realized last year when the the Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI) held their World Environmental & Water Resources Congress in Palm Springs, that the Orange County members are not getting the full benefit out of their membership to the branch.  The Orange County Branch was not involved in the EWRI Congress and didn't know if any of our members participated in the event.  Being members of the Branch, we have multiple opportunities to attend ASCE Society events held across the county (and Canada this year) and build relationships with Society officers.  On the other hand, we have had little contact with the various institutes that ASCE Society created in the late 1990s, early 2000s.  Then last year, the Geotechnical Institute (GI) asked the Orange County Branch if they had someone to represent them at a Summit in Saint Louis, Missouri, and the branch selected me as their representative.  I had the opportunity to interact with other geotechnical professionals and learn more about institutes.  The surprising thing that I learned from the GI Summit in Saint Louis was that every institute chapter is different and the only thing that the GI requires is that board members choose GI as their institute when they renew their membership and that they promote the field of geotechnical engineering.  Some groups met once a year, while others met once a month.  I realized that even though the Orange County Branch's Transportation Technical Group (TTG) and Hydraulics and Hydrology Technical Group (HHTG) practiced in different areas of civil engineering, they already met the criteria to be an institute.

When I came back from my trip to Saint Louis, I discussed my findings with the Orange County Branch board and we came to the conclusion that we are not taking full advantage of the opportunities that ASCE Society provides to it's members.  As Josh Nelson, PE mentioned in his July President's Message, institutes are one of the most underutilized benefit of ASCE membership.  Therefore, the branch decided to start talking to the two Orange County Branch technical groups to see if they would be interested in becoming institutes.  We first approached TTG who has been having great success with their programs.  TTG was concerned that changing their name would confuse their members and negatively impact their program,  Therefore, the TTG board decided to wait on changing to an institute and learn more about the Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI).  In June of 2013, T&DI will be having an Airfield and Highway Pavement Specialty Conference in Los Angeles, which will be perfect opportunity for the Orange County Branch and TTG to learn more about this institute.   

The Orange County Branch HHTG has also had a successful program, and they were looking for ways to increase their membership before we approached them about becoming an institute.  We both agreed to change HHTG to an EWRI chapter starting in October 2012.  HHTG has held their meetings every other month and have focused on surface and storm water since the founding of the group.  With the change of name, the meetings held by the EWRI chapter at Dave and Busters will continue to focus on surface and storm water issues.  In addition, on some months when the EWRI does not have their regular meetings, the Orange County Branch and EWRI will have a joint meetings regarding other areas of water resources and environmental, such as drinking water and wastewater.  We hope this will provide more value to the Orange County Branch members who are in the area of water resources and environmental and encourage our members to become more active in EWRI.  We hope by becoming more active in EWRI, Orange County Branch members will attend more EWRI events and bring back ideas on how we can improve our existing EWRI and Orange County Branch meetings.  Both the EWRI and the Orange County Branch programs committee are looking for members to assist us with finding good speakers to present at our meetings.

The Orange County Branch is taking some of the funds we have saved from taking the newsletter to an all digital format to pay for sending at least one member to an EWRI and T&DI event each year.  We also hope over time that we will be able to add other institutes to the branch, such as GI and the Construction Institute (CI).  The GI and CI would likely start out with holding one joining meeting a year with the Orange County Branch, so we can make sure we have at least one topic per year on a construction and geotechnical project.  There is an existing Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers Institute (COPRI) that alternates meetings between Long Beach and San Pedro that we feel is close enough to meet the needs of our members.  However, when there are interesting projects in Orange County, such as Dana Point Harbor or the Santa Ana River, we plan to approach the Los Angeles COPRI to see if they would be interested in holding a joint event.  We are unaware of active Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) and Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI) in California, but if someone was interested in being active in one of these institutes, the Orange County Branch would like to learn more and see how we can support these institutes too.  Hopefully you will do your part by becoming more active in the Orange County Branch and/or at least pay Section and Branch dues so that we can continue to expand our successful programs and provide more value to our members. 

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