Latest News

Net Metering Deal Sweetened for Home, Business Owners

Date: July 20, 2022

To encourage the growth of renewable energy production in the state, the Mississippi Public Utilities Commission has added a new rebate and low-income credits to its net metering rule, Mississippi Today reports.

Residents and small business owners who purchase rooftop solar or other green energy-generating systems will receive a $3,500 rebate. Also, households earning up to 250% of the federal poverty level will receive higher payments.

Mississippi has the second lowest number of participants out of any state with a net metering law. Its net metering program, which began in 2015, received criticism early on because its original model did not pay residents retail rates for the energy generated.


Entergy Consolidating Three Facilities in $30 Million Project

Date: July 20, 2022

Entergy Mississippi has purchased a former Primos manufacturing facility in Flora. The company is spending $30 million to renovate the 102,700-square-foot building, where operations are expected to begin in June 2023, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Entergy will move 44 employees to the new location, which also includes 10 acres for materials storage and another 25 acres in the Flora Industrial Park. An additional 37 remote contract employees will use the location as a home base.

The new building will replace three separate facilities, which house the company’s transmission line department, substation operations department, and the central Mississippi substation maintenance department for the Jackson metropolitan area.

Flora has seen a resurgence of development in its downtown area recently, with multiple new businesses opening and residential construction planned.

Construction of Largest Solar Plant in Mississippi Complete

Date: June 16, 2022

Recurrent Energy, LLC has completed the construction of a 100-megawatt renewable solar power plant near Ruleville in the Mississippi Delta, providing clean energy to Entergy Mississippi’s 461,000 customers. The Sunflower Solar Station is the largest solar installation in Mississippi and provides enough energy to power 16,000 homes, according to PV Magazine

Recurrent Energy developed and built the Sunflower Solar Station for Entergy Mississippi, which will own it for the life of the facility. The Sunflower project is one of the first utility-scale solar projects to be constructed under a Build Transfer Agreement in the United States.

Recurrent Energy signed a BTA with Entergy Mississippi in 2018 designating the regulated utility to own the Sunflower project when it reached commercial operation. The BTA was approved unanimously by the Mississippi Public Service Commission in April 2020.


MDOT Plans to Improve EV Charging Access

Date: June 16, 2022

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is developing a plan to ensure all Mississippian's and visitors have access to the electric vehicle charging infrastructure with a focus on the connectivity of rural and urban areas. The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program is providing dedicated funding to the state's EV charging infrastructure and establish a more interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability. Funding under this program is initially directed to designated Alternative Fuel Corridors for electric vehicles to build out this national network, particularly along the Interstate Highway System.

To receive the allocated funds, MDOT must submit an EV infrastructure Deployment Plan by August 1, 2022, to FHWA describing our goals and how it intends to use the funds. The deployment plan will include charging infrastructure deployment, existing and future conditions, contracting, implementation, and program evaluation along with documentation of state agency coordination, stakeholder outreach, and public engagement. Overall, the plan will address statewide connectivity and the deployment of EV charging infrastructure along the interstate system to ensure reliable travel across the state.

MDOT is soliciting public comments on the plan. Comments must be received by July 15.

EPA Proposes Adding Hattiesburg Plant to Superfund List

Date: May 18, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing adding a defunct chemical plant in Hattiesburg to its Superfund priority list. At the site, Hercules Inc. produced various chemicals for decades, such as paints, varnishes, and pesticides. Since the facility closed in 2009, multiple EPA inspections have found toxic levels of dozens of chemicals such as benzene in groundwater there, according to Mississippi Today.

The public is invited to submit comments through June 16, 2022, at www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. All comments MUST include the docket number EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0191.


Mississippi Airports to Receive $15 Million for Enhancements

Date: May 18, 2022

The Federal Aviation Administration is funding $15 million in improvements for 29 airports across the state, according to magnoliastatelive.

“Local airports, which support jobs and bolster economies, require regular rehabilitation, construction, and safety projects,” said US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.

The grants come from the Airport Improvement Program, including entitlement and appropriated funding. The projects will include runway and taxiway reconstruction and repair, navigational aids, lighting and fencing upgrades, control tower improvements, drainage projects, and more.

Ridgeland PE Graduates from NSPE Emerging Leaders Program

Date: April 14, 2022

Jennifer Sloan Ziegler, Ph.D., P.E.

Civil engineer Jennifer Sloan Ziegler, Ph.D., P.E., of Ridgeland, Miss., is a member of NSPE’s 2021 Class of Emerging Leaders. The latest session of the Emerging Leaders Program began in August 2021 and concluded in February.

Sloan Ziegler works as a project manager for Cypress Environment & Infrastructure, a small woman-owned business based in Ocean Springs, Miss. The company specializes in engineering, planning, and environmental science in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic region. She says her employment provides her with opportunities for ownership, professional growth, client and team development, and project management much earlier than for some of her counterparts at larger firms. Read more.


Lawmakers End 2022 Session with Historic Spending Spree

Date: April 14, 2022

Earlier this month, state legislators appropriated historic amounts of funds for various categories in order to improve the health, safety, and lives of residents, including:

  • $1.51 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds on a litany of items ranging from helping to repair or improve local water and sewer systems to tourism enhancement to propping up state agencies facing lawsuits because of substandard conditions.
  • More than $900 million in surplus funds on hundreds of projects, including small projects such as courthouse repairs across the state, construction (on public buildings, including schools, state office buildings and community college and universities and more) and road and bridge repairs.
“So many of our communities across Mississippi have multimillion-dollar water and sewer challenges which have health, safety, economic, and other consequences. These funds will help these communities begin the process of addressing these concerns resulting in a better quality of life for our citizens,” Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann said, as quoted by Mississippi Today.

Funding Comes Through for Multiple State Infrastructure Projects

Date: March 14, 2022

Bipartisan legislation has passed that will fund water infrastructure projects in Mississippi, including $370 million for Mississippi River and Tributaries projects and $4 million for the City of Jackson to make repairs and improvements to the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, according to a news release from US Senator Roger Wicker.

Also provided is $16.64 million for Mississippi infrastructure and facility improvements, including:

  • Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport;
  • Laurel Hattiesburg Regional Airport;
  • Star Landing Road in DeSoto County;
  • Beatline Parkway in Long Beach;
  • Bozeman-Reunion Crossing Interchanges in Madison;
  • East Brandon Bypass in Rankin County, Gateway Harbor in Long Beach;
  • Rust College;
  • Mississippi Water and Wastewater Workforce and Public Safety Training Center; and
  • Greenville Federal Courthouse in Greenville.

Largest School District Solar Array in the State Powers On

Date: March 14, 2022

Lauderdale County School District partnered with Entegrity to power up the largest on-site solar array at a Mississippi school district. The array at Northeast Middle School was turned on at a community celebration earlier this month, Solar Power World reported.

Under the partnership, energy saving measures were also put into place, including district-wide upgrades, including LED lighting, HVAC upgrades, security system updates, and water conservation efforts. The solar array will harness enough energy to offset roughly 35% of school’s energy consumption and save the school district approximately $30,000 annually.

Mississippi Issues RFP for Solar Power

Date: February 16, 2022

The utility Mississippi Power has issued a request for proposal for approximately 200 megawatts of solar photovoltaic projects. According to the RFP, the utility requires that proposals include a 25-year energy-only power purchase agreement. Projects must be within the state of Mississippi. Applications are due March 15, 2022.


State Invests Millions in Site Development to Facilitate New Business

Date: February 16, 2022

The state of Mississippi is investing $25 million in site development, Governor Tate Reeves announced in early February. The grant funds were made available through the Mississippi Development Authority, Appalachian Regional Commission and the RESTORE Act to assist local economic development entities in their efforts to spur economic growth, according to an article by the AP.

Sites are designated into three funding levels: Select, premier, and ready sites. The designation depends on their size and capacity, and they are awarded grant funds accordingly.

“By investing in these sites today, we are laying a foundation upon which companies can quickly locate, expand, and create jobs for future generations of Mississippians,” Reeves said.

Port Work Will Have Economic Benefits

Date: January 18, 2022

US Department of Transportation funding for port work in Mississippi is expected to benefit the state economy, the AP reports.

The state received $8 million from the DOT’s Port Infrastructure Development Program, which is intended to improve the nation’s supply chain. Construction of the Port Rail Spur Connector Project around the Port of Aberdeen will connect the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Kansas City Southern Railroad. This should help to spur the economy in the northeastern part of Mississippi.

Another $4 million is to be spent on the Port Bienville Railroad Intermodal Yard Project, which will increase the yard capacity by 25% and reduce congestion. Find out more.


Southern Energy to Drill in Lawrence County

Date: January 18, 2022

Southern Energy has received drilling permits for three horizontal wells targeting natural gas in the Selma Chalk Formation in Central Mississippi. The wells will be drilled from a single surface pad location at the company’s Gwinville asset in Lawrence County.

Southern is partnering with Energy Drilling Company to use its rig on the project. The state’s natural gas production has declined over the last decade, falling to less than half its 2009 output in 2019, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

BP Oil Spill Money to Fund Artificial Reefs, Protect Coastal Habitats

Date: December 15, 2021

Mississippi will receive $27 million in BP oil spill settlement money as part of restitution fines for damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 and will fund measures to prevent future damage to natural resources. The money will support the expansion of and plans for future enhancements of artificial reefs across the Mississippi Sound and restore and protect vulnerable coastal habitats along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.


Infrastructure Law Funds Bridge and Road Repair, Transportation Upgrades

Date: December 15, 2021

The bipartisan infrastructure law will pay to repair and rebuild roads and bridges in Mississippi, with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. In Mississippi, there are 1,386 bridges and over 5,840 miles of highway in poor condition, according to the Department of Transportation. The state is expected to receive approximately $3.6 billion over five years in federal highway formula funding for highways and bridges.

In addition, $218 million over five years will be spent on improving public transportation in Mississippi. Funding will also cover modernization of freight rail, increased EV charging options, airport improvements, and other infrastructure updates.

Power Company Implodes Major Symbol of Carbon Capture in the US

Date: November 17, 2021

The Kemper project, which comprised half of a multimillion-dollar power plant in Mississippi and was a major symbol of carbon capture in the US, was imploded last month to eliminate equipment that was no longer needed, Energywire reports. The facility, Plant Ratcliffe, was run by Southern Mississippi Co., and the project was originally intended to be the first commercial-scale carbon capture venture on a large coal plant. Increased costs and delays caused the state to pivot and say the facility could run on natural gas alone in 2017. Construction of the carbon capture portion of the plan was halted.

However, in a sign of continued efforts toward capturing carbon last year, the Department of Energy funded a $23.5 million study on the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide from three of Southern’s power pla 17nts in Alabama and Mississippi. This could include capturing carbon from natural gas burned at Kemper, in theory.


Green Hydrogen Hub Coming to Mississippi

Date: November 17, 2021

Hy Stor Energy, with partner Connor, Clark & Lunn Infrastructure, plans to develop, commercialize, and operate large-scale, long-duration hydrogen hubs that will serve as a model for the nation’s green hydrogen development efforts. The first major project, the Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub, is under development and has multiple sites permitted for hydrogen storage.

The planned scale of the hub is up to 10 times larger than any other green hydrogen project under consideration in the US and would be one of the largest in the world. During its first phase, it is expected to produce an estimated 110 million kg of green hydrogen annually and store more than 70 million kg of green hydrogen in its underground salt caverns. Pending regulatory approvals and equipment availability, the hub’s first phase is planned to enter commercial service by 2025.

Levee Board Gains Authority in Yazoo Backwater Pump Project

Date: October 19, 2021

The Mississippi Levee Board has been given the authority to intervene in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency regarding a pumping plant to be constructed in the Yazoo Backwater area, according to The Vicksburg Post. The project is to be implemented by the Army Corps of Engineers to alleviate flooding on primarily agricultural flatlands in between the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers.

Environmental groups brought the lawsuit last spring, citing concerns about draining ecologically rich wetlands and alleged violation of environmental laws. Critics also argue draining the delta would result in flooding near Vicksburg.

The Yazoo Backwater area was covered in water for 219 days following a major flood in 2019. More than 548,000 total acres were flooded and waters reached a record 98.2 feet. Hundreds of homes were destroyed. The area has flooded nine out of the past ten years, the AP reports. The pump project has been caught up in the legal battle for nine months.


Energy Efficiency Program Funds Upgrades, Improves Worker Conditions

Date: October 19, 2021

The Mississippi Development Authority is accepting grant applications for the 2021 Mississippi Industrial Energy Efficiency Program, which is made possible through approximately $400,000 in State Energy Program funds from the US Department of Energy, mississippi.org reports.

MIEEP is designed to assist Mississippi companies with making energy-efficient upgrades to their facilities to reduce energy consumption and operating costs, as well as assist industries in creating and retaining jobs. Another goal is improved competitiveness and economic growth in the state. Funds are available under MIEEP for the purchase and installation of energy efficiency improvements to private entities. It is a competitive grant program and not all applicants receive funding.

Eligible energy retrofits include: lighting, water heating and energy systems control, as well as heating, ventilation and air conditioning projects, among others. Grant awards are offered up to 50% of total project costs, with the award not to exceed $50,000. The minimum grant award is $15,000.

Grid Experts Grapple with ‘Resilience’ in Ida’s Wake

Date: September 10, 2021

The widespread destruction left by Hurricane Ida after the storm plowed into Louisiana and headed up the East Coast made one thing clear: There’s more work to be done in building a resilient power grid, reports E&E News. But how might solutions differ from New Orleans to New York, especially as climate change scrambles conventional wisdom about when and where extreme weather strikes? “The nature of the risk has changed,” said Saurabh Amin, an associate professor with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.


Anti-Licensing Forces Miss the Point

Date: September 10, 2021

Extreme anti-licensing bills have popped up in numerous states and are posing a threat to the rigorous and established professional standards followed by PEs, architects, and others who design and construct the built environment, according to an op-ed in The Hill.

Lawmakers calling for these extreme measures don’t differentiate between barbers and manicurists, for example, and PEs and architects, say Tom Smith, executive director of ASCE, and Michael Armstrong, CEO of NCARB. “In their absolutist free-market view, reflected in the language of their model legislation, a visit to a barbershop or beauty salon should be treated the same as designing a bridge or water treatment plant.”

The legislative proposals range from measures that would eliminate licensing entirely to so-called “Universal Licensing” bills that would require states to accept licenses from any state regardless of whether the out-of-state license had the same level of qualifications behind it.


Natchez Mayor Calls Proposed Biorefinery ‘Historic’

Date: September 10, 2021

A $1.5 billion bio-refinery plant that could break ground as early as 2023 is stirring excitement in Natchez and Adams County, reports Magnolia State Live. The facility, proposed by UK-based Velocys, would be one of only two facilities in the US that would specialize in the production of environmentally friendly fuel, especially jet fuel, made from wood waste. Mississippi officials hope the project will bring hundreds of jobs to the state. In a social media post, Natchez’s mayor called the future Bayou Fuels project “historic.”

Velocys has been working on product demonstrations. In one, Japan Airlines completed a successful flight from Tokyo to Sapporo powered by fuel made from wood in June. The company believes it was the first time a commercial airline has ever flown with wood-based fuel.

Mississippi’s Challenge: Spending Wisely

Date: August 16, 2021

As billions of federal dollars flow to state and local governments and agencies through the American Rescue Plan Act, an article in the Dispatch raises a question: Is Mississippi up to the task of spending the money properly? State Auditor Shad White says the question keeps him up at night. “I think the answer is: the jury is still out.”

The state will receive $6 billion, but so far there has been little planning or coordination among state leaders, or solicitation of input from communities, the article says. As other states ramp up their projects, “there could be shortages of engineers, planners and contractors, potentially causing delays.”

Gulfport’s mayor put it this way: “The projects we would want spend it on take time to plan, do the engineering, planning, bidding, design process. There are so many moving parts … sometimes these things take years. There are probably very few cities that have anything that would qualify as shovel-ready.”

With unprecedented money coming in, he added, that “will probably mean unprecedented audits later on,” as Mississippi learned after Hurricane Katrina.


Senate Approves I-14 Corridor Amendment

Date: August 16, 2021

Expansion of the Interstate 14 five-state corridor moved closer to reality when the US Senate unanimously passed an amendment adding authorization of the project to the pending Bipartisan Infrastructure Package, reports the Daily Leader. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss), of Brookhaven, did not vote for the final infrastructure bill but did back the I-14 initiative. If the Senate bill becomes law as expected, the interstate project will receive full congressional designation—a goal the I-14/Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition has been working toward for nearly 20 years.

“This is huge for any city or town along this corridor — in Mississippi along what is now Hwy. 84,” said Monticello Mayor Martha Watts. “It will take years to complete but this will potentially have a great economic impact for all municipalities along Hwy. 84.”

The interstate would cross Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Improvements Considered for Vicksburg’s Water System

Date: July 21, 2021

Upgrades to Vicksburg’s water system are expected to cost $18.6 million over 10 years, according to an analysis by a Houston engineering firm, reports the Vicksburg Post. Among the proposed improvements: adding parallel pipelines between the clarifiers and filters at the water treatment plant, deepening the clear well suction pipelines, and setting up a GIS survey of the city’s water system that links directly to a hydraulic model for determining future projects and repairs

Vicksburg’s mayor said the GIS for monitoring the system should be the top priority as well as locating missing revenue from the water system. He said the city is billing for 70% of the water the city is producing.

“The study,” the article says, “was commissioned in the wake of a paralyzing ice storm in mid-February that created problems for the city’s water system.”


Out of the Blue, USM Opens Gulf Coast Business Accelerator

Date: July 21, 2021

The University of Southern Mississippi has unveiled an initiative that it hopes will open the door for higher paying jobs, student employment, and a future for marine, engineering, science, and prototyping careers in the state, according to WXXV 25. Dubbed Gulf Blue, the initiative will make its home at historic Gulf and Ship Island building in Gulfport.

The business accelerator will provide a place where innovators can work with university research scientists and federal partners to solve challenges in six areas: uncrewed maritime systems, ocean-friendly plastics, precision aquaculture, smart ports, coastal data, and sea-space systems.

How Baseball Sparked an Engineering Partnership

Date: June 10, 2021

Rust College and University of Mississippi have formed a partnership that allows students to pursue mathematics at Rust for three years followed by two years at the Ole Miss School of Engineering, and earn degrees from both. Four tracks are included in the dual-degree program: biomedical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering and mechanical engineering.

Rust College’s president said the partnership will increase the pipeline of Black engineers for business and industry and increase diversity at the state’s flagship institution. Rust is the state’s oldest historically Black college and Ole Miss is home to the state’s oldest engineering school.

Baseball, of all things, brought the schools together. Last year, Marni Kendricks, assistant dean at the Ole Miss School of Engineering, met with Rust College’s baseball coach Stanley Stubbs to discuss an engineering student project for the college’s athletics facilities. As they were talking, Stubbs was called by a prospective student who was interest in attending Rust but wanted to study engineering.

That got the ball rolling. Officials at Rust’s Division of Science and Mathematics and UM’s School of Engineering spent the next six months working to integrate the degree course plans so that students could meet all requirements within five years. The dual-degree program will be available to students beginning in fall 2021.


New Civil Engineering Program for Seabees on the Coast Get

Date: June 10, 2021

With help from a Vermont university, the first civil engineering degree program on the Coast, specifically designed for Seabees, will be offered at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, reports WLOX. Before the program’s creation, the Navy would not let enlisted sailors in construction trades to become Navy Civil Engineer Corps officers without having to leave the service.

The in-person civil engineering instruction will be provided by Norwich University, the oldest senior military college in the US. It will be offered to civilians, but it is designed to accommodate the strenuous schedule of Seabees and their families. The program will partner with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community college, which will offer the prep courses.

Tool Manufacturer Expands in Mississippi

Date: May 17, 2021

Milwaukee Tool will invest $60 million in advanced technology and manufacturing equipment to support the operation of a new accessories manufacturing facility in Grenada County, reports the Oxford Eagle. The 500,000-square-foot facility in Grenada County’s I-55 Business and Technology Park will bring 1,200 jobs to the region, 800 in the new Grenada facility. Engineering and technician jobs will be among the openings. Other Milwaukee Tool facilities in the state are located in Greenwood, Jackson, and Olive Branch. As of 2020, the company employed more than 2,343 in the state.


Solar Power Development Moves Ahead

Date: May 17, 2021

A 100 MW solar facility broke ground in late April in Sunflower County, reports Solar Power World. It is one of the first utility-scale solar projects to be constructed under a build transfer agreement in the United States. Once the facility is completed by Recurrent Energy, it will be owned by Entergy Mississippi.

Solar Power World also reports that Clay County will be the home of a 200-MW solar farm that support the renewable energy goals of Knoxville, Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Knoxville Utilities Board have chosen Origis Energy to develop the facility. Origis will develop, build, own, and operate the plant, and supply energy through an agreement with TVA’s Green Invest program. Starkville recently became the first Mississippi municipality to join TVA’s Green Invest program, according to the Dispatch. Starkville Utilities purchased 30 megawatts of solar energy from TVA, equal to 15% of the city’s annual electricity consumption.

Port of Vicksburg Project Advances

Date: April 21, 2021

It has been called a “generational project for Vicksburg.” Now an environmental assessment has started on a potential site, and state and local leaders are publicly discussing the project for the first time, reports the Vicksburg Post. Two plans are under consideration: expansion of the current port facilities at an estimated cost $47.55 million and building a new port facility at an estimated cost of $102 million. A 2019 market analysis identified potential opportunities if more port infrastructure were available. Among them are scrap iron imports from Mexico, containerized soybean exports, and wood-chip exports in containers.


Jackson’s Broken Water System

Date: April 21, 2021

An article in Mississippi Today takes a close look at the failings of Jackson’s water system. Even before February’s winter storms caused Jacksonians to lose running water, many Jacksonians lacked access to clean drinking water. Among other problems, they are faced with high lead levels, inconsistent billing, faulty and unaddressed water treatment techniques, and an emergency order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the city’s water system presented “imminent and substantial endangerment” to its customers and could contain E. Coli.

The problems stem from “decades of underinvestment and deferred maintenance within a dysfunctional and outdated water treatment and delivery system.” The lack of planning for investment in the system and the loss of a customer base have left Jackson in the same position as “other major cities like Detroit, Toledo or Kansas City, whose leaders have had to look outside their own budgets to solve major crises.”

A Q&A with Eddie Templeton, P.E.

President, Burns Cooley Dennis Inc.

Eddie Templeton, P.E.

Last year, Burns Cooley Dennis Inc. celebrated 35 years in business. The firm started in a narrow slot in a Jackson warehouse building and has grown to become the largest geotechnical and materials consulting firm headquartered in Mississippi. Among its 69 employees are 11 PEs, 5 EIs, 7 employees with MS degrees in geotechnical engineering, and 3 with PhDs in either geotechnical or materials engineering. 

President Eddie Templeton, P.E., joined NSPE and the Mississippi Society in 1994, and four other of BCD’s engineering leaders are also members: VP/Principal Randy Ahlrich, Ph.D., P.E.; Principal Tommy Dunlap, P.G., P.E.; Principal Robert Varner, P.E.; and Engineer Kevin Williams, P.E. 

Among the firm’s current or recently completed projects:

  • A technically challenging design of a stabilization system for the Loess bluffs along the Mississippi River and along the west side of the VA cemetery in Natchez;
  • The design of a stabilization system for a complex grouping of large landslides along I-40 at Rockwood Mountain in Roane County, Tennessee; and
  • Providing construction materials testing services for the Amazon facility under construction in Madison County.

Templeton recently provided some thoughts about the pandemic, project costs and quality, a recent acquisition, and the importance of technician certification. 

The pandemic has shaken up many aspects of AEC industry. How has business been over the last year? 

Templeton: We have been blessed with a fairly steady flow of work during the pandemic. On the geotechnical engineering side, we attribute this to the diversity in the types of services we offer and to several ongoing open-end, indefinite delivery type contracts with state highway departments, the Corps of Engineers, railroads, and utility companies. There was a slight decrease in the volume of commercial development projects, which typically make up a nice portion of our workload, but this was offset by an increase in disaster relief/emergency response-type project work related to soil erosion and landslide activity that resulted from the historically high rainfall that occurred in late 2019 and early 2020. 

BCD offers several specialty practice areas beyond routine geotechnical engineering and construction testing that were, thankfully, less impacted by the pandemic. These include flood protection projects, embankment/slope stabilization projects, earth fill dams design, and remediation, ground improvement, pavement materials research and design, geo-structure design and practical numerical geo-modeling. We also offer expertise in forensic geotechnical and materials engineering, value engineering, and geotechnical site selection studies which have help maintain a steady workflow throughout the pandemic.

We hear a lot about the anticipated long-term effects of COVID-19 on society, such as more remote work and greater reliance on technology. How do you expect business will be different at BCD in the post-pandemic world? 

Templeton: During the pandemic, professional staff have had to accommodate having no or restricted face-to-face business or internal meetings, no in-person technical conferences, and no participation in professional society lunch meetings. However, in Mississippi as well as many other states, most of the engineering services we provide are centered on construction and are considered essential, so we had to decide how to best accommodate the pandemic restrictions while maintaining a safe environment for our employees. 

BCD employs 27 engineering technicians who work either in the field on drill crews collecting soil samples, at construction sites inspecting construction and testing construction materials or in the laboratory, testing soils, aggregates, concrete, and asphalt. None of these activities and services can be performed remotely. Daily collaboration is required between these engineering technicians and the project engineers and clients-owners to ensure that services are provided in an accurate and timely manner while accommodating safety protocols established by local, federal and state health agencies. 

So, while some of our engineers and administrative staff have been able to work remotely on occasion, most of our professional and technical staff have continued to report to work in person. We established mask and sanitation protocols early in the pandemic and I believe this helped reduce the incident rate. The post-pandemic world does not seem like it will have changed the way BCD conducts business with the exception that most of us are much better at participating and setting up “Zoom” meetings now! 

You’re president of a firm that celebrated 35 years in business last June. What are the guiding principles you follow to keep BCD a top geotechnical firm? 

Templeton: It’s hard to think of anything to say that won’t sound dated or cliché, but since I started here at BCD the principle has always been to provide the client the best, most efficient, timely service, regardless of the project size—client satisfaction and service is job-one. Although cost is always an important part of the equation, we do not allow cost to determine the quality of the service we provide. If the client feels the cost is too high and we feel the quality of work will be compromised if the scope of work is reduced, then BCD is not the right engineering firm for the project. 

A firm is its employees and as owner-doers, we strive to lead by example of what to do and how to service our clients’ needs. We take pride in our employees, showing respect and challenging them to be the best at what they do, and because they achieve this level of skill and work, we accordingly compensate them financially and with benefits. 

BCD recently acquired SoilTech Consultants Inc., which was an affiliate firm of Neel-Schaffer Inc., a firm you’ve collaborated with on projects. How did the acquisition come about and why was it a good fit?

Templeton: Neel-Schaffer and BCD are both headquartered in the Jackson MS metro, with many of the staff having close relationships on a personal as well as professional level. Neel-Schaffer and BCD have similar histories and a long history of collaboration. Both firms were founded in the mid-1980s by local engineers with shared commitments of providing the highest quality services and to being employee owned. 

Neel-Schaffer leaders decided to focus on core services such as transportation, civil, environmental, and water resources engineering, and it was a natural fit to sell the firm’s geotechnical affiliate to BCD. Because of our long history of successful collaboration, it was a quick easy decision on both sides, and we could not be more pleased with the acquisition. 

The acquisition of SoilTech improves BCD’s ability to deliver the best engineered solutions to both routine and complex geotechnical projects for our current and new client base. By expanding our reach in the market, BCD will have even more opportunities for growth by employing the talents of SoilTech professionals who have joined our company. In turn, BCD will be introduced to new clients who were previously served by SoilTech. 

The work of BCD’s soils, earthwork, concrete, and asphalt testing laboratories is carried out by laboratory and field technicians. Some are certified by NICET, a division of NSPE. What does NICET’s technician certification bring to your team? 

Templeton: As stated previously, the two most important things that drive the success of a service firm is its clients and its employees. Special certifications such as NICET, which represents significant specialized training and improvement for employees, also mean improved quality of inspection and testing capability for owners-clients. Such specialized certification is a win-win for client, employee, and BCD. We take great pride in having the largest private materials testing and research laboratory in the state of Mississippi that is accredited through the AASHTO Accreditation Program as well as maintaining the US Army Corps of Engineers certification.


Pipeline Draws Opposition

Date: March 18, 2021

A planned pipeline to carry oil from a refinery in Memphis to Byhalia, Mississippi, has received all of its permits but is facing opposition from a Tennessee legislator, reports the Mississippi Business Journal. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat who represents Memphis, has asked President Joe Biden to rescind the permission the Plains All American project due to concerns about potential contamination of an aquifer that supplies the city with drinking water. The commander of the Corps of Engineers’ Memphis District said in a letter that contamination of the aquifer is not reasonably likely to occur.

Virtual Membership Meeting on 2/18: Don’t Miss It

By Harry Gong, P.E., F.NSPE

I am inviting all Mississippi NSPE Members to attend a virtual membership meeting that is scheduled for Thursday, February 18, 2021 from 11:30am to 12:30pm. During this meeting the following items will be presented and discussed:

  1. NSPE Updates
    a. New Executive Director & CEO - Monika Schulz, CAE
    b. Updates from NSPE Officers/Staff
  2. Mississippi Legislature Updates
  3. Engineers Week (February 21 - 27)
  4. Nominations for Mississippi House Delegate 2021-2023
  5. Time for members to share

Please make note of item 4 as I intend to share the duties and commitment that are required to serve as the House Delegate in addition to other volunteer opportunities for serving NSPE. So if you are interested in serving, please attend this meeting so that you can learn how you can get more involved with NSPE.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to comment or email me directly.


Governor Signs EWeek Proclamation

Governor Tate Reeves has signed a proclamation declaring February 21-27 as National Engineers Week in Mississippi. Get all the details about EWeek on the DiscoverE website.


Where To Spend Lottery Dollars? State or Local Roads?

Date: February 10, 2021

Lottery revenue earmarked for maintenance on state highways would be diverted to local road and bridge needs under legislation pending in the Mississippi Senate, according to Mississippi Today. During a special session in 2018, lawmakers adopted the state lottery and decided the first $80 million in annual lottery revenue would be earmarked for MDOT. The legislation would divert any lottery revenue in excess of $80 million to public education. The bill’s author says Mississippi’s state-funded highways rank eighth in the nation, but locally funded roads and bridges are among the worst in the country.


Mississippi Job Opportunities

Date: February 10, 2021

Postdoctoral Research- Machine Learning
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)- ORISE

Research Agricultural Engineer
USDA-ARS-Pollinator Health in Southern Crop Ecosystem Research Unit

See other engineering job opportunities on the NSPE Job Board.

Corps Approves Yazoo Pumps

Date: January 27, 2021

The US Army Corps of Engineers has put the final approval on the Yazoo Backwater Pumps Projects, reports the Vicksburg Post. The pumps were the final piece of the Yazoo Backwater Levee Project authorized by Congress in 1941, but the EPA vetoed the pumps project in 2008. After modifications to the pump plan, the EPA said that its original objections no longer applied.


Dam Poses Risk to Neighborhood

Date: January 27, 2021

A neighborhood lake formed by a dam that hasn’t had an owner in years is placing the public at risk, according to the Meridian Star. If a new owner doesn’t step forward and maintain the dam, the Mississippi DEQ will develop plans for a controlled breach to drain the lake. The dam, located in Meridian, is considered high-hazard. Modeling shows that 43 residences and 17 businesses would be flooded if the dam had an uncontrolled breach.

Bridge Project Makes History

Date: December 16, 2020

Engineering and construction history was made in Jackson on the I-20 replacement flyover bridge at I-55. On December 7, MDOT reported that crews were placing the bridge’s seventh and final 170-foot concrete beam—the largest pre-stressed simple spans in MDOT history. The 200,000-pound beams were set in place using a self-propelled modular transport lifting frame, the first time the department has used such a device. Watch the video.

The $42.2 million project was awarded to Key LLC, of Madison. The existing bridge will be demolished once the new span is complete.


Member Spotlight: Wayne Black, P.E.

Date: December 16, 2020

Check out the Mississippi licensing board’s excellent December Engineer Spotlight of accomplished member Wayne Black of Garver LLC.


Lottery Dollars Mean New Pavement

Date: December 16, 2020

In its first year, Mississippi’s lottery brought in around $500 million, and the state collected $70 million to help fix roads and infrastructure, reports WAPT. “We took those $70 million and for the most part, used it for pavement projects, projects that hadn’t been done in over 20 years,” said Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons.

Oil Spill Restoration Work Moves Slowly

Date: November 18, 2020

An analysis of BP spending by Mississippi Today on damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill shows that the bulk of the restoration work remains undone. Mississippi had spent $134 million of an obligated $576 million total, as of last December, leaving more than $700 million left for future projects. So far, about a dozen restoration projects have been completed, with nearly 80% of funds going toward nonenvironmental projects like $14 million for the Gulfport Aquarium, $10 million for the INFINITY Science Center in Pearlington, and $4 million for the Popp’s Ferry Causeway Park in Biloxi.

The article says, “some environmental stakeholders are skeptical that the state is prioritizing its top restoration goals with its spending, while others are concerned that Mississippi is missing a cohesive approach to restoration.”

The UK-based BP reached a more than $20 billion settlement for environmental damages and was hit with over $2 billion in criminal penalties. The money, combined with smaller settlements, will be used through several federal funding programs and the five Gulf states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. April marked the 10-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout.


Model Developed at Vicksburg Center Tracks COVID Spread

Date: November 18, 2020

Researchers at the Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg have developed a model that predicts the spread of the coronavirus and is being used as a planning tool for building alternate care facilities, reports Business Facilities. “The model takes the reported number of active cases in a county’s or state’s geographic area, then uses a parameter optimization process, similar to the way models for weather forecasting are parameterized,” said Brandon Lafferty, a researcher from the ERDC Environmental Laboratory. “That data is fed into ordinary differential equations to provide predictions for active COVID-19 infections for the future.” The model has been featured on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website—“the first time a model developed and maintained by the Department of Defense has been included in the CDC ensemble,” the article says.

A New Energy Exchange Market for the Southeast?

Date: October 28, 2020

Utilities in the Southeast are pushing to create “a new electricity market that could boost renewable energy in a region still dominated by fossil fuels,” reports E&E News. The Southeast Energy Exchange Market would allow the area’s utilities to buy and sell excess electricity as a way to meet net-zero carbon targets. “The utilities hope to file a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the end of the year. If approved, it would be the first regional wholesale market of any kind in the Southeast,” the article says.


USACE Report Backs Proposed Delta Pump Project

Date: October 28, 2020

The US Army Corps of Engineers’ draft of a new environmental impact statement supports a proposal for massive pumps to drain floodwaters from parts of the rural Mississippi Delta — a reversal of a previous federal report that said the project would hurt wetlands, according to Claims Journal. The project involves building huge pumps at the confluence of the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers to protect an area that has experienced significant flooding during nine of the past 10 years, according to the Corps, which will conduct online public hearings and accept public comments until November 30.


We Want to Hear from You!

Date: October 28, 2020

Do you know of engineering news in Mississippi that would be great for this newsletter? Maybe it’s a project you or your firm is working on, or perhaps you read some interesting engineering news in your local newspaper. Or maybe you know of a fellow PE or student who deserves a little recognition. If so, we want to hear from you. Email your ideas to pemagazine@nspe.org.

NTSB Report and NSPE's Action on this Issue

Date: October 5, 2018

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 Mississippi. 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 Mississippi.

Read the synopsis of the report.