BALTIMORE, MD (November 7, 2005) – An Anne Arundel resident recently earned the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) top employee honors for his continued work on one of the nation’s largest road projects.
Gilford Parker was recognized for his outstanding inspection and coordination efforts at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. Along with other duties in southern Prince George’s and portions of Charles County, he coordinates compliance activity with the permittee, contractors, and other state and local authorities in Maryland and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During the course of the project, Parker has provided guidance and direction to maintain compliance and has provided technical assistance, performing 23 inspections in the third quarter of 2004 alone.
“Gil is going above and beyond the call of duty to help external and internal customers to ensure that Maryland’s environment is protected while this monumental project of regional importance progresses,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Gil is another fine example of the dedicated, talented and determined people who I have the pleasure of working work at this agency. He provides quality customer services, does outstanding work and is an invaluable asset to the department and the citizens of Maryland.”
The secretary made the announcement during MDE’s recent annual meeting. “I’m still dumbfounded,” Parker said of his career achievement. “I was shocked when called my name. It made me feel real good. I couldn’t even sleep that night.”
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is a $2.43 billion project replacing the 1.1-mile bridge over the Potomac River. This project is currently one of the top two largest transportation construction projects in the United States. There are currently 24 active permits for sediment and stormwater, tidal and non-tidal wetlands, not including mitigation sites for wetlands impacts, and waterway construction permits that include removal and modification of 12 stream blockages in the Anacostia River drainage basin.
Parker, an Annapolis native, has managed to effectively coordinate activities on the site with multiple jurisdictions and multiple permits. Wetlands and waterway approvals are coordinated with the Army Corps of Engineers, and sediment and erosion and stormwater management are coordinated through the county’s inspection authority.
“It’s a new project. It’s a big project,” Parker said of the Wilson bridge’s reconstruction. “They’ve got equipment and technology we’ve never seen before. With all the information sharing, you’ve got to work together so everything is up to our standards. The challenges change every weekday. It’s like working on a new project everyday. I feel like I’m the tour guide there. When I started, it was just trees down there. But it’s going to be a good-looking project.”
As the project progressed from initial sediment and erosion control and stormwater management, and the maintenance of those structures, to waterway construction at the shoreline and over open water, to tidal and non-tidal wetlands impacts and mitigation for losses of those resources, Hurricane Isabelle hit. Numerous downpours this past spring played havoc on the stabilization of the site. Plan modifications and interim controls for sediment and stormwater were necessary to address damages from weather events and changes in construction sequences. These events overlapped Prince George’s County sediment and erosion control authority outside of State Highway Administration approvals, requiring coordination to satisfy local concerns for the general construction contiguous with the highway/bridge construction.
“While there were times when earth moving activity and construction in wetlands became complex and difficult, Gil was able to coordinate efforts to get the project back on track with no major non-compliances with plans or permits,” said Darwin Feheley, Parker’s supervisor.
Parker continues to provide inspections and assistance on the mammoth project.
“I love the adventure,” the Severn resident said of his job. “You never do the same thing twice. One day I’m a pollution inspector. The next day I’m looking at someone’s boat ramp.
“I went into this for the construction phase and environmental part of it,” he said in his humor-filled, folksy manner. “The Department of the Environment is part of everything, It’s fun. I enjoy it all. You get to cruise around the countryside solving problems.”
In his 20-plus years of state service, Parker said the public’s perception of the environmental protection has changed.
“People are aware that we [MDE] are out there,” he said. “People are more informed now and we have greater contact with them and contractors. They ask, ‘What do we do now and next week?’ And it helps [in complying with environmental laws]. But I wish we could have more enforcement.”
MDE’s 2004 employee of the year said one his most memorable experiences was handling a complaint for “loud frogs.” “These people had four ponds out back on their property and just couldn’t take it [the sound]….” he chuckled.
MDE employees are engaged in a wide range of environmental program specialties including water and air pollution control, resource management, sediment/erosion control, agricultural operations, tidal and non-tidal wetlands, flood control and waterway construction, waste management, coal and mineral surface mining and stormwater management. Employees provide professional assistance to facility owners, plant managers, corporate officers, and attorneys in planning, designing and managing the environmental impacts of their projects.
MDE's primary mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland's air, water, and land resources. The department works to ensure achievement of the state's environmental goals while fostering economic development, safe communities, and environmental education.