Pender County, NC
Fiber Optic Corridor Environmental Evaluation for FOCUS Broadband
FOCUS Broadband (formerly Atlantic Telephone Membership Cooperative) sought financial assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service under the Telecommunications ReConnect Program to install fiber optic broadband to approximately 6,400 residential addresses and 50 business addresses in unserved and underserved rural areas of Pender County, NC. Federal regulations require that such projects avoid or minimize impacts to wetlands, streams, and endangered species. To accomplish this, McGill’s environmental team was tasked with identifying, flagging, and mapping all wetlands and streams as well as potential endangered species habitat that crossed the proposed fiber optic corridor.
The project proposed approximately 458 route miles of fiber optic facilities to be constructed within existing transportation and utility corridors. The exact location of the line within the corridor had not been determined, so the study limits of environmental work needed to include entire road and utility rights-of-way. Given the size of the study area, this was one of the largest projects the McGill environmental team had undertaken. Additionally, time and budgetary constraints required field work to be completed as efficiently as possible.
Prior to the field evaluation, online resources were reviewed extensively to focus field efforts towards probable locations of environmental features. In the field, interactive web maps were used to help with navigation, provide quick access to data, and streamline data collection using customized digital forms. The cloud-based software allowed data to be viewed as it was being collected, which helped coordinate efforts among multiple field technicians.
Within a matter of weeks, McGill had the important environmental features within the route corridors flagged and mapped for submittal to the client. The map was used by the client to determine where alternative installation methods, such as directional drilling, were needed which would avoid impacts to wetlands, streams, and endangered species habitat.
“This was an amazing project for our team. I hope the data we provided to the client proved to be helpful in the decision-making process that goes into the design and installation of fiber optic infrastructure. More importantly, I hope the project will have a positive impact on the communities it will serve in Pender County.”
Jon Swaim and Jonathan Herman of McGill’s environmental services team
Project Services Included:
- Wetland and Stream Delineation
- Threatened and Endangered Species Habitat Evaluation
- GIS Mapping