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Richard Maltzman
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Sea-condary Risks

Sponge Cities

Project Tree Chicken

Bleeding Crabs, Expensive Tabs, and Project Labs

Purple People Poople Eaters

Sea-condary Risks

Photo from Del Mar Times

This is a story about risk response, secondary risk, and stakeholder management. These are topics covered in the PMBOK® Guide, 6th Edition.  As project managers we know (from that very same PMBOK® Guide) that there are positive risks (opportunities) and negative risks (threats).

This is very much about a threat – the very real threat of sea-level rise.  This is a big deal for our planet mainly because of the percentage of large cities and populations in general that live near coastlines.  But one of the places where this is a noticeable big deal because of the value of the properties is Del Mar, California.  Here, a duplex (a half of a house) goes for an average of $1.7 million.

One of the possible responses to the threat is something called “managed retreat”.  The people of Del Mar, however, thought there was a significant secondary risk if that risk response was put in place. 

Why the secondary risk?  The moment the concept of leaving homes is even brought up, the prices of homes will drop, because that is seen as an admission that this land is simply not as valuable – in fact, may not even be land by the end of the century.  Current predictions are for a 1-2 foot rise by 2050 and a 5+ foot rise by the end of the century, which would inundate the Del Mar area with sea water, , according to a recent climate report by the U.S. government.

Yes, the government overseen by Donald Trump.  That US government.  Of course, the Trump administration has chosen to tout that the report is exaggerated.   But that’s not the issue here. Whatever your thoughts on that or on climate change in general, the project planning that comes up involves thinking about risk response and secondary risks.

As for that multi-million dollar duplex I mentioned earlier?  If indeed the forecasts are true, you’d end up with a $1.7Million dollar deep-sea-plex, not a duplex.

There is an excellent NPR (US National Public Radio) story on this - listen to the NPR (National Public Radio) story here:

Here is a link to the page with the NPR story:


Let’s look a little more into the risk response…

How did the people of Del Mar react?

Retreat, was at least at first proposed… and look at the reaction:

The blow-back, though, was almost immediate. Realtors' groups spoke out against the plan. Homeowners were hysterical.

"What we learned from our community is that even the mere discussion of managed retreat, in the minds of some, completely devalues their property," says Amanda Lee, Del Mar's senior city planner.

The concern was that if the city formalized a plan that included retreat, it would be harder for property-owners to get loans or sell their land.

Hearing those concerns, "we started crossing out managed retreat and replacing it with other words like 'not feasible here in Del Mar'," says Terry Gaasterland, who chaired the city's Sea Level Rise Committee.


The city council even went as far as to pass a resolution banning future city councils from planning for retreat.

The town was reacting to the California Coastal Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance of November 2018, see this link:

California Coastal Commission Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance

Final Adopted Science Update | November 7, 2018


See City of Del Mar’s report:

The Adaptation Plan includes the following components and adaptation measures to reduce

risks associated with future sea-level rise.

Public Facilities, Infrastructure and Beaches:

high priority sea-level rise adaptation measures for the City to begin planning for now include:

○    Relocating the City of Del Mar Fire Station

○    Relocating the City of Del Mar Public Works Yard

○    Flood-proofing the sewer lift station along San Dieguito Drive

○    Beach sand retention, replenishment, and management

San Dieguito Lagoon wetland adaptation:

○    Conversion of vegetated wetland to mudflat and open water habitats with sea-level rise could be partially accommodated and offset by allowing and facilitating the conversion of higher elevation area to tidal wetland habitat, such as the tern nesting island, adjacent upland habitats, and upstream riparian habitats.

○    Placement of sediment to raise the elevation of the wetlands (e.g., “spraying” material dredged from the River channel as a thin layer of sediment across the vegetated marshplain) has the potential to reduce or slow wetland habitat conversion.

○    Wetland expansion/restoration can create new wetlands with higher elevation areas that are more resilient to sea-level rise; wetland restoration is compatible with partial retreat and construction of “living” levees to reduce flood risks along the River.

San Dieguito River flooding adaptation:

○    San  Dieguito  River  channel  dredging  and Lake  Hodges  reservoir  management have potential to reduce river flood risks in the near-  to mid-term.

○    A  hybrid  approach  with  restoration of  developed  area adjacent to  the River to

expand  the  San  Dieguito  Lagoon  wetland  floodplain  and  construction  of  new levees between the wetlands and development can provide longer-term flood risk reduction;  “living”  levees  can  be designed  to  incorporate  restored  wetland transition and upland habitats that improve wetland resiliency to sea-level rise.

○    If  Lake  Hodges  reservoir  management is  not  possible,  the  timeframe  for  other measures may be sooner.

Bluff/beach erosion adaptation:

○    Beach nourishment and sand retention strategies as well as installation of access paths down the bluffs (e.g., stairways) in conjunction with authorized pedestrian crossings at railroad under- or over-passes may provide some near-term reduction in bluff erosion; investigating whether landscape irrigation in City neighborhoods east of the bluffs is contributing increased groundwater flow and associated erosion and the potential to reduce irrigation affects may also be beneficial.

○    Relocating the LOSSAN railroad will allow for continued landward bluff erosion, and thereby maintain a beach below the bluff and provide access along the bluff top.

○    Removal  of  bluff  top  sewer  lines,  drainage  ditches,  and  fiber  optic  cables will eventually be required as the bluff continues to recede inland.

Beach coastal (ocean) flooding and beach erosion adaptation:

○    Beach and dune nourishment and sand retention strategies may provide near-term protection, but their effectiveness is likely to decrease over time with higher amounts and rates of sea-level rise.

○  Redevelopment policies and regulations can be developed for the LCP Amendment to make feasible the option of elevating structures.

○   Sand retention measures such as groins or artificial reef may help maintain the beach, but would likely introduce need for additional mitigation.

○    Raising/improving the existing sea wall and revetments (i.e., “holding the line”) would reduce flood risks with sea-level rise, but without accompanying beach nourishment may lead to beach loss over time.  Beach loss adjacent to sea walls and revetments could lead to conflicts with Coastal Act prohibitions against protection in perpetuity.

○    Raising City infrastructure including buildings, utilities, and roads will likely be required to accommodate the increase in flood risk with sea-level rise.


The California Coastal Commission, for its part, isn't requiring cities to plan for managed retreat. Madeline Cavalieri, the coastal planner for the commission, says there's no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with sea-level rise; different cities need to consider a combination of different strategies.


As you can see, this is all very relevant to project management.  Being familiar with the stakeholders, their reaction to risk response, and the new risks introduced by risk response – these are all fundamental to doing a great job as a project leader.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: December 08, 2018 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sponge Cities

Categories: flooding, sponge cities

Gotcha!  I bet you thought this was another in the series of posts about project management stories about colorful creatures (purple bacteria, green iguanas, blue-blooded horseshoe crabs).  Indeed, that was the theme of the past few posts.  If you missed them, go back - these are colorful posts.  But no - this post is not about sea sponge colonies, but rather about  actual cities and their ability (if designed properly) to absorb excess water.

A recent article in Scientific American (December 2018) caught my eye.  It starts with some drama:

Beijing’s largest storm in more than 60 years killed 79 people, most of them drowned in their vehicles or sucked into underground drains. Damages reached nearly $2 billion.

This isn’t a unique storm. As the article says, this has happened a great many times and has a large economic and social impact, and the cause is related to climate change:

Sixty-two percent of its cities flooded between 2011 and 2014 alone, imposing $100 billion in economic losses, according to the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. The floods are partly the result of stronger storms fueled by climate change.

Further drawing my attention was the fact that the word “project” occurs more than a dozen times in this short article.  The story is about Sponge Cities – a philosophy and practice to switch from dams – and concrete in general – to natural methods to absorb or re-route excess water.  Featured in the article is a company called Turenscape, which has a fascinating history:

Turenscape was founded by Dr. Kongjian Yu in 1998 and is one of the first and largest private architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism practices in China. Dr. Yu’s pioneering research on Ecological Security Patterns and Sponge Cities has been adopted by the Chinese government as the guiding theory for national land use planning, eco-city campaigns, and urban ecological restoration. Dr. Yu’s clear vision of bringing harmony between Earth and people has been used to transforming many heavily polluted wastelands into aesthetics of sustainability.

Read more about Turenscape here and its academy here.  I think it’s also very interesting to examine the cultural aspects of change as it applies to this type of project.  Yu’s ideas were not accepted immediately.  It was even politicized:

For years while Yu was building his firm’s portfolio, many Chinese derided his farm-based ideas as backward. He says that some even called him an American spy—a nod to his doctorate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and his opposition to those big dams. But in recent years sentiment has begun to shift. Various groups in China are building green infrastructure projects, often in partnership with Americans, Australians and Europeans.

I thought it may be interesting to focus on one of the Turenscape projects, Quzhou Luming Park:

Project Profile

1. Project Statement:  

On a site surrounded by dense new urban development, the landscape architect created a dynamic urban park by incorporating the agricultural strategy of crop rotation and a low maintenance meadow. An elevated floating network of pedestrian paths, platforms and pavilions create a visual frame for this cultivated swath and the natural features of the terrain and water. Using these strategies, a deserted mismanaged landscape was dramatically transformed into a productive and beautiful setting for urban living, while preserving the natural and cultural patterns and processes of the site.

2. Project Narratives

Challenges and Objectives:

The project is located on the west bank of the Shiliang River, in the West New District of Quzhou City, Zhejiang Province, with a population of 2.5 million. The city, boasting a history of over 1,800 years, is known to the world because of its strategic location on the east coast of China. During the World War II, the US Air Force used the small airport at Quzhou as a base for the Doolittle Raid (the Tokyo Raid), on 18 April, 1942.


The description of the project goes on – very well expressed.

Here’s a photo of the completed project.

The article is worth reading, and the effort to be more ‘flowing’ when it comes to drought and flood control, is worth doing.  I’ll close with this, from the article as well:


The hubris of believing that people can control water with concrete will be increasingly exposed as more of those kinds of projects fail, unable to buffer the knock-on impacts from rapid population growth, urban sprawl and climate change. Although sponge cities will likely not protect everyone from these challenges, their advocates think their resilience can temper extremes better than the concrete alternatives. Plus the multiple benefits they bring can make the lives of humans and other species healthier and happier.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: November 30, 2018 11:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Project Tree Chicken

This is a story about turning a threat into an opportunity.

I’m going to keep the theme this month of blog posts regarding colors and species.  We’ve already talked about purple poop-eating bacteria and blue-blooded horseshoe crabs.  Don’t miss those posts!

Today, the subject is the blue and green iguanas of the Cayman Islands.  This story is courtesy of an article in The Economist, quoted below.

The Cayman Islands, a British territory, does not tax companies. So Grand Cayman, its largest part, has more companies (106,000) than people (61,000). Its population of green iguanas greatly outnumbers both.

The green iguanas are an invasive species, introduced as pets and then multiplying in huge numbers, and causing big problems, not the least of which is the possible doom of the blue iguana (pictured above), a native animal which is increasingly endangered by the green iguana’s taking of its food supply.  In addition, the green iguanas, which can be up to 5 feet long, poop on cars, eat crops and gardens, and consume the eggs of wild birds.  As if that wasn’t enough, because they dwell in trees, they also sometimes short-circuit transformers, causing power outages.

Here's a photo of these 'tree chickens':

The green iguana is equipped with a spiked tale and nasty claws, while the native blue iguanas are smaller and cannot defend themselves well against predators such as cats.  At one point, in 2004, the population of blue iguanas was down to near single digits.  A breeding project has brought them back up to 1,000 and many have been released to a nature preserve.  However the presence of the green iguana remains a threat.

So the Cayman Islands has initiated a culling project.

“…the cull, when it starts, will be open to all Caymanians over the age of 18, who will be required to register and go through a basic review of the rules regarding the process. Importantly, they will also learn the difference between blue iguanas, which are a protected endangered species, and the pesky greens.”

Read more about the culling project here and here.

In the green iguana’s home countries (Central and South America) the animal is called a ‘tree chicken’ and the meat is enjoyed there.  So the Cayman Islands may be able to turn the threat into an opportunity, exporting the iguana meat to those countries and turning unwanted tree chickens into cash.

The video in this link is quite amazing.  An exporter, Spinion, is talking about getting this accepted as a delicacy in the USA, and if that doesn’t work out, producing dog cookies from the green iguana meat.

If you’d like to learn more about preparing green iguana meat, this piece from National Geographic (which discusses the same problem, but in Puerto Rico) could whet your appetite…


To read more about eating 'tree chickens', read this recently-published Associated Press article, Eating the Chicken of the Trees.

In the case of removing these 'tree chickens', perhaps money does grow on trees!



Posted by Richard Maltzman on: November 25, 2018 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Bleeding Crabs, Expensive Tabs, and Project Labs

My last post was about purple bacteria.  Keeping the color-science theme, this week I’d like to discuss a liquid which is blue, important, and very, very expensive.

A gallon of this liquid costs more than twice as much as Chanel No. 5 per gallon, which will cost you only $26,000.  Yep.  A gallon of this blue stuff will set you back $60,000 and it won’t smell nearly as nice.

The liquid?  Horseshoe crab blood. 

Ewww.  What do you do with this liquid?  It’s certainly not for drinking, and it is not used for watercolor painting.  The recent video below from Business Insider tells the story well.  If you are more interested in the science, also watch the video which follows.

Business Insider video

Scishow video

If you saw the videos (and really, it only takes a few minutes to see them both, and this critter has been around for 450 million years - do the math!), you now know that if you have ever had any sort of injection, your life may have been saved by this liquid.  You also know that the supply of horseshoe crabs is limited and is falling. It's unclear how many of the crabs survive the bleeding.

This story is particularly meaningful to me as a Bay Stater who has spent many summers visiting Cape Cod and noting the decline in the number and health of horseshoe crabs quite personally.

A recent story from the Audubon Society talks about a heroic effort to create a synthetic alternative.  It’s a project that may improve the function of the test aided by horseshoe crab blood and help protect this ancient animal from extinction after surviving for 450 million years and all sorts of dangers (but perhaps not surviving human intervention).

The problem solved by the crab’s blue blood goes something like this: When gram-negative bacteria like E. coli die, they shed endotoxins, which are everywhere—in water, soil, the human intestinal tract. Danger arises when high concentrations of the potent poisons enter a person’s spinal fluid or bloodstream, potentially causing fever, respiratory distress, septic shock, organ failure, and even death. As a result, injected drugs (for people and their pets) or implanted medical devices that come into contact with blood must be tested for endotoxin.

Horseshoe crab blood, exquisitely sensitive to endotoxin, clots in its presence. LAL, the assay made from horseshoe crab blood, ensures that millions of heart stents, pacemakers, joint and cataract replacements, and radioactive tracers in PET scans, along with millions of doses of flu vaccine, insulin, and intravenously delivered antibiotics and chemotherapies, are free of endotoxin. Manufacturers also must test the water and raw ingredients used in their manufacturing. To keep up with demand, companies that make LAL capture and release some 500,000 horseshoe crabs along the eastern seaboard of the United States every year. In Asia, most bled horseshoe crabs are ultimately killed.

Enter: Jay Bolden, a tall, thin scientist who seems to disappear in his lab coat. He works in a sparkling new lab at Eli Lilly’s sprawling technology development center in Indianapolis. For the last five years, in his lab far from the sea, he’s been steadily working to develop a product that will take biomedical pressure off horseshoe crabs. Building on research carried out in Singapore, and continued in Maryland, he’s been compiling evidence that a synthetic enzyme, recombinant factor C—rFC for short—can replace horseshoe crab blood in endotoxin tests. According to his work, rFC works just as well as LAL, is more efficient and cost-effective, and doesn’t require a live animal. “It will benefit Eli Lilly,” he says.

Bolden is a birder (a person who observes and photographs birds).  It turns out, as is almost always the case in nature, that the horseshoe crab does not stand (or rather, crawl) alone.  If it fails as a species, other species fail as well.  In particular, birds such as the Red Knot rely on the eggs of the crab for sustenance in their migration pattern.  This further motivated Bolden.  From the article:

Bolden, aware that Asian horseshoe crabs taken for biomedical use are often bled to death, became concerned about “supply problems down the road” when he learned that Eli Lilly was planning to build a second manufacturing plant in China, one that would make insulin, which requires endotoxin testing.

“Here,” he recalls thinking, “I can have an impact. I can make a difference. I can be part of conservation.” His vocation and avocation came together.

If Ding in Singapore had started this relay to end the practice of bleeding horseshoe crabs, and passed the baton to Lonza’s Burgenson, then Bolden was ready for his turn at the track. But this lap, like the others, would take time. He pitched an Eli Lilly vice president on using rFC, and with his support, then sought approval from two of the company’s governance committees: the specifications committee, dealing with quality control, including tests for endotoxin, sterility and pH, and the water committee. Tremendous quantities of pharmaceutical-grade water—some of Eli Lilly’s water tanks are 12 feet wide and two stories tall—are required to manufacture injectable drugs and vaccines.

“When we got the green light,” he says, “we were off and running.”

The Atlantic article, The Last Days of the Blue Blood Harvest tells the story of how Eli Lily became a company committed to synthesizing horseshoe crab blood.

There is another way though—a way for modern medicine to make use of modern technology rather than the blood of an ancient animal. A synthetic substitute for horseshoe-crab blood has been available for 15 years. This is a story about how scientists quietly managed to outdo millions of years of evolution, and why it has taken the rest of the world so long to catch up.

Click here to learn more about the project to synthesize LAL and reduce the impact on the ancient horseshoe crab (and the other species – including humans – which it supports).

A very recently-published description of the synthesis is below:

Recombinant Factor C (rFC) – a synthetic substitute for LAL – was developed by Dr. Ling Ding and Dr. Bow Ho of the National University of Singapore in 1997.

Until recently the manufacturing and patents for rFC were licensed to Lonza – one of four LAL manufacturers in the United States and one of three rFC manufacturers in the world. With the expiration of patent protection in the U.S., there is now an economic incentive for additional suppliers to begin producing rFC. In turn, the addition of new rFC manufacturers will end an important barrier to adoption for the pharmaceutical industry, which has been hesitant to transition to the synthetic alternative without a robust number of suppliers.

Lingering doubt on the efficacy of rFC has also been an important barrier to adoption of rFC. Although there is now abundant evidence that the efficacy of the synthetic alternative is equivalent to or better than LAL, adoption of new technology is difficult and change has come slow to the industry. Since the development of the rFC test, numerous studies have been conducted to evaluate its efficacy and comparability to the LAL test for a wide variety of potential applications. Revive & Restore synthesized these studies to demonstrate that all available scientific evidence suggests that commercially-available rFC tests detect endotoxins with equivalent of better efficacy than the LAL test. In fact, rFC signals fewer false positives, which can be costly when they occur in the manufacturing process.

Revive & Restore’s efficacy review was published on May 10, 2018. We are optimistic that this will lead the pharmaceutical industry to live up to industry sustainability tenets and make the switch away from the unnecessary use of animals in the production of injectable medications.



Other references:

The Atlantic article, The Last Days of the Blue Blood Harvest tells the story of how Eli Lily became a company committed to synthesizing horseshoe crab blood.

Video from PBS:

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: November 24, 2018 09:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Purple People Poople Eaters

There it was, sitting on the credenza for me to read... recommended by a colleague...a scientific paper.  Its title didn’t quite catch my attention, so I almost skipped it.  Wouldn't you have?  The title was: Biological and Bioelectrochemical Systems for Hydrogen Production and Carbon Fixation Using Purple Phototrophic Bacteria.


Nor did the first paragraph help too much:

Domestic and industrial wastewaters contain organic substrates and nutrients that can be recovered instead of being dissipated by emerging efficient technologies. The aim of this study was to promote bio-hydrogen production and carbon fixation using a mixed culture of purple phototrophic bacteria (PPB) that use infrared radiation in presence or absence of an electrode as electron donor.

But then, Science Daily, which does a good job of making science accessible, and which I recommend for project managers who like to make decisions based on fact, summarized the article this way:

 Purple phototrophic bacteria -- which can store energy from light -- when supplied with an electric current can recover near to 100 percent of carbon from any type of organic waste, while generating hydrogen gas for use as fuel.

And then they really snagged me with the title:

You've flushed something valuable down the toilet today.

So what are these little purple poop-eating critters? And what do they have to do with project management and sustainability?  Let’s start with the last part first.  I think you would agree that if there was a way to convert human waste to energy with a zero carbon footprint and a way to generate hydrogen for the production of electricity as a byproduct, that this would launch a whole bunch of projects, in addition to the necessary research projects already underway in this area. 

Now on to the critters.

They don’t really look like the image at the top of this blog post.  They look more like this:

And in a container, they look like this:

You can get very smart about them from an interview by ResearchGate with one of the paper’s authors, Dr. Daniel Puyo of Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Spain.

(Purple Bacteria) capture energy from sunlight using a variety of pigments, which turn them shades of orange, red or brown -- as well as purple. But it is the versatility of their metabolism, not their color, which makes them so interesting to scientists.

"Purple phototrophic bacteria make an ideal tool for resource recovery from organic waste, thanks to their highly diverse metabolism," explains Puyol.

The bacteria can use organic molecules and nitrogen gas -- instead of CO2 and H2O -- to provide carbon, electrons and nitrogen for photosynthesis. This means that they grow faster than alternative phototrophic bacteria and algae, and can generate hydrogen gas, proteins or a type of biodegradable polyester as byproducts of metabolism.

The interview goes on to say:

Our preliminary findings indicate that we are able to tune the metabolism of purple phototrophic bacteria to increase carbon dioxide fixation, while maintaining the same hydrogen productivity. This essentially means zero carbon footprint. We have recently obtained funding to design the process and patent the technology. With the technology demonstrated at lab-scale, we will try to convince the water sector about the feasibility of our technology. We have close contact with some water companies that would be interested

We are ambitious, as we know that the possibilities around the use of purple phototrophic bacteria are wide. We are aiming to go beyond wastewater treatment, directly into bio-industry. We know that the only way of achieving success with a technology focused on resource recovery is the commercialization of these resources. So we are creating an atmosphere around purple bacteria technology, including bio-industries, water management companies, and waste management companies.

Resource recovery from waste and wastewater is nothing new. We are trying to do what nature has been being doing for millions of years. Nature, in its wisdom, has selected photosynthesis as a mechanism for these transformations. We are only accelerating them.

The whole thing is actually explained very well in this video:

It's pretty interesting science, and no matter where you stand on ‘climate change’, if there’s a way to turn poop into cash, I am just flush with excitement!


Ioanna A. Vasiliadou, Antonio Berná, Carlos Manchon, Juan A. Melero, Fernando Martinez, Abraham Esteve-Nuñez, Daniel Puyol. Biological and Bioelectrochemical Systems for Hydrogen Production and Carbon Fixation Using Purple Phototrophic Bacteria. Frontiers in Energy Research, 2018; 6 DOI: 10.3389/fenrg.2018.00107

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: November 18, 2018 10:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

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