CP&E’s Tom Campbell is a true professional

Guest Columnist


I catch up with Tom Campbell, president of Coastal Planning and Engineering, at Town Hall March 27. He had flown over from the East Coast to hear the peer review of the LBK Beach Management Plan and of his firm’s performance in executing that plan. The review went well on both fronts. I then had the opportunity to sit down briefly with Campbell for this interview, which we had scheduled earlier. I’ve known him for several years and had asked Tom for this opportunity, as I consider him one of our key ‘key’ persons.

Campbell and I are fellow New Yorkers. He is from Brooklyn, attended Brooklyn Technical High School (Brooklyn Tech) before going to The Cooper Union for his degree in Civil & Structural Engineering. Attendance at these two almost legendary institutions marks him as a top student in a city of top students. Campbell went on to graduate school here in Florida at Florida Atlantic University where he earned his Masters in Ocean-Coastal Engineering. He is a registered professional engineer in Florida and several other states.

Campbell tells me of his early experience on the north shore of Long Island as a lifeguard in his high school and college days. This was the beginning of his interest in beaches, he adds. Tom is married and has three children, all boys. He relates that he is an avid boater and scuba diver. He is on and in the water at least one day each week. His boat is a 32-foot powerboat. He plays golf, if only occasionally. He has no motorcycle.

Tom came to Florida in 1972 to attend grad school at Florida Atlantic. He then worked for 12 years with Strock Engineering, a Florida firm. He cofounded Coastal Planning & Engineering in 1984. Of the four founding partners three remain today. Additional partners have been added. CP&Es early coastal projects included work for Captiva Island in ’85. This is the sight of that well-known offshore archaeological feature, Tom’s Hill. In ’84 they did a project for Boca Raton.

Outside Florida CP&E has worked in North Carolina at Kill Devil Hills, in New York for several Fire Island communities and recently in Brazil. In Brazil their efforts started two years ago. The firm’s first Longboat Key involvement came in 1995 after this town’s first renourishment project. (CP&E was neither the consultant nor engineer for that first LBK effort.)

LBK has engaged CP&E as its professional consultant and engineer in this vital area in the town’s responsibilities. To set a tone for our discussions with Campbell, I looked at what this firm does. Its own documentation notes that its experienced multidisciplinary team of professional engineers, scientists, technicians and support staff handle all phases of coastal projects. They have, they say, extensive experience with beach nourishment, coastal inlets, navigation projects, numerical modeling of coastal processes, marine geophysical and geotechnical investigations, hydrographic surveys, environmental studies and permitting, and beach and inlet management plans.

Its own literature goes on, “Coastal Planning & Engineering has designed, permitted and monitored more beach restoration and shore protection projects than any other private firm in the United States.” On another most important aspect of coastal engineering today I note that, “Coastal Planning & Engineering Inc. continues to be on the forefront of numerical modeling for consultant work and research.” Indeed modeling is more and more important in satisfaction of the regulatory agencies, as well as the development of optimum solutions and designs. LBK has experience in this area. CP&E’s developing presence in Brazil is heavily dependent upon this modeling experience and expertise.

Longboat Key’s Comprehensive Beach Management Plan was prepared by Coastal Planning & Engineering. There has been the one Beach Management Plan in continuous use since 1995. This is the plan to which our beaches are monitored, maintained and periodically restored.

I ask Campbell for his thoughts on permitting. He replies that permitting is ‘tough.’ He adds that “there may be opportunities with the new governor and a new Department of Environmental Protection.” I ask about their current LBK engagement. He tells me that permitting is the next step. He adds that work by his firm on the now called ‘Port Dolphin Work’ is authorized. This work, you might recall, is the effort to identify and remove acceptable beach sand from the route of the Port Dolphin natural gas pipeline. LBK, and Manatee County, may receive payment from this developer to remove this sand before the pipeline construction. As usual, we’ll see.

I ask Tom about his primary team. Some of these are familiar names. I’ll list those who have been team members on LBK projects; Tom Campbell P.E., of course; Douglas Mann P.E.; Lindino Benedict; Beau Suthard P.G. Beau is now a partner and the project manager for all LBK projects. Their total staffing is now about 75, with 34 more in Brazil.

In March 2011 the acquisition of Coastal Planning & Engineering by The Shaw Group Inc. (NYSE: SHAW) was completed. This all-cash transaction was valued at approximately $26 million. Shaw is a Fortune 500 company with fiscal year 2010 annual revenues of $7 billion. Currently Shaw is leading the largest design-build civil works project ever awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier in New Orleans.

Campbell notes that the effect of this acquisition on his clients will be minimal. His firm remains intact. He adds that the ability of CP&E after the acquisition to serve clients, like us, may be increased as the new, much larger organization will have more capacity to bring to bear.

Campbell has struck me for the years that I have known him and observed his firm in its service to us as a true professional engineer. He told me that he intends to remain active, even after the sale of his firm. I certainly hope so.

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