Travis Hylton has been a D.WRE since April 2008 and he currently serves as an Environmental Engineer with the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific. Working in the compliance section of the Environmental Business Line, his efforts center on engineering of drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater utilities and sustainable design for Naval facilities within the NAVFAC Pacific area of responsibility. Prior to working with the U.S. Navy, he worked as a Senior Environmental Engineer at Oceanit for 8 years in Honolulu, Hawaii. Travis has over 15 years of professional experience in water resources. Travis earned his Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE) in 2003 with a specialization in Water Supply and Wastewater from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, earned certification as a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) from the Association of State Floodplain Managers and as a Certified Professional in Stormwater Quality (CPSWQ) from the Certified Professionals in Erosion and Sediment Control organization. In 2008, he became a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) through the U.S. Green Building Council.
Mr. Hylton remains active in professional organizations in Honolulu. He has served as the President of the Engineers and Architect of Hawaii (EAH), and served as Co-Chair of the For the Hawaii Water Environment Association 2005 Annual Conference, earning invitation into the association's "5-S" society. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the non-profit Oahu Resource Conservation and Development Council, an organization that administers grants for agricultural and conservation projects in cooperation with the National Resource Conservation Service.
Why did you want to become a D.WRE- for you personally?
TH: For me personally, becoming a D.WRE was primarily about recognition for efforts in the field. I was somewhat hesitant to apply because I don't have an advanced degree. I believe there is only one other D.WRE in the State, a professor at the University of Hawaii who is active at the university's Water Resources Research Center. I applied because of the breadth of my experience, having been able to work with drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities, as well as floodplain management and wetland restoration. Hawaii has a rich tradition in water resources management known as the Ahupua'a System that cares for the entire watershed comprehensively from the tops of the mountains out to the fringe of the reefs. That theme was honored at last year's World Environmental and Water Resources Congress, and it can be applied in practical ways all over the world. There are so many people in this State working with water resources under this system in positive ways in Hawaii, that I just wanted to identify myself as a resource in the field.
Did you always want to be a civil engineer since an early age?
TH: I got into Civil Engineering originally because in high school I helped with framing and roofing for my uncle, who would curse having to pay professional engineers to stamp plans he drew. The plan was for me to get a stamp to help him out, but I wasn't really drawn to structural engineering once I saw all the flowcharts.
Most fun class while in school:
I enjoyed hydrogeology and contaminant hydrogeology. At the time (early 90's) the computer modeling was just starting to take off, and it was interesting to me to try to look at the equations, think about the theory, and then try to visualize how plumes might migrate through strata under different conditions.
Most fun project you worked on:
I think my best day of work was doing helicopter reconnaissance of a Rockfall site near a remote series of waterfalls in northeast Oahu. It was a still, clear day with a large north swell running, so I got to scout outer reef surfbreaks along the coastline as we traveled to the site. The waterfalls were of course spectacular as well.
An item you always wanted:
A tricked out convertible low-rider with hydraulics.
Favorite song & artist:
A Love Supreme - John Coltrane.
You have lived in Hawaii for most of your life, correct? For people that have never visited Hawaii, what is it like to live there?
TH: I moved to Hawaii 10 years ago when I was 29, but I'm flattered when people assume I've been here longer. I married a local girl a few years ago, so there are no plans to ever leave. Much of how the world envisions Hawaii is true; the temperature is comfortable year 'round, and the interesting nooks and beaches are there as you travel and explore. To live here, you must come to terms with being on an island, though. People are friendly and comfortable with themselves, and part of that comes from living in a relatively removed community where everyone knows each other.
Can you share with us a bit on where you grew up?
TH: I grew up in central California in a town called Tulare. It's a very "hometown" kind of place in an agricultural setting. Halfway between the Bay Area and LA, we could see the Sierras to the east and the coast was just a couple hours drive through the foothills.
Having worked in the private sector prior- how do you like working for the U.S. Navy and having to travel to remote areas of the world?
TH: My private sector work in Hawaii spanned the main islands and I really enjoyed island hopping. I'm working for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific now, and our area of responsibility covers some interesting places that I've not yet visited including Japan, Korea, and Diego Garcia. I'm sure I'll get to those places soon enough, but so far in my first six months with the Navy I've been to Guam twice for projects there.
We know that you have been overseas recently for work - can you share with us on which countries you have had to travel to (if security is not issue)?
TH: Before the Navy, I worked overseas for both public and private firms in what was formerly Eastern Germany. I didn't speak the language when I started as an intern, but just began translating technical words related to dams and reservoirs into English for engineers making international presentations. It is a very different culture and climate from California and I was fortunate to have the support of wonderful host families. Working abroad helps to take some of the mystery out of the world, as you start to realize that all people and companies face almost the exact same environmental, economic and political challenges every day.
What fond memories will you have of this place(s) and any particular moments you think will stay with you?
TH: Most of my fond memories of course center around the people I met and the hospitality extended to me. One aspect of the work that will stick with me is the assumption that was often made that Americans can do anything. For one bioremediation project at a private firm, they let me run the project from start to finish; growing the bacteriological cultures from beakers to large vats, pumping the living solutions into drums, driving them to the site, operating a front-end loader to lay out the contaminated soil into berms in airplane hangars, and directing a team of Russian workers in inoculating the soils and wrapping them to complete the process. The remediation site was a former Nazi military base that the Russians had hastily abandoned after the Berlin Wall came down, so there was an odd sense of walking through the ravages of the last century.
You are only a handful of D.WREs, that have such a vast array of different credentials and designations- what is the driving force for you to pursue these certifications?
TH: Most of the water resource credentials I earned while working at a local private engineering firm in Honolulu, and I'm grateful for the opportunities afforded me there. Part of the motivation at the time was to increase the credentials in-house at the firm, making the company more competitive in the local market. The strategy paid off in many ways, as we were able to bring in interesting projects addressing a variety of water resource issues.
You are one of the founding D.WREs of AAWRE- For you personally, what types of services or efforts would you like to see AAWRE pursue or do you envision?
TH: I would like to see State chapters stand up. The need for collaboration from people in all areas of water resources engineering is needed now more than ever, and I think there is a good opportunity for AAWRE to serve as the crossroads for professionals working in all the different specialties associated with water resources management.
Can you share with us a bit on what you like to do, when you are not busy working? A favorite hobbie or interests...
TH: I like to surf when I get the chance. When the ocean isn't cooperating I'll run or bike or snorkel, there's no excuse not to get outside in Hawaii. However, my wife and I are expecting our first little one in May, so I imagine I'll be preoccupied for quite awhile.
What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer in today's world- with all that is going on with infrastructure and etc?
TH: I like the fact that engineering is becoming more performance based, rather than prescriptive. With Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification mandates, the charge is to reduce all water consumption, and it's up to the designer to innovate how that is done. With Low Impact Development mandates, fading are the days of six inch curbs and drainage inlets every 100 feet; now we are charged with finding ways to mimic predevelopment hydrology. Wastewater is moving towards reclamation and decentralized treatment, where people become better stewards of the resources available. The next generation of Water Resource Engineers will need to key in on all manner of innovative water management strategies.
What would you like to see yourself doing, 5 years from now?
TH: Besides introducing my daughter to kindergarten, I'd like to be working to help the federal government make good on its ambitious water resource and environmental goals at installations around the globe.