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Subsurface Utility Exploration (SUE) is the process of vacuum excavation to expose underground utilities to determine their location, size, types, and depths to help avoid conflicts during construction.

Not far below the everyday places we walk and drive, exists a maze of utilities which carry critical components for our daily lives, carrying water, sewer, phone, and electricity to our homes and businesses. Navigating this unseen superhighway of conduits to avoid utility conflicts, delays, and service interruptions is a challenge that general contractors, utility providers, and municipalities face. Comprehensive and accurate mapping is critical for the success of their projects.

SUE is a process that uses a combination of pressurized water and high vacuum suction to remove and break up soil, rocks, and underground roots to reveal utility lines buried underneath all the debris. These utility lines can be buried anywhere from one foot deep to eight feet below the surface. Once uncovered, the size and composition of the utility pipe is recorded, photographed, and then marked with a wooden stake. The stake is labeled with the size, material type of utility and depth of the pipe for field use. Traditional survey methods are then used to locate x, y and z coordinates of the utility. Survey technicians can put this information into CADD programs for engineering design use or into a Geographic Information System (GIS) for a variety of mapping applications. After the dig is complete the hole or trench is then backfilled, and the soil is compacted back to its original condition.

Johnson Engineering began offering SUE services in the late 1990s and has continued to build upon our arsenal of resources. Our surveying and mapping team recently acquired the newest line of Vermeer’s high-capacity truck-mounted vacuum excavator. This 4-wheel drive diesel custom-built truck expands our service and efficiency. It has increased our ability to stay on site longer, with larger 2,200-gallon water supply and spoil tank capacity, as well as an increase to 3,000 psi water pressure to quickly break down compact dirt and debris. The vehicle also comes with a remote-controlled hydraulic telescoping boom to easily hold and extend the suction hose in place during excavation. The hydraulic cam-over rear door allows for storage as well as the ability to easily empty the spoil tank to restore the area to pre-existing conditions. This one-of-a-kind vehicle provides double the suction and lift power of traditional machines and is a cost-effective, efficient tool to utilize on your projects.

SUE is required by FDOT on all design projects that include underground infrastructure or earthwork excavation. Choosing the right company to quickly perform these underground investigations is vital to identify potential conflicts before they adversely affect the schedule and budget. Our team is specialty-trained, holding both state and federal certifications for quality levels A through D excavating and covering tasks, operation of heavy equipment and sign placement for gas companies. They are trained in traditional land surveying, as well as OSHA safety regulations, MOT regulations, Sunshine State One Call requirements and the other unique aspects of SUE technology. 

Having provided SUE throughout Southwest Florida for the last 20 years, we are continually searching for ways to provide our clients the most effective and efficient service. Comprehensive and accurate underground utility location and mapping of these vast and complicated networks has become a critical and essential asset to utility providers, general contractors, and municipalities alike and we have stepped up to the challenge of efficiently uncovering them. With the addition of our new SUE Vermeer system, we will continue to provide comprehensive and accurate underground utility mapping for our clients. 

For more information, contact the director of our surveying and mapping team, Matt Howard, PSM, at


For a few weeks this past February and March, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Panther Team conducted surveys on CREW Wildlife and Environmental Area in Naples to capture and radiocollar Florida panthers. Collaring panthers is a research tool that helps FWC to monitor and estimate population size, survival, assess health, and much more. Prior to joining Johnson Engineering in 2017, Dr. Jennifer Korn (“Jen”) was a panther biologist with FWC and was invited as a volunteer to assist on a few capture dates with the FWC Panther Team. 

On a very lucky day in February, the team captured the cat now known as FP263, an adult male panther estimated around 8 years old. Citizen scientist, Tom Mortenson, who has monitored the area with trail cameras for many years, first photographed this male panther in 2018. Tom named the cat “No Ears” because of his very small ears which are likely a result of past territorial fighting or infection. 

As with all captures, FP263 received a full veterinary assessment that included testing for feline leukemia (FeLV), giving vaccines, and collecting blood for genetics and further health testing. After the vet check, body measurements, and a GPS radiocollar, FP263 was released in the same area as capture. 

Jen was excited and thankful to be able to assist in this collaborative effort in panther recovery. If you have Florida panther questions or need assistance with a project pertaining to Florida panthers, wildlife crossings, trail camera monitoring, etc., do not hesitate to reach out to Jen at If you would like to read more about FWC and Florida panther monitoring and recovery, visit their website:  


Johnson Engineering’s landscape architecture team, along with our civil engineers, recently completed the design and construction of the first of four planned phases for the City of Fort Myers’ Forum Park. The conceptual park design for this 23-acre park was prepared by Johnson Engineering in 2019 as part of the City’s master plan. 

This community park, located in The Forum neighborhood, just east of I-75 between SR-82 and Colonial Boulevard, will service a broader purpose than the traditional community park. This park will include not one, but four separate parks, each with unique features to serve the various demographics of the community. Based on the community needs assessment, the priorities of the area includes sports fields, fitness areas, recreational trails, playgrounds, pickleball courts, picnic areas, and special event locations. The parks will be connected to each other through recreation trails, unique landscaping, and open spaces.

The first park includes an outdoor fitness area which was made possible through a grant from the National Fitness Committee. Our team transformed a 2-acre piece of the park to include a covered outdoor fitness center, various shade structures, and pedestrian paths, as well as an emergency call box, a drinking water fountain, benches, and ample lighting, as well as Florida-friendly landscaping and irrigation.  

We completed the design, permitting, and bid documents in six months and Vantage Construction was able to bring the improvements into substantial completion within five months, which was no small feat considering the global challenges we have been experiencing. 

Our team enjoyed working with the City of Fort Myers on this project as it will bring the community together through outdoor recreation, parks, fitness, and nature. 

For more information, contact Jeff Nagle, RLA at 


 Johnson Engineering has recently upgraded our drone capabilities, adding a second drone to our arsenal, the new DJI Mavic 3. This compact, lightweight drone allows for a longer flight time, offers higher resolution camera/video capabilities, and doubles the distance we can fly from base. 

We currently have four in-house drone pilots, all with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 107-Certified Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) pilot certification. Drones allow us to create cost-effective, high-quality drone-based aerial images and video, data for analysis, surveying, aerial mapping for a variety of applications in the engineering, environmental, construction, mining, and agricultural industries. We can assist with identifying problems and formulating solutions for your project using information provided by our drone footage.

If you’re interested in adding drone-based aerial or video production services to your existing project or have a new project that would benefit from drone-based aerial imagery or videos, please contact your Johnson Engineering project manager or our Marketing Director, Juli Kern, at , to discuss how we can best serve your specific needs.


At the most recent annual stockholders meeting, the company appointed a new chairman of the board and new director of land development, as well as new board members.

We are pleased to announce the election of Michael Dickey, PE as chairman of the board of directors, the appointment of Dana Hume, PE as the new director of land development, and two new company board members Kimberly Arnold, PG and Matthew Howard, PSM.

In 2011, Johnson Engineering adopted a policy to have staggered terms for the board of directors, rotating members on and off in two and three-year terms, in order to maintain an effective Board over the lifetime of the company. This system helps maintain a healthy duality of experience and brings fresh ideas.

At this years’ annual meeting, Mike Dickey, PE, director of the company’s utilities market group and a second-generation employee, was elected as chairman of the board of directors. He will succeed current chair Kevin Winter, PE, who has held the position for the last 11 years. Having been with the firm since 1999, Mike will spearhead the board’s efforts to develop strategic plans that will renew the company’s goals and methods of operation with a focus on client service.

Mike has led his team through many projects for Johnson Engineering’s municipal and utility clients. He has been the utility engineer responsible for design of many of the area’s water and wastewater treatment plants. If you live in Southwest Florida, Mike played a large roll in what it takes to bring drinking water to your communities and irrigation to your lawns. Mike will continue to lead the utilities team as he assumes his new role as board chair.

Dana Hume, PE with a solid 33 years of experience, has been appointed as director of the land development market group. He will succeed current director Kevin Winter, PE. Dana’s leadership has served Johnson Engineering well, as he has been the firm’s project engineer on many well-known projects, including Golisano Children’s Hospital, Lee Health Coconut Point, Bonita Springs High School, Gateway High School, Florida SouthWestern State College, and Florida Gulf Coast University to name a few.

At the stockholder’s meeting, Kim Arnold, PG and Matt Howard, PSM were also elected to the company’s board of directors to each serve three-year terms. Kim and Matt will replace Kevin Winter and ecologist Laura Herrero who completed her three-year terms and rotated off the board. They will be joining the existing board members President Lonnie Howard, PE; Chairman of the Board/Vice President of Engineering, Mike Dickey, PE; Secretary/Treasurer, Dana Hume, PE; Vice President-Engineering Ryan Bell, PE, PTOE; and Director, Andy Tilton, PE.

Kim Arnold, PG, has been a hydrogeologist in our water resources group since 2005. She has 20 years of experience performing hydrogeologic investigations, data analysis, modeling, water supply planning, and permitting. She has been a shareholder since 2013.

Matt Howard, PSM is the director of the firm’s surveying & mapping group and oversees all surveying efforts for the company. He has more than four decades of experience in the field of surveying. He joined Johnson Engineering in 2000 and became a shareholder in 2005.

“All of these individuals are strong leaders and well-respected in our industry,” said company president Lonnie Howard. “They have been an important part of our management team and will now have the opportunity to play an even bigger role in our company’s growth.”

Client satisfaction is our utmost priority and through these changes, our ability to serve our clients will be enhanced with the new plan set into action.

For more information, contact Marketing Director, Juli Kern at


Florida’s ecology is delicate and irreplaceable, which makes it a critical element in many engineering projects. The services that our environmental team offer include ecological assessments, threatened and endangered species surveys, habitat restoration, preparation of permit applications, mitigation design, digital image mapping and wetland determinations. Through careful planning, a balance between nature and man can be achieved, preserving the environment for future generations. We also navigate through ever-changing environmental regulations and wildlife agency requirements concerning threatened and endangered species and their habitats. We have assisted the USFWS and FWC in developing guidelines for development activities near nesting crested caracaras, bald eagles, and gopher tortoises. We have conducted environmental assessments for two prospective Florida panther conservation banks and routinely prepare listed species inventories and management plans, and conduct endangered species surveys, monitoring, relocations, and wildlife hazard assessments that may be needed to support State and federal permitting. Our team was recently tasked with coordinating with USFWS to evaluate the effects of a public park expansion in east Lee County on the Florida panther. Although located in a suburban area surrounded by roadways, residential and commercial development, the project is within the Secondary Zone of the USFWS-designated Panther Focus Area (Focus Area). Typically, projects located in the Focus Area are required to provide mitigation for impacts to panther habitat as part of the federal environmental permitting process. Our team analyzed various geographic information system (GIS) databases, habitat and land use mapping, and panther radio telemetry data from the past 18 years. We prepared a traffic impact statement (TIS), which estimated minimal project-generated traffic volume increases. Using the data assembled by our team related to project size, location, and analysis of traffic impacts, the USFWS determined the following, “…the Service does not expect the panther to be adversely affected by this project and no further consultation is required”. The USFWS decision that panther mitigation was not warranted for this project resulted in a cost savings to Lee County and its taxpayers of approximately $288,000.With more than 100 years of combined experience, our team has solid knowledge of the environment in Southwest Florida and what it takes to provide our clients with successful projects. If you need species management assistance on your project, contact Laura Brady Herrero, CSE with any questions at


Whether you’re just graduating college or have had an established career and are looking for a change, Johnson Engineering has opportunities for you. Johnson Engineering is one of Southwest Florida’s oldest and best-known civil engineering and surveying firms.

You’ll have the opportunity to work alongside professional experts in their field, work on exciting projects, and enjoy the growth and stability of an established professional organization. Our work atmosphere promotes the full potential of your skill set and knowledge in a supportive corporate culture that recognizes initiative and rewards achievement.
Visit our website to view our open positions and submit your resume!


Modernization without downtime

When you think of drinking water, you probably take it for granted that your tap never runs dry of clean refreshing water to drink as well as to irrigate your lawn, and you probably don’t think about the challenges faced by aging and obsolete electrical equipment at water treatment plants that is essential to keep the plant running smoothly.

All too often, electrical power and control systems that originally were robust, slowly age over time and don’t always keep up with plant improvements while requiring ever more maintenance, equipment replacement, and potential costly downtime.
It’s one thing to be inconvenienced by a power disruption or electrical equipment failure in your home, but another thing entirely when such an event occurs within any of the critical infrastructure of your community, which could endanger your drinking water quality and availability and even deprive water to fire departments to fight fires.

This is why water treatment plant staff and municipal authorities closely monitor the condition of all the electrical and standby power systems in their plants, to ensure uninterrupted continuous operation 24/7/365, even in the event of loss of utility power to the plant. In addition, plant staff are always trying to gain greater efficiency and productivity with limited resources by leveraging new technology and equipment that include surge protection and greater capabilities. But when the time comes for an extreme makeover of the power and control systems, can this be accomplished with limited and out-of-date record documentation as well as the necessity to continue to operate the plant without interruption? The good news is YES!

A recent example of such a project was the extensive modernization of the electrical power and control systems at the City of Naples Water Treatment Plant located inconspicuously just across the street from the Coastland Center Mall in Naples Florida, which provides all of the potable water for the city. With some electrical equipment dating back as far as the 1950s, plant staff recognized the pressing need for replacement of the existing electrical systems due to the deteriorating condition of the equipment. The major types of equipment to be replaced were switchgear, motor control centers (MCCs), control panels, distribution panelboards, transformers, wiring, and raceways. There were several primary project objectives that were identified for this upgrade:

  • Replace two large existing generators with a new set of modern generators that could all work collectively to provide standby backup power to the plant in case of loss of utility power. The new generators were designed to utilize integral fuel tanks that allowed for a much more robust and straightforward standby power arrangement as well as the elimination of old environmentally increasingly troublesome diesel lines and diesel tanks within the plant.
  • Replace the existing major electrical and control equipment that was currently located throughout the plant floor in various locations and instead create a modern dedicated temperature-controlled electrical room to house most of the new major electrical and control equipment. This not only provided a much better working environment for the electrical equipment, but freed up valuable floor and wall space in the plant which could be used for other purposes as well as eliminate some obsolete equipment and associated components.
  • Replace several electrical distribution panelboards that were obsolete and lacked expansion capability.
  • Provide the related programming and startup services to optimize and better integrate the equipment design with the intended equipment functionality while each piece of equipment was gradually replaced. Upgrade the power quality and motor control equipment to yield much more data and greatly improve the ability of plant operators to monitor and control the various systems involved in the water treatment processes for the plant.

Despite the many construction and schedule challenges entailed by an extreme makeover of the water treatment plant electrical systems, all work was completed without any interruption of service to the city.

If your plant also needs an extreme makeover, we can help! For more information, contact Wayne Wright, PE at