Caltrans Develops Large Team of Erosion Control Experts

Sept. 1, 1999

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is committed to implementing stormwater management practices to reduce pollutants in highway runoff as required by applicable legislation and regulations. Caltrans’ overall strategy for complying with its proposed statewide National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permit and its corresponding Storm Water Management Plan (SWMP) depends on continuous improvement and refinement of its stormwater management program.

One of the key elements of effective stormwater management is erosion and sediment control. Because of the inherent nature of constructing transportation routes through variable terrain, Caltrans has created extensive cut-and-fill slopes that require both short-term and long-term soil stabilization. The short-term soil stabilization measures are designed to keep sediment from leaving Caltrans construction sites. The long-term soil stabilization measures, which consist primarily of vegetation and runoff management facilities such as ditches and diversions, provide the dual benefits of reducing erosion and sedimentation as well as contributing to the attractiveness of the highways.

The field of stormwater management and its subset of erosion and sediment control are areas in which new information and technologies are emerging. Caltrans recognizes the benefits of evaluating ways to modify and improve its practices, which can have a broad, statewide impact. Through this training program, Caltrans will develop an in-house, statewide network of 75 individuals who have classroom and field training and experience in effective erosion and sediment control.

The participants in the program include representatives from the Caltrans functional units relevant to stormwater quality, including planning and design, hydraulics, environmental, construction, landscape architecture, and maintenance. Geographically, these representatives come from all 12 Caltrans districts as well as the headquarters.

The training began in September 1998 with a comprehensive four-day course on “Erosion Processes, Prediction, and Control.” This course included classroom training and hands-on field workshops where the team members installed erosion and sediment control measures at demonstration sites. The participants installed hydraulic and rolled erosion control products, as well as sediment control measures.

All participants in the program were provided with membership in the International Erosion Control Association, an Erosion Control Patrol T-shirt and temporary tattoo, and a Western Chapter IECA hat at the first training session. The membership in IECA will help each participant stay current with the ever-changing erosion control industry.

The training was followed by a one-day course in February 1999 on “Biotechnical Soil Stabilization.” This course focused on erosion control practices that emphasize the use of live vegetation, particularly woody cuttings, as the primary vegetation component to control erosion and provide geotechnical stabilization of slopes and streambanks.

The next one-day training course, which took place in late spring 1999, focused on “Repair and Rehabilitation of Erosion-Damaged Soils.” This course addressed how to identify erosion-damaged soils in need of repair, how to evaluate the source of the erosion problems, and how to design and implement repair and rehabilitation measures. Additional courses are planned throughout the year.

The overall training program is designed so that the participants will receive a new follow-on course every three to four months over a period of two years. To supplement the courses, the program includes conference calls to discuss ongoing projects, issues, problems, and potential solutions. Newsletter articles are another method being used to communicate among the in-house erosion and sediment control network.

The training team that Caltrans has engaged to develop and implement the erosion and sediment control program includes IECA members from Camp, Dresser & McKee, URS Greiner Woodward Clyde, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo University, Salix Applied Earthcare, and Great Circle International. Caltrans personnel steering the program development are IECA members from Headquarters, all under the direction of Steve Borroum, environmental engineering office chief.

In a course evaluation, one participant said of the initial training session, “In all my years at Caltrans, this is the best training course I have ever had.” Says Borroum, “Our goal for this program is to develop an in-house network of erosion and sediment control experts whose training and experience are consistent and comprehensive and who are integrated into all aspects of project planning, design, construction, and maintenance. Achievement of that goal will enable us to implement practical and effective measures for temporary and permanent erosion and sediment control. That, in turn, will not only help us achieve our stormwater-quality goals and enhance our protection of receiving waters, but will also have the added benefit of improving the aesthetic nature of our highways for a more scenic California.”

About the Author

Carol Forrest

Carol Forrest is vice president and principal at URS Greiner Woodward Clyde in San Diego, CA.