Erosion Control Increasingly Important For Utility Construction

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | July 2010 Vol. 65 No. 7

“The narrow path of the blade does not cause much soil disturbance and leaves the fabric firmly held by the soil,” says Alexander. “Pulling hard on the fabric confirms that it is firmly in place. If compaction is needed, usually all that is required is to drive the wheels of the tractor over the path left by the blade.”

Alexander uses 48-inch wooden stakes, spaced about five-feet apart, and “pre-drives” them about two-inches deep. He then returns with a hammer drill and drives the stakes to a depth at least 12 inches. Fence material then is stapled to the stakes. Stakes, other supplies and a portable generator to power the hammer drill are kept in a compact utility vehicle.

“About 2,000 feet of fence are installed at a time,” Alexander explains.

New equipment
In 2008, Alexander switched to a vibratory Ditch Witch plow fence-installing attachment mounted on a compact Ditch Witch skid-steer loader. The blade of the attachment is connected to a vibrating component, similar to those used for many years on equipment to install communications and power cable, and pipe for irrigation systems and other application.

Alexander is pleased with the package. “It does a good job installing fence, is lighter to haul which saves money on fuel, and also uses less fuel to operate,” he explains. “It is very easy to control in various depths. In most soils we work in it isn’t necessary to activate the vibrator. It plows through most conditions without it; but the vibrating capability is there if needed.”

When he was evaluating whether or not to enter the erosion control business, one factor that appealed to him was that with the right equipment, he would be able to effectively install silt fence without the assistance of another employee.

“The way I’m equipped,” says Alexander, “I can put in an average of 3,200 feet per day. The best I’ve done to date is 4,000 feet. About 50 percent of the fence I have installed, I have done myself without a helper.”

Alexander says fences still are installed by trenching. To anchor geotextile fabric in the ground, specifications for trenched projects usually require the fabric be placed in a “J” configuration with the bottom of the J containing fill, also a time-consuming task. Failure to secure the fabric can result in failure of the fence.

“We are paid per foot of installed fence,” says Alexander, “and it was clear from the start that it would be impossible to make any money trenching it. We evaluated available equipment, and chose the McCormick static plow, then shifted to the Ditch Witch skid-steer and fence attachment.”

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