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Utilization of Soil Bioengineering Techniques and Anchored Reinforced Vegetation

Systems to Control Streambank Erosion along Pasture Land in West Virginia

Dennis A. Burns, Certified Conservation Planner


Adam Merritt, Certified Conservation Planner
Harry Huff, Certified Conservation Planner

Abstract
An Anchored Reinforced Vegetation System (ARVS) incorporates the combination of a
geosynthetic, high strength woven, High Performance Turf Reinforcement Mat and Earth Percussion
Anchors and is a system designed to provide erosion protection and armoring in the most critical of
applications. Unlike traditional hard armoring techniques, this system is light weight, does not surcharge
weak foundation soils, and is easy to maintain without heavy equipment and personnel. (Thompson,
Propex, Inc.) These systems have been traditionally utilized in non-agricultural situations including the
Gordy Pumping Station by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans after being breached by
Hurricane Katrina, as well as sites along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and by the New York and California
Departments of Transportation.
Soil bioengineering is the use of live and dead herbaceous and woody plant materials in
combination with natural and synthetic support materials for slope stabilization, erosion reduction, and
vegetative establishment (NRCS). Although often thought of as a new technology, these practices have
been used for many years, as early as the 1930’s by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). This paper will
present demonstration projects conducted by the West Virginia Conservation Agency to control excess
streambank soil erosion along pasture land, by utilizing a combination of Anchored Reinforced Vegetation
and Soil Bioengineering techniques.

Utilization of Soil Bioengineering Techniques and Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems to Control Streambank Erosion along
Pasture Land in West Virginia
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Introduction
Thousands of streams and rivers in WV and the nation have problems with severely eroded banks.
This soil erosion generates hundreds of thousands of tons of sediment and is considered the largest water
quality problem in the U.S. This sediment results in the increased cost of treating drinking water, the
destruction of fish and wildlife habitat, swimming and fishing holes being filled, and trees being uprooted
allowing dangerous undercuts to be created on stream-banks. Damages from flooding can worsen when the
stream fills with earth reducing water holding capacity; high stream flows result in more frequent out-of-
bank events and redirected water often threatens homes, buildings, farm fields, lawns, pipelines, and roads.
Human activities that contribute to the problem, including road construction, railroads, agriculture,
natural resource extraction and even small things such as lawn landscaping can contribute to erosion. The
two major factors causing excessive erosion are alteration of the stream channels and stream-bank, such as
widening, deepening, or moving, and the removal of vegetation, especially trees and shrubs, along stream
banks.
In recent years technology has been developed utilizing geosynthetic materials and earth anchors
to stabilize failing and newly graded slopes. This is known as anchored reinforced vegetation systems.
Generally these materials consist of uniquely shaped polypropylene fiber yarn woven into a turf
reinforcement mat. The unique shape allows the matrix to capture and retain moisture, soil, and seed. This
system installed with earth anchors has a field tested pull out capacity of 500 lbs with a minimum of 24
inch depth. While one of the advantages of the polypropylene fiber is its longevity, the product is designed
for approximately a 50 year lifespan in which it will break down by 75%, or 1.5 % per year (Propex &
Chang). This allows plenty of time for root systems to establish and develop a natural vegetation
reinforcement system.

Methodology
To install the systems, all banks were sloped to either 2:1 or 3:1. Seed and fertilizer was applied
to the slopes at appropriate rates to the site. Where compost was available, no fertilizer was used and
compost was spread overtop of the Turf Reinforcement Mat (TRM). Either tree revetments or fiber roles
were installed at the toe of the slopes to protect it and anchor turf reinforcement mats.

TRM’s were unrolled in a shingling manor starting at the downstream end of the eroded banks.
12” pins and 24” earth anchors were placed on frequency and spacing to tie down the TRM. This was
typically a diamond pattern for the anchors and as needed with the pins to prevent tenting. Where trees
were planted into the system, pins were used to prevent high water from floating the TRM. Edge trenches
were installed longitudinal on the first and the last rolls of the project. All seams overlapped approximately
6 inches.

Figure 1, Demonstrates the diamond shape pattern of earth anchor


placement for ARVS (Geosynthetic Limited)

The earth anchors were installed by a rod fitted with the anchor being driven through the TRM
approximately 24”. The cable attached to the anchor was then pulled allowing it to set parallel to the soil
surface. A secure plate was then cinched down through the cable tight against the soil surface. A copper
sleeve was then crimped to hold the plate in place.

Utilization of Soil Bioengineering Techniques and Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems to Control Streambank Erosion along
Pasture Land in West Virginia
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Figure 2, Demonstrates the anchoring process utilized to secure the TRM in ARVS (Geosynthetic Limited)

In order to calculate the soil loss and efficiency of the system, several different calculations were
used. To calculate the soil the soil volume that would erode if the site would not have been treated, the
volume of the area was estimated from landowner information about how much land is being lost each
year. These figures were calculated using the formula for determining the volume of a pyramid (area of
base X 1/3 the height). After the area was sloped, the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) was
used to determine soil loss by sheet and rill erosion. C values used for the RUSLE were 1.00 before
practice instillation and 0.01 after instillation and vegetation establishment. When the RUSLE was
calculated prior to re-vegetation, the results were similar enough to that of the volume of a pyramid that it
was decided the RUSLE could be used as the efficiency indicator for the system. Efficiency of the system
was calculated by the percent difference soil lost before and after the system was installed.

Site Specifics and Results


Anthony Creek, Greenbrier County
The first site is located on the Greenbrier and Pocahontas county line. At this site Anthony Creek
was eroding an area of pasture land at a rate of 30.6 tons of soil per year according to the Revised Universal
Soil Loss Equation. The soil on this site is a Potomac very gravelly fine sandy loam with a tolerable (T)
soil loss rate of 3 tons per acre/year and an erodibility factor (K) of .24. During construction, the stream-
bank was sloped to a 2:1 grade, removing 50.31 tons (37.30 cubic yards) of unstable soil from the
streambank. This soil was placed in an upland location and stabilized from future erosion.

Eroded streambank being sloped 2:1 TRM being applied in a shingling manor over the streambank
with tree revetment installed at the toe of the slope

The site is 170 feet long and was stabilized using a high performance turf reinforcement mat
(TRM) and earth anchor system, commercially known as the Armor-Max system. A tree revetment
utilizing on-site materials and rock from a local quarry was used to stabilize the toe of the bank and anchor

Utilization of Soil Bioengineering Techniques and Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems to Control Streambank Erosion along
Pasture Land in West Virginia
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the TRM. Seedling trees were planted into the TRM, compost was utilized to cover the TRM and both over
top and underneath of the mat, grass was planted. The total site covered 2,222 square feet and cost
$9,228.75. This cost broken down equals $4.15 per square foot or $37.37 per square yard. Utilizing the
Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation, the new soil loss rate after the instillation of these practices is .33
tons per year (98.91% less than before initialization).
To achieve the same soil loss results for this project utilizing rip-rap, the total cost of the project
would have been $11,021.12. Utilizing 183 tons of rock and twice as much labor, this would have cost
$4.96 per square foot. Another comparison was also conducted to determine the effect of the TRM on the
overall system. If all factors of the installed system stayed constant excluding the TRM and included hay
mulch at .5 tons per acre, the overall efficiency of the system would reduce by 26.35% and the cost would
reduce to $1.69 per square foot. According to the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation, the annual soil
loss for the site would be 8.37 tons per acre per year. This would not be enough protection to bring the soil
loss for the site to tolerable a level.

TRM being folded over in the trench on the up stream Compost being spread over the TRM to provide organic
end of the eroded streambank matter and encourage seed germination

Cow Creek, Pleasants County


In Pleasants County, Cow Creek was eroding an area of pasture land at a rate of 41 tons of soil per
year according to the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE). The soil on this site is a Gilpin-
Upshur complex with a tolerable (T) soil loss rate of 3 tons per acre/year and an erodibility factor (K) of .
32. On this site, the streambank was sloped to a 3:1 grade removing unstable soil from the streambank.
462 tons of soil was placed back into the bends of the stream to re-establish the original pattern of the
channel.
The total site length is 300 feet and was stabilized using two types of erosion control devices. A
high performance turf reinforcement mat (TRM) and earth anchor system, commercially known as the
Armor-Max system was used in the 90 foot section of the bank that receives the most stress from high
water. The remaining 210 feet were covered with a straw rolled erosion control blanket. Coconut fiber
logs were installed at the toe of the slopes to anchor the bottom of the mats and to prevent undercutting of
the system. Grass was then seeded to establish permanent cover. The total site covered 630 square feet and
cost $4,552.35. This cost broken down equals $7.22 per square foot or $64.98 per square yard. Utilizing
the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), the new soil loss rate after the installation of these
practices is .71 tons per year (98.47% difference than before initialization).
To achieve the same soil loss results for this project utilizing Rip Rap, the total cost of the project
would have been $6,144.65. Utilizing 51.97 tons of rock and twice as much labor, this would have cost
$9.75 per square foot.

Utilization of Soil Bioengineering Techniques and Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems to Control Streambank Erosion along
Pasture Land in West Virginia
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Severity of erosion on Cow Creek, typical to ARVS used in a high stress bend in the stream and
sites where soil bioengineering and ARVS coconut fiver logs used to protect the toe of the bank
can be beneficial.

Discussion
When determining the overall efficiency of the practices, ARVS actually installed was compared
to hypothetical rip-rap and mulching practices on the same site where the ARVS was installed. The
Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation was then used to determine the soil loss before and after bank
treatment post sloping. The percent difference is utilized as a percent efficiency of the practice.

Figure 3, indicated the cost of system as it relates to the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation to
determine the overall efficiency of the practices for the site located at Anthony Creek. (H) Hypothetical
situation
lb of
Soil Loss Soil Loss Soil soil
Cost % saved
Site Per LS LS C C P P Tons/Year Tons/Year Difference Saved per
Afte Afte Afte
SqFt SqFt Before r Before r Before r Before After Tons/Year T/Y SqFt
Sloping, ARVS, Tree
Revertments, Tree 222
Planting 2 $4.15 0.85 0.93 1 0.01 1 1 30.6 0.33 98.91 30.27 1.39
(H) Sloping, ARVS, 222
Tree Planting 2 $3.07 0.85 0.93 1 0.01 1 1 30.6 0.33 98.91 30.27 1.39
(H) Sloping, Tree
Revertments, Tree 222
Planting 2 $1.69 0.85 0.93 1 0.25 1 1 30.6 8.37 72.65 22.23 1.02

Segment Total
System Just Materials 222
(ARVS) 2 $2.08 0.85 0.93 1 0.01 1 1 30.6 0.33 98.91 30.27 1.39

222
(H) Rip Rap 2 $4.96 0.85 0.93 1 0.01 1 1 30.6 0.33 98.91 30.27 1.39
(H) Rip Rap Just 222
Materials 2 $2.25

Rip Rap Cost


183 tons @ $23.10
per ton = $4,234.5
Filter Fabric @ $784
Labor @ $6,000
(factors utilized for the RUSLE were taken out of charts found in the CPESC training manual, C factors for
ARVS and rip-rap was assumed to be the same as established annual rye grass)

Utilization of Soil Bioengineering Techniques and Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems to Control Streambank Erosion along
Pasture Land in West Virginia
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6 9
Cost/ft.2vs. Soil Loss 8
5
7

4 6

5
3 Cost/ft.2
4 Soil Loss
2 3

2 Tons/Year
1
1

0 0
ARVS Rip-Rap Mulch

Figure 4, compares the cost per square foot to the overall soil loss after the practices are implemented for
the site located at Anthony Creek

While significantly less expensive than ARVS and rip-rap, mulch on the Anthony Creek site
would have been 26.26 % less effective and still not have reduced erosion to tolerable levels. Rip-rap on
the other hand is just as effective on soil erosion as ARVS but is 19.5% more expensive. Rip-rap and
ARVS both provide immediate protection against mass erosion and sheet erosion if a sudden high water
event would occur before vegetation is established. ARVS also provides the ability to vegetate with trees
to develop habitat and shade over the stream.

Conclusion
Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems provide an economical alternative to rip-rap, and
enhance traditional soil bioengineering techniques. Not only does the TRM provide immediate protection
from sheer stress of overland and concentrated water flow, but there are also habitat, water quality,
aesthetic and increased safety values that cannot be calculated monetarily. Additionally the lack of labor
and equipment necessary to install this system makes it ideal for the agricultural community which
traditionally has limited resources to work with.
The ability to hold soil at the same efficiency as a rip-rap system and also establish an effective
riparian buffer could be the most attractive trait of the anchored reinforced vegetation system. The
anchoring system reduces the total weight and compaction on the stream bank soil allowing for proper root
growth and diversity of vegetation establishment. In addition, the ability to plant trees into the system
allows a canopy to overhang the stream reducing sunlight and cooling the water to allow for higher
dissolved oxygen potential and improved fish habitat. This also reduces the likelihood of algae blooms in
the pool adjacent to the practice, thus prevent a high biological oxygen demand.
Additional research and demonstration work may need to be conducted to determine other TRM
material that can be utilized in these types of systems and different seed mixtures should be experimented
with to determine the most effective. While ARVS are less expensive that traditional rip-rap, the expense
of the system may be enough to deter a landowner from working without government cost share and lead
them to utilizing a less effective system. While the cost figures for this demonstration may have been
arbitrarily high due to the equipment used, it is believed that by using smaller equipment that the total cost

Utilization of Soil Bioengineering Techniques and Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems to Control Streambank Erosion along
Pasture Land in West Virginia
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of the ARVS could be cut almost in half. Nevertheless, more demonstration is needed to come to this
conclusion.

References
Chris Hoag, Jon Fripp, Streambank Soil Bioengineering Field Guide for Low Precipitation Areas, USDA
NRCS Plant Materials Program

C. Ellen Eubanks, Dexter Meadows, A Soil Bioengineering Guide for Streambank and Lakeshore
Stabilization, USDA Forest Service

Randy Thompson, Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems for Armoring Levees, Shorelines, Channels
and Repair of Shallow Plane Failures, Propex Inc

Geosynthetics Limited, Installation Guidelines for ArmorMax Anchored Reinforced Vegetation System

Propex, Pyramat High Preformance Turf Reinforcement Mats

Chang, Desigh Life Information Woven 2nd Generation TRM/HPTRM, Propex Memo

CPESC Exam Review Study Guide, 2007

Funding was provided through Section 319 from the US EPA. The West Virginia
nonpoint source program does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national
origin, gender or handicap.

Utilization of Soil Bioengineering Techniques and Anchored Reinforced Vegetation Systems to Control Streambank Erosion along
Pasture Land in West Virginia
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