Time for construction sites to be ‘winterized’
The chilly morning temperatures and unpredictable clouds overhead are a reminder of the changing seasons, but for construction contractors the winter weather also means preparing construction sites for heavy rain and snow.
The Truckee River Watershed Council hosted a field tour of a construction site on Sept. 21, as the first of three, to show local contractors proper site erosion control requirements.
“The whole program is to raise knowledge,” said David Parsons, Truckee River Watershed Council tour program project manager. “We want people to know more about protecting watersheds.”
Jeffrey Rosenfeld, Integrated Environmental Restoration Services consultant, led the tour discussion and asked questions about water control scenarios to a group of contractors and Truckee town officials to get their feedback and to offer suggestions.
Rosenfeld said the free field tours are intended to allow for more interaction and attention to Best Management Practices (BMPs) for smaller-sized construction sites, instead of contractors just “kicking in the dirt” and not prepping the area for winter conditions.
The site tour program is supported by a grant from the California State Water Resources Board with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program.
Parsons said the program includes the region of the Truckee River along the Highway 89 corridor to Tahoe City, the town of Truckee, and out towards Martis Valley and Northstar-at-Tahoe.
The Lahontan Water Board, Nevada County, Placer County, and the Town of Truckee ordered construction sites to be winterized with erosion control measures in place by Oct. 15, according to the Watershed Council.
John Corda, Corda Construction general contractor, volunteered the Lahontan construction site his crew is currently working on for Thursday’s tour.
Working in the construction business since 1978, Corda said he is familiar with the winterization requirements in the area.
“The local contractors know what to do,” Corda said. “It’s the newer contractors who need help.”
Storm water run-off is a concern for the Watershed Council, Rosenfeld said.
Sediment is one of the biggest polluters to the Truckee River and new development increases the amount of erosion, Parsons said.
During the tour contractors shared ideas on what water control techniques work best for them on a construction site.
Straw bales, laying down wood chips, or gravel on the main pathways and driveway are commonly used to prevent erosion during a winter storm. Rosenfeld then asked contractors, “but if it’s raining cats and dogs in December what do you do?”
He said he suggested using pine needle wattles, made out of coconut husk with the needles “rolled up like a burrito,” to line the perimeter of the fenced site.
“They are designed to let the water flow through and catch the sediment,” Rosenfeld said.
The pine needle wattles aren’t readily available for contractors, he said. Rosenfeld said the wattles do take time to make but they are efficient and less costly than fencing materials.
Corda said contractors can get more ideas by visiting other job sites. A construction site at Northstar was using wattles with sand bags, a method he said was smart.
“Once you know how to do it, it’s easy,” Corda said.
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