For most of us issues surrounding energy and environmental policy can seem overwhelmingly complex and overly political. A new blog, “Energy and Environmental Policy Alternatives,” by Gene Burden, seeks to untangle and clarify these issues in a way everyone can understand, and provide a nonpartisan forum for serious dialog and reflection.
Burden is a former Senior Vice President of Federal and State Government Relations for a Fortune 150 energy company with more than 25 years in the energy sector. He also served as Alaska’s Commissioner of Environmental Conservation. His blog adeptly tackles complex issues like the Keystone Pipeline and Arctic oil exploration with unusual insights.
Many terms have been used to describe the engineering use of plant materials for slope stabilization – soil bioengineering, biotechnical stabilization, biostabilization, green engineering, biotechnical erosion control – but the underlying concept for all terms is the use of plants (sometimes in combination with other reinforcement materials) to reduce the erosive forces of water and increase soil’s resistance to those erosive forces.
Biotechnical stabilization is not a new concept. There are numerous references from the 1930s that advocated biotechnical designs. After World War II these techniques seemed to have lost favor to the hard engineering approaches that rely heavily on rock, concrete, and steel. However, the growing concern for more ecologically-beneficial solutions has renewed interest in biotechnical approaches.
Biotechnical methods provide an ecologically-superior alternative to conventional erosion control methods, such as rock and concrete riprap. These low-impact, and generally lower-cost methods can provide effective streambank stabilization while minimizing damage and disruption to instream and upland habitats. All streambank erosion control practices will be subject to maintenance requirements. However, biotechnical techniques have the potential to self-repair since they are living systems. Because these treatments generally strengthen and improve over time, maintenance costs are generally minimal as well. Biotechnical methods are considered especially appropriate for environmentally sensitive areas where improved recreation, aesthetics, fish & wildlife habitat, or native plants are highly desirable. Receive an electronic copy of the Club EcoBlu white paper email@example.com
There are numerous options for approach when it comes to the complex issues of riverbank stabilization. FEMA’s “Engineering with Nature- Alternative Techniques to Riprap Bank Stabilization” highlights several basic alternative measures that have successfully been used. The case studies demonstrate the use of erosion control blankets, woody plantings, LWD and more, highlighting the improved ecological values and reduced maintenance requirements over riprap.
The release notes” As technology advances, and our knowledge of the effects we have on our environment increases, it is inevitable that even more of these techniques will be discovered and improved upon and that the traditional approach of riprap or hard armoring a bank will no longer be the norm.”
The authors’ conclude: “We tend to leave a large footprint in our interactions with our surroundings. As we manipulate and attempt to control the water we so love and depend upon, we need to look at the long-term effects we have on our immediate surroundings.” For an electronic copy of the report request firstname.lastname@example.org