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Erosion control: Maine going 'above and beyond'; An innovative federal incentive program is helping one state get ahead of its mounting erosion problems while others still weigh the costs.

Route 5 along Little Ossippee Lake in central Maine is a narrow causeway. To keep highway runoff from entering the lake, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) 2 years ago found a non-standard solution that would work in a narrow space.

Maintenance crews installed a 3-foot high by 250-foot long bark mulch berm between the edge of the highway and the lake. They also braced the shoreline with riprap, topping it with bark mulch to prevent the sun from heating the rocks. The berm visibly collects road sand, litter, and other "debris" later removed by the lake association, and the riprap offers the lake's trout and other fish species shaded "nooks and crannies" for foraging.

"We developed this program to address water quality issues above and beyond normal maintenance," explains Peter Newkirk, program manager for MDOT's Surface Water Quality Protection Program (SWQPP), a cooperative effort that teams local, state, and federal organizations to reduce the effect of polluted stormwater runoff from state highways and other MDOT transportation facilities.

"It's a grant program where we review applications from the general public," adds Newkirk, who is based in Augusta, Maine. "It's actually been a pretty neat thing watching the local buy-in for this develop. We are one of the few states in the country doing this and folks here seem to like it."

Specifically, according to project coordinator Zachary Henderson, an MDOT consultant, the SWQPP uses federal and state funds to assist in the engineering, design, and construction of innovative and effective stormwater management projects. To date, the 5-year-old program has completed 20 projects, with another 20 currently under way, all for a combined cost of about $300,000. The funds have come from the federal Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century, or "TEA-21" as it is popularly known.


Maine's novel, low-tech approach to its soil erosion and stormwater management problems represents just a fraction of the growing national response to such issues. According to the International Erosion Control Association (IECA), Steamboat Springs, Colo., manmade, accelerated soil erosion and sedimentation has a number of detrimental environmental and societal impacts. Last year, the group completed a research project to determine the financial benefit to reducing accelerated soil erosion.


Developing a clear cost/benefit analysis on the subject had been a long time goal of IECA's economic research committee. Such data would hold tremendous value for builders, developers, contractors, public policy makers, and others pursuing natural resource conservation throughout the United States. IECA also had hoped that its results would help justify and promote proactive erosion and sediment control among public policy makers and affected commercial interests.

Last year IECA published its findings in a report entitled "How Much Does Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) for DOT Projects Cost?" Conducted by Ohio University engineering professor Gayle F. Mitchell, the research surveyed 30 states to find their average annual ESC costs for fiscal years 1998 through 2000. Overall, it found that $270 million had been expended by the group, or roughly $9 million per state. As a percentage of total highway construction project costs in those states surveyed, ESC costs averaged 3%.

For more details about MDOT, visit To view the full ICEA report online, visit
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Author:McManamy, Rob
Publication:Public Works
Date:May 1, 2004
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