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C. Management Measure for Construction Projects

  1. Reduce erosion and, to the extent practicable, retain sediment onsite during and after construction and
  2. Prior to land disturbance, prepare and implement an approved erosion control plan or similar administrative document that contains erosion and sediment control provisions.

1. Applicability

This management measure is intended to be applied by States to new, replaced, restored, and rehabilitated road, highway, and bridge construction projects in order to control erosion and offsite movement of sediment from such project sites. Under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, States are subject to a number of requirements as they develop coastal NPS programs in conformity with this management measure and will have some flexibility in doing so. The application of management measures by States is described more fully in Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Program Development and Approval Guidance, published jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

2. Description

Erosion and sedimentation from construction of roads, highways, and bridges, and from unstabilized cut-and-fill areas, can significantly impact surface waters and wetlands with silt and other pollutants including heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and toxic substances. Erosion and sediment control plans are effective in describing procedures for mitigating erosion problems at construction sites before any land-disturbing activity begins. Additional relevant practices are described in Management Measures III.A and III.B of this chapter.

Bridge construction projects include grade separations (bridges over roads) and waterbody crossings. Erosion problems at grade separations result from water running off the bridge deck and runoff waters flowing onto the bridge deck during construction. Controlling this runoff can prevent erosion of slope fills and the undermining failure of the concrete slab at the bridge approach. Bridge construction over waterbodies requires careful planning to limit the disturbance of streambanks. Soil materials excavated for footings in or near the water should be removed and relocated to prevent the material from being washed back into the waterbody. Protective berms, diversion ditches, and silt fences parallel to the waterway can be effective in preventing sediment from reaching the waterbody.

Wetland areas will need special consideration if affected by highway construction, particularly in areas where construction involves adding fill, dredging, or installing pilings. Highway development is most disruptive in wetlands since it may cause increased sediment loss, alteration of surface drainage patterns, changes in the subsurface water table, and loss of wetland habitat. Highway structures should not restrict tidal flows into salt marshes and other coastal wetland areas because this might allow the intrusion of freshwater plants and reduce the growth of salt-tolerant species. To safeguard these fragile areas, the best practice is to locate roads and highways with sufficient setback distances between the highway right-of-way and any wetlands or riparian areas. Bridge construction also can impact water circulation and quality in wetland areas, making special techniques necessary to accommodate construction. The following case study provides an example of a construction project where special considerations were given to wetlands.


To provide protection for an environmentally critical wetland outside New Orleans, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) required a special construction technique to build almost 2 miles of twin elevated structures for the Interstate 310 link between I-10 and U.S. Route 90. A technique known as "end-on" construction was devised to work from the decks of the structures, building each section of the bridge from the top of the last completed section and using heavy cranes to push each section forward one bay at a time. The cranes were also used to position steel platforms, drive in support pilings, and lay deck slabs, alternating this procedure between each bay. Without this technique, the Louisiana DOTD would not have been permitted to build this structure. The twin 9,200-foot bridges took 485 days to complete at a cost of $25.3 million (Engineering News Record, 1991).

3. Management Measure Selection

This management measure was selected because it supports FHWA's erosion and sediment control policy for all highway and bridge construction projects and is the administrative policy of several State highway departments and local governmental agencies involved in land development activity. Examples of erosion and sediment controls and NPS pollutant control practices are described in AASHTO guidelines and in several State erosion control manuals (AASHTO, 1991; North Carolina DOT, 1991; Washington State DOT, 1988). A detailed discussion of cost-effective management practices is available in the urban development section (Section II) of this chapter. These example practices are also effective for highway construction projects.

4. Practices

As discussed more fully at the beginning of this chapter and in Chapter 1, the following practices are described for illustrative purposes only. State programs need not require implementation of these practices. However, as a practical matter, EPA anticipates that the management measure set forth above generally will be implemented by applying one or more management practices appropriate to the source, location, and climate. The practices set forth below have been found by EPA to be representative of the types of practices that can be applied successfully to achieve the management measure described above.

Additional erosion and sediment control management practices are listed in the construction section (Section III) of this chapter.

  • a. Write erosion and sediment control requirements into plans, specifications, and estimates for Federal aid construction projects for highways and bridges (FHWA, 1991) and develop erosion control plans for earth-disturbing activities.

    Erosion and sediment control decisions made during the planning and location phase should be written into the contract, plans, specifications, and special provisions provided to the construction contractor. This approach can establish contractor responsibility to carry out the explicit contract plan recommendations for the project and the erosion control practices needed.

  • b. Coordinate erosion and sediment controls with FHWA, AASHTO, and State guidelines.

    Coordination and scheduling of the project work with State and local authorities are major considerations in controlling anticipated erosion and sediment problems. In addition, the contractor should submit a general work schedule and plan that indicates planned implementation of temporary and permanent erosion control practices, including shutdown procedures for winter and other work interruptions. The plan also should include proposed methods of control on restoring borrow pits and the disposal of waste and hazardous materials.

  • c. Install permanent erosion and sediment control structures at the earliest practicable time in the construction phase.

    Permanent or temporary soil stabilization practices should be applied to cleared areas within 15 days after final grade is reached on any portion of the site. Soil stabilization should also be applied within 15 days to denuded areas that may not be at final grade but will remain exposed to rain for 30 days or more. Soil stabilization practices protect soil from the erosive forces of raindrop impact and flowing water. Temporary erosion control practices usually include seeding, mulching, establishing general vegetation, and early application of a gravel base on areas to be paved. Permanent soil stabilization practices include vegetation, filter strips, and structural devices.

    Sediment basins and traps, perimeter dikes, sediment barriers, and other practices intended to trap sediment on site should be constructed as a first step in grading and should be functional before upslope land disturbance takes place. Structural practices such as earthen dams, dikes, and diversions should be seeded and mulched within 15 days of installation.

  • d. Coordinate temporary erosion and sediment control structures with permanent practices.

    All temporary erosion and sediment controls should be removed and disposed of within 30 days after final site stabilization is achieved or after the temporary practices are no longer needed. Trapped sediment and other disturbed soil areas resulting from the disposition of temporary controls should be permanently stabilized to prevent further erosion and sedimentation (AASHTO, 1991).

  • e. Wash all vehicles prior to leaving the construction site to remove mud and other deposits. Vehicles entering or leaving the site with trash or other loose materials should be covered to prevent transport of dust, dirt, and debris. Install and maintain mud and silt traps.

  • f. Mitigate wetland areas destroyed during construction.

    Marshes and some types of wetlands can often be developed in areas where fill material was extracted or in ponds designed for sediment control during construction. Vegetated strips of native marsh grasses established along highway embankments near wetlands or riparian areas can be effective to protect these areas from erosion and sedimentation (FHWA, 1991).

  • g. Minimize the area that is cleared for construction.

  • h. Construct cut-and-fill slopes in a manner that will minimize erosion.

    Cut-and-fill slopes should be constructed in a manner that will minimize erosion by taking into consideration the length and steepness of slopes, soil types, upslope drainage areas, and ground-water conditions. Suggested recommendations are as follows: reduce the length of long steep slopes by adding diversions or terraces; prevent concentrated runoff from flowing down cut-and-fill slopes by containing these flows within flumes or slope drain structures; and create roughened soil surfaces on cut-and-fill slopes to slow runoff flows. Wherever a slope face crosses a water seepage plane, thereby endangering the stability of the slope, adequate subsurface drainage should be provided.

  • i. Minimize runoff entering and leaving the site through perimeter and onsite sediment controls.

  • j. Inspect and maintain erosion and sediment control practices (both on-site and perimeter) until disturbed areas are permanently stabilized.

  • k. Divert and convey offsite runoff around disturbed soils and steep slopes to stable areas in order to prevent transport of pollutants off site.

  • l. After construction, remove temporary control structures and restore the affected area. Dispose of sediments in accordance with State and Federal regulations.

  • m. All storm drain inlets that are made operable during construction should be protected so that sediment-laden water will not enter the conveyance system without first being filtered or otherwise treated to remove sediment.

    5. Effectiveness Information and Cost Information

    The detailed cost and effectiveness information presented under the construction measure for urban development is also applicable to road, highway, and bridge construction. See Tables 4-15 (25k) and 4-16 in Section III.

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    This page last updated October 4, 1999