For many years, in rural parts of New York state and surrounding areas, receiving proper natural gas flow had been a challenge for the thousands of properties that dotted the international boundary between the United States and Canada, from Lake Erie to Westchester County, N.Y. But in 2002, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a proposal for a new, large-diameter natural gas pipeline system. In 2006, after a lengthy environmental review and a changing natural gas marketplace, the FERC amended the original plan, and in June 2007 authorized Millennium Pipeline to commence construction. By December 2008, the 182-mile-long, 30-inch-diameter pipeline had been laid in the ground and was in service, successfully delivering 525,499 dekatherms per day. But the project itself was not quite complete.
Having disrupted more than 40 acres of occupied property in the construction process, including turning up soil in residential yards, through horse pastures and meadows, and under major roads and rivers, the land through rural Orange County, N.Y. (about 60 minutes north of New York City) needed to be returned to its original state, including proper grading, topsoil restoration, and vegetation reestablishment.
Eau Claire, Wis.-based Precision Pipeline, constructors of the Millennium Pipeline, hired Tim McCarey, principal of Middleton, N.Y.-based McCarey’s Landscaping, Inc., as the restoration contractor to develop the site’s soil and erosion control plan, specifically focusing on preventing soil loss. Not only did McCarey develop a technical plan, he also agreed to assume all liability for the success, or demise, of erosion control and vegetation establishment onsite. Because of this added responsibility, McCarey knew he needed to use the proper erosion control solution that would answer the needs of the varying terrain, and provide him with the assurance he needed to avoid potential fines.
With land variations from soft soil to rocky terrain, and flat fields to cliffs, and 1:1 slopes so steep they required hydroseeding crews to, at times, wear body harnesses to scale hard-to-reach areas safely, McCarey wanted to use a high-performance, one-step product to create “a little bit of an insurance policy for ourselves,” he said. Having previously used North American Green’s HydraCX2 Extreme Slope Matrix on a smaller scale, McCarey worked with Mark Grady at pipeline specialist E.J. Prescott, and North American Green’s Northeast U.S. Regional Sales Manager Joe Koziell to determine that hydraulically applied HydraCX2 was the proper erosion control product for the job.
“I chose the product because it was to our greatest advantage to get the site to 100 percent, or as close to 100 percent as possible, the first time around. The goal was to prevent call-backs or patch work as much as possible,” McCarey said. “I wanted to go in with all the right ingredients.”
Beginning in May 2009, McCarey and his team started the six-month process of returning the land functionality and aesthetics to normal. One acre at a time, the topsoil was restored, then graded, power raked, and finally hydroseeded. Once an acre had been prepped and graded, it had to be seeded the next day, so McCarey and his crews completed the work on a tightly tuned rotation before moving on to the next section of land. To further complicate matters, the Millennium Pipeline and its subsequent land restoration work was operating under strict environmental scrutiny, so the process had to be temporarily halted at the first sign of snakes, unruly dust, or noise pollution, which occurred often during the changing seasons between May and October.
After careful review of the site, including environmental and climate considerations, McCarey selected several custom seed mixes tailored to suit the different parts of the site, including conservation seed, timothy hay, premium lawn mix, and wildflowers. Working with a unique combination of soil additives that included water polymers, moisture-retaining polymer gel crystals, and organic compost, McCarey shot approximately 75 percent of the seed/mulch mixture from truck cannons and handheld hoses, at an average rate of 3,500 pounds per acre; the other 25 percent of the seed was distributed by push spreader throughout parts of the site to better control coverage. On those parts, the HydraCX2 was then sprayed over the top to ensure proper protection of fragile seed from the summer heat.
“I had confidence that the HydraCX2 would perform the way I expected, but I was even more impressed by its application,” McCarey said. “HydraCX2 was user-friendly as it sprayed out of the hose without clogging. It then laid down smooth and created a uniform sheet of protective cover.”
Aside from properly restoring and simply vegetating the soil dug up by the Millennium Pipeline construction, McCarey was tasked with ensuring that the soil was returned in a manner conducive to continued farming practices. As a result, constant testing took place to ensure the soil wasn’t overly compacted upon its return to the site.
How it works
Developed by Mulch and Seed Innovations, LLC, Centre, Ala., along with Cotton Incorporated, HydraCX2 Extreme Slope Matrix is a hydraulic erosion control product (HECP) made with mechanically processed straw fibers and reclaimed cotton plant material. HydraCX2 HECP contains proprietary performance-enhancing tackifiers that form a protective layer to hold soils in place and increase vegetation establishment.
It also contains beneficial nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium nutrients which, when made available to the soil, are important for plant growth, said Wae Ellis, vice president of sales and marketing for Mulch and Seed Innovations. “The high-performance product has been designed for water retention in the seedbed and to allow rainfall to trickle down into the soil through the porous interlocking matrix so that water and nutrients can be taken up by the roots of emerging vegetation,” he said. “It is our intention to avoid excessive water retention within the mulch layer, thereby encouraging the roots to become well established in the soil. It is also important that the material does not wick moisture away from the root zone during drought conditions.”
Featuring post-industrial waste from the cotton ginning process, the cotton plant material is a new reclaimed option that has proven to be an effective and sustainable alternative to virgin wood and recycled paper, which have previously dominated the erosion control industry.
As in most parts of the country, the weather and temperatures varied greatly from May 2009 to October 2009. In addition to using the HECP, and for added reassurance, McCarey relied on straw wattles strategically placed throughout the slopes to catch sediment runoff during minor seasonal rains. But in late July, a high-profile section of the site near St. Anthony’s hospital in Warwick, N.Y., was severely pounded by a late-summer rain event just one hour after the HECP application had taken place, creating an opportunity for McCarey to truly see the capabilities of the product he had selected.
“The 1.5-acre site received 3 to 4 inches of rain within just a couple of hours of blowing out a steep 3:1 slope and spreading loose debris onto a nearby road,” McCarey recalled. “And still, the slope experienced only a 10 percent soil loss. [The HECP had] only one hour of drying time prior to the rain — an amazing testament to [its] staying power.” Following the heavy rain event, McCarey allowed the site to dry completely and fixed the minimal damage.
Fully completed in October 2009, the 40-acre site showed its first signs of root establishment and growth within seven to 10 days following the initial application on its first acre. Throughout the growth that followed, the site was carefully monitored for moisture retention and expertly watered for maximum results. Within one month following the initial application, many portions of the site were ready to be mowed, depending on the allocation of sun and shade.
One year later, McCarey declares that he is “very satisfied” with the growth and results. “One of the most important pieces of this project was to be able to complete it quickly and efficiently, using products that I could fully rely on,” McCarey said. “HydraCX2’s one-step application provided just that. When soil restoration and protection against erosion are done in large quantities, you can’t afford to do everything twice. Not only does it cost significant dollars, it costs significant time.”
McCarey finished the major project with no citations and full confidence in the remaining two years of his personal guarantee.
Tom Wedegaertner is director of cottonseed research and marketing for Cotton Incorporated. Wedegaertner can be reached at 919-678-2369 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.