A different method for controlling erosion and sediment transport during highway construction was used in each of four adjacent drainage basins in central Pennsylvania. The basins ranged in size from 240 to 490 acres (97 to 198 hectares), and the area disturbed by highway construction in each basin ranged from 20 to 48 acres (8 to 19 hectares). Sediment discharge was measured from each basin for 3 years before construction began and for 2 years during construction. In one of the basins affected by the construction, three offstream ponds were constructed to intercept runoff from the construction area before it reached the stream. In another basin, a large onstream pond was constructed to trap runoff from the construction area after it reached the stream. In a third area, seeding, mulching, and rock dams were used to limit erosion. In the fourth area, no sediment controls were used.
The effectiveness of the various sediment-control measures were determined by comparing the sediment loads transported from the basins with sediment controls to those without controls. For most storms the offstream ponds trapped about 60 percent of the sediment that reached them. The large onstream pond had a trap efficiency of about 80 percent, however, it remained turbid and kept the stream flow turbid for long periods following storm periods. Samples of runoff water from the construction area were collected above and below rock dams to determine the reduction in sediment as the flow passed through the device. Rock dams in streams had a trap efficiency of about 5 percent. Seeding and mulching may reduce sediment discharge by 20 percent during construction, and straw bales placed to trap runoff water may reduce sediment loads downstream by 5 percent.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Effectiveness of sediment-control techniques used during highway construction in central Pennsylvania