Woman uses mesh baskets to protect property from flooding
Heidi Zemach | For The LOG
Rose Szymanski shows her HESCO containers along the bank of Salmon Creek.
Rose Szymanski pluckily tried to save some property she owns from being flooded in a way that was a little different for this area. She drove to Anchorage, and got 15 HESCO Concertainer baskets, 3-foot cubed steel mesh units, lined with a porous geotextile material, and with help from her former employee and Eadsville resident, Daniel Armstrong, opened them up and hooked them together side-by-side along the banks of the Salmon Creek, just south of the Salmon Creek bridge.
They had to clear some trees to get to the area, but made sure to leave a protective row of alder trees on either side of the temporary dam structure. Using a Bobcat, Armstrong filled each unit with pit run fill, the cheapest kind of gravel available from Metco ., Inc, taken directly from the stream. Szymanski was able to get 800 yards of it delivered, amounting to 10 trucks worth.
Within 6 hours they were able to fill all of her HESCO baskets and form a 120-foot line of defense against the rising river waters two days before the Sept. 19 disaster declaration. They were out there working in 1.5 feet of water, she said.
The steel-mesh barrier succeeded in holding back the creek flooding until Wednesday afternoon, when 6 or more inches of rain and high tides swept the water overtopping the banks around the barrier onto Szymanski and John Eads’ properties. Flooding also occurred in the area from rising groundwater beneath Eadsville, and by a torrent of water spilling across the road from the railroad track side. The barrier could have done a better job if there had been 1,000 feet of them lined up instead of 120 feet, she said.
Szymanski walked her dog Little Mikey down the embankment off the Salmon Creek Bridge last week for another look at the HESCO basket barrier. Several inches of new silty-mud in the area captured their footprints. They were set up a little ragged, and leaned somewhat, but they still retained their gravel. A little closer to the creek bank, Szymanski pointed down where just the white tops of sandbags, placed there in an earlier flood could still be seen, framed in mud. She pointed to the bridge that her brother Mike Syzmanski, a former longtime Alaska state house and senate representative found an already-built bridge and got it moved and installed to replace the last bridge that was wiped out in an earlier flood. The bridge’s clearance from the water’s surface in Salmon Creek appeared to be only a couple feet. She pointed out the wide gravel bar that now stands in the middle of the creek, and runs beneath the bridge, making the water levels rise so high in that area.
Despite their failure this time to prevent flooding on her property, Szymanski remains impressed by the idea of using HESCO baskets to help to direct water where it’s not desired, especially with their ability to be used quickly and easily, and to be deployed by novices. And it’s not just because a relative of her’s distributes them in Anchorage, and her niece sells them in Afghanistan, she said. The baskets are lined with a stiff geotextile material that allows water to drain out, but keeps solid material inside, so they would work well along creek or river banks, because the gravel would not be swept back in, Szymanski said. They’re also much taller, and more portable than sand bags, so they take much less time and fewer workers to quickly set up. They can also be stacked on atop the other. The top part of each basket can be filled with top soil, making them into attractive planters in addition to flood barriers, she added.
Heidi Zemach | For The LOG
Rose Szymanski and her dog Mikey walk by the tops of sandbags, barely visible in the mud, that were put in place during previous floods.
The HESCO basket system is currently in wide use across the U.S. by federal agencies for emergency flood defense and prevention purposes. They were used to protect the Gulf of Mexico coastline during British Petroleum’s major oil spill there. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are using them as temporary field fortifications, perimeter defenses, ammunition compounds, firing ranges, land reinforcement and more.
Szymanski isn’t the first person to use the HESCO baskets in Seward, but she does have an idea that could merit a closer look. Perhaps these collapsible units could be bought in bulk and stockpiled at area fire stations, or at key locations for use when needed? Or perhaps individuals could buy some, and store them at home. For information, Hesco Bastion USA, the distributor in Hammond, La ., can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.hesco-usa.com or 985-345-7332.