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Brandon Whitworth, Deseret News

More cities swapping out sandbags with Muscle Wall

By Jed Boal  |  Posted Mar 16th, 2017 @ 6:20pm


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DRAPER — As many communities consider the potential for devastating flooding this spring, five of them are ready to deploy an innovative water-diversion system made in Utah.

While sandbags have always been a critical solution for redirecting water away from homes and businesses, a portable flood control wall is now the top choice for flooding emergencies in a growing number of communities.

In Draper, after fires wiped out the vegetation on slopes above homes nearly a decade ago, heavy rains unleashed flooding and debris flows.

“If you get a heavy rainfall or that is combined with the snowmelt, you can really create a problem,” said Maridene Alexander, Draper spokeswoman.

That's when the city invested in a different solution: a Muscle Wall. It’s a mobile retaining wall built with plastic blocks filled with water and covered with a liner, manufactured in Brigham City by a Logan-based company. The blocks are linked together to form a wall either 2- or 4-feet tall.

“One section will replace 200 sandbags, so that in itself makes it an awesome product, said Josh Tabish, Draper's storm water division crew leader.

The city purchased 600 feet of Muscle Wall in 2011 and the same amount the following year.

It costs $50 per linear foot for the 2-foot high wall, and $100 per foot for the 4-foot wall. Draper got a grant a 50 percent matching grant to help pay for the project.

“We can really maneuver it where we want it to be,” Alexander said. “We found that the product works well for the needs of the community and helps prevent the flooding from going into people's homes.”

The wall can withstand the force of a major flood channel. And while blocks are more expensive than sandbags, they are a lot faster to deploy and are reusable for years to come.

“(The blocks are) so much more efficient and time-wise than a sandbag,” said George Deussen, with Muscle Wall business development.

In 2008, the company deployed the walls in Murray with two hours with eight men.

“The same equivalent would’ve been over 60,000 sandbags and probably two or three days with a lot of manpower,” Deussen said.

Right now, Draper is keeping an eye on high-risk flood zones.

"We have these mobilized, ready to go,” Tabish said. “We can get them into place and set up in a matter of an hour."

"We're ready for this spring,” Alexander said. “If we get a big rainfall, if there's a heat wave and we're getting a lot of snow melt, we're ready.

Draper has 600 feet loaded of the blocks on a trailer ready to go and 600 more feet in storage.

“We can have this set up in hours,” Tabish said, “compared to if you were doing that with the sandbags. It’s a huge difference.”

According to the Army Corp of Engineers, the 96 walls on the Draper city trailer would replace 11,520 sandbags, which would take nine flatbed semitrucks to haul, and 1,300 sandbags weighs out a semitruck.

Logan, Sandy, Santa Clara and Herriman also have Muscle Wall on hand in case of flooding.

And once the flooding or threat of flooding is over, cleanup is easy. With the Muscle Wall, crews just pull the plug and empty the water, unlike sandbags that can be very messy to clean up.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

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