Alpine — A growing Utah company makes a product that could help homeowners and communities devastated by recent flooding, especially if they're preparing for the next flood.
"These storms seem to be coming more frequently," said Jeron Taylor, the inventor of Muscle Wall.
Muscle Wall is a mobile retaining wall built with plastic blocks filled with water and covered with a liner. The blocks are linked together to form a wall either 2 or 4 feet tall.
"You've really got to be proactive," Taylor said. "You've got to get ahead of the game."
His latest project site is in Alpine where several mountainside neighborhoods were ravaged by debris flows and flooding twice in the last month after torrential rainfall.
A river of mud and soot from a burn scar, caused by a massive wildfire in 2012, roared through neighborhoods. As a result, one homeowner bought a Muscle Wall to divert any more debris flows that might breach the banks of a ditch behind his home.
However, the majority of their clients are municipalities looking for long-term flood protection.
"Your flooding comes in, you protect whatever you're trying to protect, and you move it out," said George Deussen, a co-worker of Taylor.
Taylor said in most circumstances, a crew of four people can build a 4 foot tall Muscle Wall, 260 feet long, similar to the one in Alpine, in about an hour. Sandbagging a wall that size would certainly take more than a day, and sandbags are not reusable.
"This is 6 feet long," Taylor said, pointing to a block in the wall. "If you were to do a sandbag wall this tall, It would take 468 sandbags. This takes just minutes to put up. Then it's reusable."
Because it is easy to deploy, Taylor said communities are more apt to be proactive with a Muscle Wall technique.
"If there's a threat of a storm, go ahead and set it up," he said. "If it doesn't hit, great it didn't hit."
Deussen traveled to Colorado last week and helped deploy a small section of Muscle Wall.
"If you were to do a sandbag wall this tall, It would take 468 sandbags. This takes just minutes to put up. Then it's reusable."
"When Taylor first saw that flooding on television, he said one thought popped into his head," — 'They need our product.' "
Sandy City used Muscle Wall in 2011 during high spring runoff. Murray City used the temporary barrier that same spring to surround an entire office building. However, the majority of their client cities are on the coasts.
"You're talking about efficiency. You're literally talking about whether a building is going to be saved or not," Deussen said.
Muscle Wall costs more upfront than sand and bags. However, they argued there are a lot of hidden costs to sandbagging including transportation costs and the loss of valuable time.
Taylor also pointed out that sandbags are not reusable and take an army of volunteers to deploy.
"There's a little bit of manpower (needed to deploy the Muscle Wall), primarily small equipment to move the product around," Deussen said.
Taylor also pointed out that when the flood risk passes, the breakdown of the wall is simple.
"You take the water out, and stack them back up and you're good to go," he said.