Colorado State University Civil Engineers Testing Erosion Control Products in Wake of Wildfires, Hurricanes

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Bart Daniel, president of Landmark Earth Solutions Inc., has made Colorado State University his second home over the past year.

His Atlanta-based erosion-control company has spent about $500,000 with the university’s Engineering Research Center to test byproducts of agricultural crops – wheat, sorghum, rice and cotton – and mats for the ultimate erosion control material.

For decades, Colorado State civil engineers have helped companies such as Landmark test materials that prevent erosion in the wake of major disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires.

In Landmark’s case, the testing revealed a mix of cotton and other byproducts – and some proprietary chemistry – make up the ideal erosion control until nature takes over and reseeding occurs. With the help of CSU faculty and students, Landmark can advertise that its product has “99.9 percent erosion control effectiveness” and “1,100 percent growth improvement.”

“We’re one of the few places in the country that tests all these products and has the understanding of how they work,” Chris Thornton, director of the Engineering Research Center on the university’s Foothills campus. “Some of these products could be ideal for the problems we’re seeing with erosion after wildfires in Colorado.”

As director of the Engineering Research Center hydraulics laboratory, Thornton manages roughly $1 million dollars annually in applied research solving site-specific problems for projects located around the world. The lab works with such clients as the Colorado Department of Transportation, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Federal Highway Administration, local and national consultants, and organizations throughout the country on performance testing, hydraulic structure modeling and sediment and river modeling. The unique capabilities of the facility and staff have permitted the laboratory to be an international leader in conducting model studies and training future engineers in the fields of hydraulics and river mechanics for more than 60 years.

Landmark Earth Solutions’ cotton product, called Safe Slope, is one of the company’s first hydromulch products. Landmark, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leggett & Platt, offers an ever-growing family of erosion control and earth management products. The company optimizes strengths in engineering, manufacturing and product development while targeting early-stage, developing technologies, Daniel said.

“We decided we weren’t going to do this unless we could partner with a good quality research institution and do it right,” said Daniel. “Chris and his team at Colorado State have really brought a lot of value to our operation.”

Historically, hay has been used for erosion control after wildfires, particularly at high altitudes. Daniel said his company’s product is designed to be used near homes and roads, not at high elevations where a wood-straw mix is more commonly used.

The company also wants to continue to work with Colorado State to test its flood control barriers.