Straw wattles and other runoff control strategies

Straw wattles are one of the cool new ways of intercepting and filtering water that sheets off slopes. A straw wattle is a long sausage-like tube about 10 inches in diameter. It's filled with rice straw, compost, or other organic material. You install it by partially burying it in a shallow trench (about 3 inches deep). Place the wattles perpendicular to the slope and in parallel rows every 10 to 20 feet down the slope, following the contours of the slope so the wattles are level; then secure them with wooden stakes driven into the soil. Dirty surface water runs through the wattles and is filtered clean by the straw. Reusable sediment tubes work the same way but can be used more than once.

At the bottom of a slope, use silt fencing as the final line of defense against runoff. A silt fence is a long, low ribbon of tightly woven synthetic fabric partially buried in a trench and held up with wooden stakes. Should soil move downhill, the silt fence traps it. Silt fence is generally not reusable. Checkdams are wooden boards or other small obstructions placed across gulleys to slow the flow of runoff. Sedimentation basins are pits dug at the bottoms of slopes to capture mud-laden runoff before it escapes.

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