Progress report on greenway--Oct. 28, 2010

Before today, a thick layer of gravel had been laid on the upper portion, and the gravel entrance pad had been beefed up to regulations.

As of 8:00 am today:
  • A new and improved erosion control inspection for 10/27 was posted on the City's site.  It was accurate, more detailed, and contained photos.  We thank Engineering for their prompt attention to inspections.
  • Geo fabric was being laid in the middle portion, evidently so more gravel could be put on top (see photo above). 
  • However, the road below the fabric roll is wet, with the ground muddy and unstable. The tree-cutting can't proceed until this area has been stabilized.
  • Crews are adding filters to more stormwater inlets along Midvale.
I have learned the reasons behind some of the situations I discussed earlier. 

For example, the pile of black earth near the bottom of the greenway has not been removed because it is blocked by trees.  Workers didn't want to remove the soil for fear of harming trees, and besides, it's a small pile.  It's true I don't always understand the conditions faced by workers in the field.

Nevertheless, this pile could be removed by one worker with a shovel and wheelbarrow, in about two hours.  Or, it could be protected from surging water with sandbags.  I made an issue of the pile, because I wanted to make sure that the contractor understands that stockpiles of materials are supposed to be protected.  This is not an ordinary construction site--it's a stream bed.

The gravel entrance at Owen Dr. was initially too thin, because the City realized that rain was coming, and they felt it was more important to get the gravel on hand down into the greenway, where it was more urgently needed.   Given the limited supply of gravel on hand, I would have made the same decision.

But then, why wasn't there more gravel on hand?  The contractor should have known this was a unique construction site, and that a lot of gravel would be needed.

After the first storm, when some of the gravel washed downstream in the torrent, the City decided to increase the size of gravel from 3" rocks to 5."  This shows the kind of observation and correction that is essential to good erosion control.

This project is placing a heavy burden on the time of City engineers and inspectors.  They deserve a lot of credit for responding to community concerns. 

One possible solution: For projects with challenging erosion control, divide the project into two contracts--one for construction, and the other for erosion control.  If the erosion control portion is small enough, it won't have to go to competitive bidding--so the City can ensure that the people doing the job are competent.  Or, they can make sure that only well-qualified people are certified to bid on the job.

That way, you won't have a situation where a company that is poorly qualified in erosion control makes the low bid and gets the job.  If the contractor is well-qualified in erosion control, then City inspectors can allocate their limited time to other jobs.


  1. do you suffer from some form of neurosis? there is help for that.... I do live on the greenway and now I have a road, just let them do their work....

  2. Yup, I probably am neurotic, but mostly harmless. It looks like a lot of other people across the world are neurotic too, or at least like to read neurotic blogs on erosion control.

    On Monday after the storm, this blog had 90 hits. So far today, one reader from the University of Wisconsin spent one hr 17 min reading the blog. Someone from Stoughton spent 19 min. Someone from the Univ of Puerto Rico spend 19 sec. Someone from Pristina Serbia spent 2.5 min.

    Yesterday, someone from Madison spent 3.5 hrs reading the blog. Sadly, a lot of people seem to be interested in my neurosis. Even Mr or Ms Anonymous has taken the time to post comments twice.

  3. QUESTION: Is it possible to avoid the competitive bid law by dividing the work into a series of small contracts each of which are under $25,000?
    No. The courts have held that municipalities cannot evade the statutory bid requirements by dividing a project up into small segments that fall under the statutory threshold of $25,000. Menzl v. City of Milwaukee, 32 Wis.2d 266, 274, 145 N.W.2d 198 (1966).


Please feel free to comment on the article above, or on other watershed issues.