2013-05-17 / Top Stories

HESCO Barriers

By Katie McFadden

HESCO Concertainers are one of many possible methods that are being considered to protect the post-Sandy peninsula.

Rockaway resident Joe Hartigan is a big HESCO barrier proponent. Hartigan considered himself to be one of the lucky ones after Sandy. He had little water damage to his house and had heat, hot water, TV and his basement gutted within the first week. He was watching television when he first learned about HESCO barrier.

“I was watching a show on Iraq and wondering if we could use those to protect our houses,” he said. With most of his personal recovery done in the first week, he started to ask himself what he could do to help people. He has been on a mission to bring protection back to the beach ever since.

Hartigan contacted HESCO and started working with them on the possibility of bringing the product to Rockaway’s beaches.

HESCO barriers are used by the military for the protection of personnel, vehicles, equipment and facilities in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but they’re also used for flood protection. A HESCO Concertainer unit consists of a steel mesh framework which is lined with a nonwoven geotextile material. Each HESCO square is then filled with local materials such as sand. Once filled, the structure creates a strong, sturdy wall that is designed to hold back water.

Each unit is three square feet and comes in a set of five, creating a 15- foot section, but these sets can be linked together with pins to create a wall of unlimited length. Each unit is two, three or four feet tall and they can be stacked to create a wall of a desired height.

According to Paul Eickenberg, Director of Engineering for HESCO Bastion, Inc., the walls are very easy to assemble and don’t take a lot of time to set up.

The units are fully assembled when they’re manufactured and they are delivered flat. They fold open to form the square sections. Eickenberg said they can be installed at a rate of 100 feet per hour.

Due to the rapid installation process, these units are often used in emergency flood situations and are installed in the hours or days leading up to a big storm.

Eickenberg says that a dune could be built around the wall to make it more visually appealing and to add more protection. “You can use HESCO wall as a reinforced core and build a sand dune over the top of it. Waves might erode the sand but eventually, if all went wrong, it would get to the inner core and would reinforce the entire system,” Eickenberg says.

HESCO products have proven their strength in many situations. The product underwent testing by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center and they found that HESCO Concertainer units had significant advantages over sandbags and other systems.

The system was tested against flood waters at the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Flood-Testing Facility in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The unit was placed in a flood chamber and blocked water up to three-quarters of the units’ height. When tested against a wave simulator, the water overtopped the system, but the wall remained intact.

In a K12 test, the structure was able to stop a truck weighing 15,000 pounds going 50 mph in under a second. It also stopped a truck weighing 65,000 pounds going at the same speed.

These tests demonstrate the strength of these structures, showing that they would be able to stop wave force and could withstand potential debris damage.

HESCO products are used across the country. “They’re placed all over Louisiana, Alabama, up and down the Mississippi and Missouri,” Eickenberg said.

According to Eickenberg, aefore Hurricane Katrina in 2005, HESCO units were installed to fill existing gaps in a New Orleans levee system. They placed the HESCO units along a roadway and the HESCO barrier survived Katrina’s winds and surge while an adjacent concrete wall had failed.

In May 2011, they were placed in Vidalia, Louisiana to hold back the flooding Mississippi River. They were wrapped around a hotel, a hospital and other parts of the town. Eickenberg says the units held back nine feet of flood water.

The units could be used as a temporary or long-term protection solution. “The units, as is, are a temporary system but with a coating or dune, it could move into the longterm,” Eickenberg said. Some units were placed in Louisiana as a temporary system 6-8 years ago, but they’re still there today. “The Corps of Engineers are still counting on them,” he said.

While HESCO units have mostly been used in southern states, Eickenberg believes the system would be a good option to protect Rockaway as well. “Rockaway is an area that got hammered. It’s a good product, it works very well and it can be quickly deployed. It had a lot of success in other areas, why would it not work here?” Eickenberg said.

Eickenberg has met with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and they have expressed interest in HESCO units. “I think they’re interested in the product. I think their engineering staff wants to move forward with this,” Eickenberg said. At a public meeting during the winter, First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh said that a trial would begin in April.

The trial was supposed to include 100 feet of HESCO Concertainers, but Eickenberg said that Parks might be looking to install 2,000 to 3,000 feet of it now.

Eickenberg is still working with the Parks Department and the Army Corps of Engineers to work out the details of a possible installation on the beach.

Hartigan is continuing to be a big proponent for HESCO Concertainers. He believes that they would be a better product than TrapBags, another form of temporary protection that Parks is considering using. A contractor recently installed TrapBags on Beach 97th Street while they were filling concrete for a boardwalk island.

The bags were destroyed and ripped apart at the seams within a few days.

Regardless of what form of protection is used, there’s no doubt that some form of protection is necessary as another storm season gets closer. Hartigan and Friends of Rockaway Beach will be participating in a rally at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 19th near the MoMA dome on 94th Street to send a message to the city. The rally is being held to urge the mayor and Parks to protect the beaches and rebuild the boardwalk. A banner will be available to sign for residents to write a personal message.

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