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NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE
CONSERVATION PRACTICE STANDARD
DEFINITION The Hazard Class of the dam is Low.
A basin constructed with an engineered outlet,
formed by an embankment or excavation or a CRITERIA
combination of the two.
Sediment basin design and construction must
comply with all applicable federal, state and
local laws and regulations.
Location. Sediment basins are the last line of
To capture and detain sediment laden runoff,
defense for capturing sediment when erosion
or other debris for a sufficient length of time to
has already occurred. When possible
allow it to settle out in the basin.
construct basins prior to soil disturbance in the
watershed. Choose the location of the
CONDITIONS WHERE PRACTICE APPLIES sediment basin so that it intercepts as much of
the runoff as possible from the disturbed area
This practice applies to urban land,
of the watershed. Choose a location that
construction sites, agricultural land, and other
minimizes the number of entry points for runoff
into the basin and interference with
Where physical conditions or land construction or farming activities. Do not
ownership preclude treatment of a locate sediment basins in perennial streams.
sediment source by the installation of
Basin Capacity. The sediment basin must
have sediment storage capacity, detention
Where a sediment basin offers the most storage and temporary flood storage
practical solution. capacities. For maximum sediment retention,
design the basin so that the detention storage
Where failure of the basin will not result in
remains full of water between storm events.
loss of life, damage to homes, commercial
However, if site conditions, safety concerns, or
or industrial buildings, main highways or
local laws preclude a permanent pool of water,
railroads; or in the use of public utilities.
design all or a portion of the detention and
The product of the storage times the sediment storages to be dewatered between
effective height of the dam is less than storm events.
3,000. Storage is the volume, in acre-feet,
Design the sediment storage for a minimum of
in the reservoir below the elevation of the 3
900 ft /acre of disturbed area. The sediment
crest of the auxiliary spillway.
storage volume is calculated from the bottom
The effective height of the dam is 35 feet of the basin. Design the detention storage for
or less. The effective height of the dam is a minimum of 3600 ft /acre of drainage area.
the difference in elevation, in feet, between The detention volume is calculated from the
the auxiliary spillway crest and the lowest top of the sediment storage to the crest of the
point in the cross section taken along the principal spillway.
centerline of the dam.
Conservation practice standards are reviewed periodically and updated if needed. To obtain NRCS, NHCP
the current version of this standard, contact your Natural Resources Conservation Service
State Office or visit the Field Office Technical Guide. January 2010
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Flood storage is based on the required design Embankment and Side Slopes. If the
storm for the auxiliary spillways. Flood storage sediment basin includes an embankment, it
is calculated between the crest of the principal must be constructed of well compacted soil
spillway and the crest of the auxiliary spillway. with stable side slopes. Refer to NRCS
A minimum of 1 foot in elevation is required Conservation Practice Standard 378, Pond for
between the principal and auxiliary spillways. design requirements for the embankment.
Principal and Auxiliary Spillway Design
Above the permanent water line, the side
Design the principal spillway to carry long- slopes of the pool area must be 3 horizontal to
duration, continuous, or frequent flows without 1 vertical or flatter. Side slopes below the
discharge through the auxiliary spillway. The permanent water line can be as steep as 2
diameter of the principal spillway pipe must be horizontal to 1 vertical.
6 inches or greater.
Vegetation. Establish vegetation on the
The principal spillway can be designed to
embankment and side slopes of the basin and
remove only water from the temporary flood
pool area immediately after construction.
storage or it can be designed to dewater all or
Refer to NRCS Conservation Practice
part of the detention storage. Design the
Standard 342, Critical Area Planting for criteria
principal spillway to drawdown the temporary
for the establishment of vegetation. If
flood storage within 24 hours. Drawdown
construction takes place during a time period
times for the detention storage can be longer to
that is not conducive to establishing vegetation,
improve sediment trapping.
protect the embankment by mulching or other
Design the auxiliary spillway to pass large methods. Refer to NRCS Conservation
storms without damage to the basin. Refer to Practice Standard 484, Mulching for mulching
NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 378, criteria.
Ponds for the required design storm and
design criteria for the auxiliary spillways. If arid climatic conditions do not allow for the
establishment of vegetation other means of
The outlet of the principal spillway must be
reducing erosion may be used.
stable for anticipated design flow conditions.
Basin Shape. Design basins with a length to Safety. Sediment basins are often installed in
width ratio of 2 to 1 or greater. Baffles to divert developing areas and can be an attractive
the flow in the basin can be used to lengthen nuisance and safety hazard to the public.
the flow path of incoming water to achieve the Design with the safety of the public in mind.
required length to width ratio. Where appropriate, include safety features
350 - 3
such as fencing to limit access to the pool area and Sediment Control Planning and Design
and embankment, signs to warn of danger and Manual.
a safety ledge below the water level 6 feet wide
Maintaining a permanent pool also
and 4 horizontal to 1 vertical (4:1) or flatter
improves sediment trapping by reducing
around the edge of the permanent pool.
the re-suspension of sediment in the basin.
This can be accomplished by only
CONSIDERATIONS dewatering the temporary flood storage or
only a portion of the detention storage.
A large sediment basin may have an effect on
Removal of sediment from the basin
the peak discharge rate from a watershed.
before it reaches the sediment storage
Planners should consider this, and take steps
elevation will maintain the pool volume and
to mitigate any potential negative effects this
improve trapping efficiency.
may have on riparian habitat downstream from
the structure. Turbulence in the basin can be reduced by
constructing porous baffles that extend
In many cases the use of a sediment basin
across the entire basin. The baffles slow
alone may not provide sufficient protection for
down flows and force water to spread
offsite sedimentation problems. To work most
across the entire width of the basin. A
effectively, the sediment basin should be the
thorough discussion and design criteria for
last practice in a series of erosion control and
porous baffles can be found in the North
sediment capturing practices installed in the
Carolina Erosion and Sediment Control
disturbed area. This incremental approach will
Planning and Design Manual.
reduce the load on the basin and improve
effectiveness of the overall effort to prevent For very fine grained sediments,
offsite sedimentation problems. flocculants can be added to the runoff
before it enters the basin. One commonly
The efficiency of sediment removal in a basin
used flocculant is anionic polyacrylamide
is affected by the detention time of runoff, the
(PAM). Do not use cationic polyacrylamide
type of dewatering device, the presence of a
because it can be toxic to aquatic life.
permanent pool in the basin, a decrease in
turbulence in the basin and soil particle size. Since the sediment basin must be designed to
The uses of the following techniques are handle all of the contributing drainage whether
particularly effective if there is a need to it is from disturbed areas or not, diverting
remove clay and other fine grained particles. runoff from undisturbed areas away from the
basin will improve the function of the basin.
Detention time can be increased by
The design storm for diversion measures
increasing the storage volume in the basin.
should be equal to the design storm for the
Increased storage along with a properly
auxiliary spillway of the basin.
designed dewatering device can
significantly improve the efficiency of The use of forebays that are separate from the
sediment capture. main basin, and easily accessible for cleanout
will reduce turbulence and will allow larger
Dewatering should be done in a manner
particles to settle out of the runoff before it
which removes the cleaner water above
enters the main basin.
the sediment storage, without removing the
sediment laden water found deeper in the Because the sediment storage capacity of a
basin. One dewatering device that has basin is finite, choose a location that will allow
been very successful is a skimming access for sediment removal when the storage
devices that floats on the surface of the capacity is full.
water and rises and falls with the water
Visual aesthetics may be a concern, especially
level in the basin. Use of this type of
in urban or suburban areas. To address these
dewatering device should improve the
concerns, design the basin to blend with the
quality of the water leaving the basin.
surrounding topography, or use plantings to
Details for this type of dewatering device
screen the view from surrounding homes or
can be found in the North Carolina Erosion
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In some situations, after they have served the 3. Prompt removal of sediment when it
sediment capture function, sediment basins reaches pre-determined storage
may remain in place to function as stormwater elevations.
detention or wildlife ponds. This will require
4. Periodic mowing of vegetation to control of
appropriate planning during the design phase
trees, brush and invasive species.
to ensure that the basin can function for a
different use. In addition, significant 5. Periodic inspection of safety components
modifications to outlet structures may need to and immediate repair if necessary.
be made as well as removal of accumulated
sediment to convert it to a new use.
If the basin will be used by wildlife, the use of
California Stormwater Quality Association.
native species is recommended to provide food
2003. California Stormwater BMP Handbook,
and habitat diversity. Also, consider wildlife
Construction. Menlo Park, CA.
use of the basin when scheduling maintenance
activities that may disrupt wildlife life cycles or Center for Watershed Protection. 2000.
negatively impact pollinators. Improving the Trapping Efficiency of Sediment
Basins, Article 58, The Practice of Watershed
Protection: Techniques for Protecting and
PLANS AND SPECIFICATIONS
Restoring Urban Watersheds. Ellicott City, MD.
Prepare plans and specifications for sediment
Department of Conservation and Recreation,
basins that describe the requirements for
Commonwealth of Virginia. 1992. Virginia
applying the practice according to this rd
Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook, 3
standard. Include as a minimum, the following
Edition, Richmond, VA
in the plans and specifications:
Jarrett, A. R. August 1998. Controlling the
1. A plan view of the layout of the sediment
Dewatering of Sedimentation Basins,
Agricultural and Biological Engineering,
2. Typical cross sections of the basin. Pennsylvania State University, University Park,
3. Details of the outlet system
North Carolina Department of Environmental
4. Seeding requirements if needed.
and Natural Resources, Division of Land
5. Construction specifications that describe in Resources. 2006. North Carolina Erosion and
writing site specific installation Sediment Control Planning and Design
requirements of the sediment basin. Manual. Raleigh, NC.
Tennessee Erosion and Sediment Control
OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE Handbook . 2002. Tennessee Department of
Environment and Conservation. Nashville, TN
Prepare an operation and maintenance plan for
the operator. The minimum requirements to be USDA Natural Resources Conservation
addressed in the operation and maintenance Service & Illinois Environmental Protection
plan are: Agency. 2002. Illinois Urban Manual.
1. Periodic inspections and maintenance of
the embankment, principal and auxiliary USDA Natural Resources Conservation
spillways and dewatering device especially Service. 1983. National Engineering
following significant runoff events. Handbook, Section 3 – Sedimentation.
2. Prompt repair or replacement of damaged