Flood aversion brings new sandbags to town

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Anne and Rick Mallett show how their sandbag system can be a permanent solution.

Anne and Rick Mallett show how their sandbag system can be a permanent solution.

Some Cascade residents and Ute Pass campers have avoided direct floodwaters lately because of a specialty sandbag that has a longer life and more durability than traditional sandbags.

Mallett Excavating has teamed up with Landmark Earth Solutions on a system that “makes sandbagging obsolete,” according to Landmark literature. The primary items are the Rapid Installation Barrier System, a trapezoid-shaped bag and the BarriCage, a square bag fortified by metal ribbing.

RIBS bags, made of white heavy-duty woven polypropylene-coated fabric, can be installed in 50-foot lengths. They come in heights of up to 6 feet. Once placed, they are filled with sand and conform to the earth. Each 50-foot section is the equivalent of 3,900 sandbags, Landmark said.

The bags have a life span of 7 to 10 years, “far longer than a traditional sandbag,” said Anne Mallett.

Anne and Rick Mallett of Mallett Excavating in Woodland Park contracted with the Coalition of the Upper South Platte to install the bags at a number of locations along Fountain Creek and other locations in Cascade.

“They were doing a project up here on Wellington Gulch” earlier this year, Rick Mallett said. “I met the owner of the company. He was looking for someone in the area that would be interested in being a contractor to install them. We saw the opportunity and realized we need to pursue this niche.”

The couple is talking with Manitou Springs about installing 100 feet of bags along Rainbow Falls. CUSP works with property owners to protect homes, and Mallett Excavating contracts with CUSP, Rick Mallett said.

The cost for a 100-foot-long wall of four-foot-tall RIBS would be around $5,000, Rick Mallett said. He suggested working with the insurance companies to pay for the product because “it would save them so much money than if you hadn’t done anything.”

Dennis and Marlene Eason live on Fountain Creek in Cascade. Last year, after the Waldo Canyon fire and subsequent rain, a shower of mud, water and debris overtook their property.

“We got whacked,” Dennis Eason said. “The garage had 8 inches of mud and silt in it. The crawl space still has 8 inches of silt in it.

“That was a brook before, but it was a raging river last summer,” Eason said, motioning to Fountain Creek.

But once the bags were installed, “nothing even weeped through it,” he said. “It was fantastic. These bags are a lifesaver.”

We saw the opportunity and realized we need to pursue this niche.”
– Rick Mallett

Anne Mallett stood next to RIBS bags placed next to traditional sandbags. She placed a finger on the traditional sandbag, and with very little pressure, the bag burst. The RIBS bag held firm.

Mallett said the traditional sandbags were six weeks old. The RIBS bags had been placed at about the same time.

Homeowner Carol Pepper said she doesn’t feel “as nervous” since bags were placed and filled at her Cascade property.

“I feel a lot more secure,” she said. “I’m sure things will be fine now.”

Homeowner Maryanne Ahi said she is “very happy with the system. You should have seen the mess before, but now my house is safe and protected.”

Some people don’t like the look of the shiny white bags, said Anne Mallett, so they plant vines or other foliage in them. Dennis Eason has plans to cover his with stucco to match his house.

Mallett Excavating recently finished fortifying the Alpine Autism Center, which “is in the direct path of water flowing from the Waldo Canyon burn scar,” said Rick Mallett.

“It has definitely helped with our fears of being flooded,” said Tana Rice, the center’s operations manager.

“No one wants a repeat of last summer, when businesses were caught off-guard by natural disasters,” said Chelsy Murphy, director of communications for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Locations where RIBS were installed include Ute Pass Library and Cascade Fire Department, the latter with a grant from Cascade Fire Protection District.

The flood prevention system has been quite effective providing protection from flood damage, said Michael Whittemore, Cascade fire chief.