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2022 CEO Address – Towards a sustainable future

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It is with sheer delight that I write this first CEO address for 2022. Hopefully, you all made the most of your time off, I certainly did! Although as always, I couldn’t help but notice the different ways erosion is tackled across our landscapes during my Christmas travels. This comes with the territory because as well as being CEO of Moss Environmental, I am also the President of the International Erosion Control Association (IECA).

I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie, so headed to Thredbo for some mountain biking, and I must recommend the Thredbo Valley Trail (TVT), it is awesome. The trail also has some great examples of innovative ways to control erosion on a heavily used cross country trail, kudos to the designers! But I won’t spoil the fun by telling, you will have to experience it for yourself.

My holiday continued to the South Coast of NSW and a small coastal village for some R&R. This is a regular destination for my family, where several years back we noticed that many of the houses along the ocean side drive were looking very precarious after some severe undercutting caused by coastal storms and wave erosion. This was around the same time as many houses along the NSW coast experienced the same thing. This year it was interesting to see the variety of engineered solutions that have gone into keeping these houses standing at the top of the cliff. And a little sobering to think that in a mere 50-70 years those houses may no longer be standing due to climate change induced sea level rise.

My COVID seeking travels over I was back home in my region of New England Northwest, thankfully Covid free, where we experienced several high intensity storms and saw impressive storm cells drop intense rain in very localised events. This resulted in flooding and major erosion of many construction projects around our area.

Fun fact: Did you know that the plant Vetiver, with its tap roots can combat soil erosion, filter heavy metals such as lead from water, as well as grow in and repair diesel fuel contaminated soil called phytoremediation.

Dudai et al (2018), Vol 211, Journal of Environmental Management.

It’s important to remember that even construction projects that don’t strip all the vegetation and topsoil can still have a large impact on the water quality of runoff water because all projects require some type of disturbance, whether that’s access tracks, haul roads, laydown areas, site sheds and crib huts or stockpiling of materials (I haven’t seen a helicopter-built project yet!). These disturbed areas can account for a large amount of vegetation and soil disturbance when the project covers many hectares. This is also where Australian expertise of the construction company comes in handy, because our landscapes and soil vary so dramatically from those of Europe, Asia and the U.S. Understanding the importance of good soil preparation, stabilisation and maintenance of exposed areas is paramount. An issue that crops up regularly where there is poor site management for erosion control, is that of track creep. When a track get’s too muddy or slippery, crews start to creep onto the grassed edges or create whole new tracks to avoid the bog. It’s the same type of behaviour seen on walking trails. This is a problem because the network of disturbance is then uncontrolled and can result in runoff of sediment ladened water that isn’t being filtered adequately by the remaining site vegetation before leaving site.

Seeing the footage of these projects, the teetering houses on the cliff edge and the well-designed mountain bike track brought home yet again the importance of what we do as environmental managers. Our job is to manage and divert water to help the health of our local waterways and get construction projects back to work quickly. I saw first hand the impact of little to no ERSED controls on projects covering many hectares and marvelled at the impact of forgetting to install upslope perimeter controls. The frustration to project staff and the financial cost of poor planning. I think that sometimes it’s easy to forget what poor planning and controls look like, because overall our industry is so good at implementing effective ones, but it’s easy to get complacent.

Thant’s all from me for now, hope to see you at our next event or out on the trails.

If you have any great sediment or erosion photos or stories from your holidays, send them in, we would love to hear from you. – [email protected]

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