Encapsulated soil lifts are lake-friendly option for rebuilding eroding banks on inland lakes

Certified contractors report slow but steady increase in demand for this natural shoreline construction technique.

Certified Natural Shoreline ProfessionalsA previous Michigan State University Extension news article explained how, in July 2011, encapsulated soil lifts on a rock base were used to rebuild an eroding bank on Landscape Three at Michigan State University’s Shoreline Management Demonstration Area on Gull Lake, in Kalamazoo County.

Encapsulated soil lifts can be a solution to eroding and collapsing banks on moderate to high energy shorelines. This technique involves the “encapsulation” of soil in biodegradable blankets that is formed into layers. The layers, or lifts, are stacked up the bank – stepped back to create the desired slope – and then seeded or planted with native wildflowers, grasses and shrubs. Properly stabilized or rebuilt banks can reduce soil erosion into the lake – protecting water quality and fish habitat.

The intent of the July 2011 training was to equip Certified Natural Shoreline Professionals with more lake-friendly “tools-in-the-toolbox” when addressing shoreline erosion problems on moderate- to high-energy inland lake properties. MSU Extension wanted to know if the skills taught during the training have resulted in expanded business opportunities for landscape and marine contractors working at the water’s edge.

A recent survey of the 19 participating contractors saw a 74 percent response rate (N = 14) and provided some insights into 2012 soil lift business activity as compared to the previous 1.5 years (all of 2010 and the first half of 2011).

Responses indicated that, although business opportunities are increasing, soil lift projects continue to be a small component of annual business revenue (1 to 5 percent). Survey highlights are as follows:

  • The number of contracted soil lift projects increased from three (2010-11) to twelve (2012).
  • The number of respondents indicating that soil lift contracts accounted for 1 to 5 percent of annual business revenue increased from one (2010-11) to four (2012). (At no time did any respondent indicate soil lifts to be more than five percent of annual business revenue.)
  • The number of employees working on soil lift projects increased by 100 percent from 11 in (2010-11) to 22 (2012).
  • Twenty-one percent of respondents predicted that their participation in the July 2011 soil lift training at KBS was very likely to create business opportunities for their companies in 2013.

Now is the time for property owners on inland lakes to plan for 2013 natural shoreline projects. Those interested in working with a Certified Natural Shoreline Professional can visit the MNSP’s searchable listing of certified contractors.

Photo: Certified Natural Shoreline Professionals gain hands-on experience constructing encapsulated soil lifts during 2011 training on Gull Lake. Photo courtesy of Jane Herbert.

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