Abstract: Session C  8:50 am (Back to Session C)
Diversion Channel Disaster: Assessing Risk when Maintaining Stream Flow

Christopher Perry
Bourn Environmental
Mitchellville, MD

Authors:  Christopher Perry and Brian Whipple, Bourn Environmental

This presentation will provide an understanding of the risks associated with maintaining stream flow on stream restoration projects in Maryland. Specifically, we will discuss the construction of diversion channels to bypass flow around the work area. Different owners have different specifications, as well as insurance requirements for this typical line item. In addition to these differences, many specifications do not provide enough detail, therefore leaving the liability up to interpretation. These differences and vagueness become apparent when something goes wrong. In 2018, Bourn Environmental conducted a stream restoration that required the construction of a diversion channel that went very wrong. The channel was compromised multiple times when storm flows exceeded the designed capacity in February, May and June. This resulted in a long struggle to determine not so much who was liable for the channel’s failure, but who should carry the risk of such a natural disaster. If the diversion channel is designed properly, and constructed and maintained properly, then who is liable for a rainfall event that virtually destroys the entire channel? Furthermore, the damage is not confined to the work area, as sediment was sent downstream and trees were uprooted. From a contractor’s stand point, Bourn Environmental believes that the contract documents and drawings must provide answers to these questions. If a clear answer cannot be extrapolated from these documents, then it is impossible to properly account for these risks and protect oneself at the time of bid. Understanding builder’s risk insurance is essential for contractors in this industry to protect themselves when bidding the maintenance of stream flow, and by providing more detail, the owner can ensure that the project flows smoothly...