CASE STUDIES will post blogs of Case Studies regularly.

In 2005 the Transportation Research Board and National Academy of Science published NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods, meant to provide “DOT Highway engineers with “alternatives to riprap”.

John “wrote the book” on ‘alternatives to riprap’ for the federal highway’s transportation research board.

John, wearing another hat as a practicing fluvio-geomorphologist, has been designing and building, and documenting alternative-environmentally-sensitive methods for over 15-years.  John’s experience involves project design, management, of channel and bank methods that incorporates “rock and willow – biotechnical methods.  Definition of Biotechnical Methods – methods that combine engineering/structural elements (rock, large woody debris, rock and willow-filled gabion structures etc.) combined with vegetative elements in a mutually-reinforcing manner. will make an effort to present these methods, as case studies, beginning with the Caltrans SR 128 Geyserville Bridge over the important Salmonid-rearing Russian River, in the wine region.

Reports, Techniques, & More

  1. Geyserville Report March 8
  2. Russian River Bank Stabilization Timelapse
  3. Willow Live Siltation
  4. Willow Posts and Poles
  5. Redirective vs. Resistive Stabilization
  6. Self Launching vs. Graded Stone
  7. Environmentally Sensitive Streambank Article in Land and Water
  8. What I’ve Learned About Streambank Stabilization Article in Land and Water
  9. Crews Try to Save HWY 128 at Geyserville Bridge

The April 2022 2-day Erosion Summit held at Shasta College was a success!

WATCH a ‘live action educational video, take a TEST, and EARN a CEU

If you couldn’t attend the 2-day, 2022 BMP Summit at Shasta College you can make up for it by signing up for one of the video courses:

  1. The ABCs of BMP Installation, 0.5 CEU course
  2. The Best of the BMPs SUMMIT Video Course, 1.0 CEU course
  3. UPCOMING – The latest 2-day, 2022 BMP Summit at Shasta College was professionally filmed (both during the classroom sessions and the field demonstrations) and is currently being crafted into a new Training Video!!


Remember: These BMP Training Videos are endorsed by EnviroCert International– the international registry for professionals in erosion and sediment control and Stormwater.

This ‘teaser’ video presents an example of the upcoming course.

We would like to give a BIG thanks to Shasta College for use of their campus and allowing us to push some dirt, which allowed us make live demonstration areas with all the products, tools, and equipment that would used in industry applications. would also like to thank our sponsors:


Profile, Solutions for your Environment

Finn, Smarter Ways to Work

Rolanka International, Inc., The True Green Solution

Filtrexx, Sustainable Technologies

Take advantage of the 30% discount offer!

Envirocert International, Inc. is endorsing two video courses as a “prerequisite” source of hands-on (as close to an actual field training as the “video-centric” education platform will allow) workshop experience.

Envirocert International, Inc. is recommending these courses to candidates as a prerequisite to the Professional Exams. Both video courses provide the same basic curriculum and are enhanced by the filming and editing of events at the actual workshops conducted at the Shasta College Erosion Control Training Facility (ECTF).

The Best of the BMPS Online Training Course with John McCullah:

The Best of the BMPS Online Training Course with John McCullah

The ABCs of BMP Installation Promo:

Upon completing the 1 CEU Course (The Best of the BMP Summit) or the 0.5 CEU Course (The ABCs of BMP INSTALLATION) the student will take a test and upon receiving a 70% grade the student will get a Certificate of Completion. would like to thank our sponsors:


Profile, Solutions for your Environment

Finn, Smarter Ways to Work

Rolanka International, Inc., The True Green Solution

Filtrexx, Sustainable Technologies

Bluffs Project 2 – Fall 2021


Project Techniques:

  1. Vegetated Mechanically Stabilized Earth (VMSE) and Modified Filtrexx Soxx – Living Wall Techniques,
  2. Custom-filled Grow Soxx – Redding Greenwaste Compost, native grass seed blend, and mychorrizae added to soxx,
  3. Willow brushlayering – branches soaked for 10 days minimum,
  4. Native grass plugs, Nassella pulchra and Elymus glaucus planted into socks with dibble,
  5. Temporary drip irrigation installed


The VMSE and Grow Soxx Living Wall techniques were again chosen to arrest steep slope erosion at the Bluffs Condominiums in Redding CA.

Bluffs Project 1 was implemented and successfully completed in January, 2019. Encase you missed it check out the first Bluffs project summary here.

Bluffs- Slope Stability Project 2019 Bluff - Slope Stability 2022
Figure 1 Figure 2
Figure1 and Figure 2 “Bluffs 1” soil slope stability project completed in January 2019 and after the photo was taken March 2022. See BLOG for more details

Problem Statement

A soil stability analyses was conducted and determined that basically the Bluffs (a very steep and 200-300 ft high geologic feature that formed millions of years ago and was then carved by the Sacramento River, along the outer bank, thousands of years ago) is a relatively stable feature. The exposed bluffs have metamorphosed into a very stable conglomerate that is not prone to slope failure, although it has been incised by drainages running across the top of the bluffs and allowed to run over.
The more localized problems facing the “BLUFFS Condominiums” and HOA (developed in 1970s) were determined to be caused, not by systemic instability of the steep slopes, but instead the slumps and soil failures were caused by both broken irrigation lines and “wind throw” of some oak trees growing on the edge of the 200-ft high bluffs. Note that the slope below the condominium development is well vegetated native shrubs and trees common to the Sacramento Riparian zone, Oak, cottonwood and important for this project, willow species. The most stable areas downslope, but still hundreds of feet above the river, is willow species. Once again, according to the authors experience and opinion, willow appears to be “pioneering species” that provides masses of fibrous roots to help “nature” heal itself for an initial period while then ‘surrendering’ the stabilized soil area to more climax species.

The second BLUFFS repair was initiated in phases. The 30’ high repair was ‘anchored’ at the bottom on a 3’-wide flat area, little more than a game trail.

As with the previous Bluffs project, access to the slumping area was limited to wheel barrow and hand carrying. All work had to be performed with hand tools.

BioD logs and Blocks 01 BioD logs and Blocks 02
Figure 3 Figure 4
Figure 3 and 4 The lower portion of the 30-ft high slump/gully repair used 10 (ten) lifts comprised of coir BioD logs and Blocks, reinforced with willow brushlayering – 4-5’long branches placed, dipping 10-20 degrees into the fill, at a rate of 2-3 branches per foot

Figure 5 Figure 6
Figure 5 and Figure 6 Willow branches were kept moist while being harvested and delivered to the site. As per Harvesting and handling techniques documented in NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally Sensitive Channel and Banks Techniques, 2005, J.McCullah, Transportation Research Board. Figure 5 shows coir BioD logs and Blocks used to stabilize and support the face of the Vegetated Mechanically Stabilized Earth (VMSE).


VMSE is one of 54 techniques identified by McCullah, in the Federal Highways / Transportation Research Board commissioned research to identify “alternatives to rip rap” that could be integrated into environmentally-sensitive highway projects. NCHRP Report 544- Environmentally-Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods , aka E-SenSS published by McCullah identify over 50 methods that not only protect channels and streambanks but also provide habitat enhancements. The reports provide selection guidance, construction specifications, Auto-cad (dwg) and Microstation (dgn) typical drawings of techniques like Rock Vanes, Bendway Weirs, Large woody debris, Brushlayering, Live Siltation, Longitudinal Stone Toe protection, and Engineered Rock Riffles.

These are methods that the author has designed, built, and demonstrated for over 15 years now, including sensitive projects like CalTrans Highway 128, Russian River Geyserville Bridge protection utilizing 5 redirective rock vanes, live siltation, flood terrace with Live Pole Plantings. McCullah also designed and demonstrated, as week-long workshops of sensitive Alberta Highways projects in the Canadian Rockies. Projects also include bank stabilization (the first time using Coir BioD Logs with willow brushlayering) on the Chena River in Fairbanks. This project built in 2006 is still stable today (a wall of willow, sustainably pruned, is still supported by the long-lasting coconut logs and soil-filled ‘bio-bags’.
John used the NCHRP techniques in a successfully-implemented, 8000ft-long urban stream repair and modification in Auckland New Zealand while he also designed a huge engineered (Newbury) rock riffle for grade control on the Pedu River in the mountainous northern region of Malaysia. The design criteria were taken from the NCHRP Report 544. Future blogs will describe these projects in depth.

Figure A


VMSE Highway Fill Project Stream Thalweg
Large VMSE highway fill project on Hwy 330 in San Bernardino County
Figure A descriptive flyer showing the “invisible” 2-inch diameter holes manufactured into the BioD Logs and Blocks. The right hand photos show a VMSE wall built on the right descending bank of Cache Creek. To protect the Cache Creek Golf Course, redirective Bendway Weirs (BW), designed to move the high energy vectors of “impinging flows” (the thalweg) away from the bank were combined. The NCHRP report 544 document studies and flume tests that show redirective methods, such as Bendway Weirs and rock Vanes can move the high-energy erosive flows, defined by the location of the stream’s thalweg, over 20% of the streams bankfull width streamward and away from the bank! See the Bendway Weirs above which effectively moved the thalweg to a location “off the BW tips. The once area of high velocity impinging flows is now a low velocity flood terrace. Post project vegetative growth was so thick an after photo is very difficult.


BioD Block Close Up BioD Block Close Up
Figure 7 Figure 8
Figures 7 and 8, The BioD blocks were chosen because of their durability and longevity (ability to secure soil until willows and grasses become established) and because they are manufactured with holes through the blocks/logs which allow willow branches and or securing devises, like Gripple Anchors, through the logs.


Custom-fill Grow Soxx Grow Soxx
Finn Bark Blower Compost Soxx

Custom-filled Grow Soxx was used for the upper section of the project.  A Finn BB302 Bark Blower was rented from Global Machinery for a day.  We filled over 600 lf of Grow Soxx using Filtrexx fill sock material.  Because of the tight access, all the materials had to be brought in by hand.  Filling our own socks allowed much flexibility.
We filled soxx with compost that was well cured and added native grass seed and mycorrhizae fungi.  Look carefully and you’ll see that a few socks had willow cuttings added as a trial – they sprouted within the soxx is a couple of weeks but the sprouts never were observed to penetrate the sock netting.


Filtrexx biodegradable soxx Filtrexx biodegradable soxx

We also obtained from Filtrexx some new soxx made of biodegradable material.  It will be interesting to see how durable the material is, but so far the biodegradable soxx have maintained structural integrity for almost 5 months.

Filtrex 4ft long compost soxx
Figure The “component nature” of the 4ft long compost soxx allowed a lot of flexibility in construction- we could “fill” behind the Coir logs with compost filled soxx and fit the soxx segments around and between existing stabilizing shrubs. Below the vegetated grow soxx were fit between and under the branches and roots of an existing California wild grape (Vitis californica)

Final Results

A recent article on Popular Science discusses how willows can help filter water. The trees not only filter waste, but benefit from the extra nutrients.

“We are pretty convinced that wastewater can be efficiently treated [with willow trees],” – Frédéric Pitre, one of the senior authors of the study and a professor at the Université de Montréal

You can read more on how willow trees can be a sustainable way to treat wastewater here.

Did you know that Salix means “willow” in Latin?  One reason Dirt Time’s John McCullah named his company “Salix Applied Earthcare” is because John has seen the “healing effects from willow”. Willow is, after all, from what aspirin is derived – Salicylic Acid! He even reports willow bioengineering projects, implemented by very culturally diverse workforces, which seemed to result in successful cooperation and camaraderie!

John McCullah has an AA degree in Biology and a BS in Watershed Geology. He is a CA licensed contractor since 1990 and has been performing erosion control and restoration work for over 25 years. He has designed and built many environmentally sensitive river and stream projects from California to Alaska, Alberta Canada to New Zealand. He has included willow in many erosion control and bioengineering projects. While heavily invested in teaching, training, and coaching others, John also offers contract work or consulting services.

In 2005 Salix Applied Earthcare completed 3 yrs research project sponsored by the Transportation Research Board and the National Academy of Science to compile and develop guidance for Fed and State Highway Engineers stymied by the environmental barriers to using rip rap exclusively. The result of this research is a digital manual presenting over 50 alternatives to rock – at least 20 techniques show how willow and rock (or large woody debris) and willow can be combined in a mutually reinforcing manner. See ESenSS – re-published by Salix Applied Earthcare

Learning resources on how you can utilize willow in your bioengineering projects:


Upcoming Events



Blogs, Projects, and more that utilized willow

INNOVATIVE Vegetated Mechanically Stabilized Earth (VMSE) Structure

New Zealand & John – Pt 2

Three Stream Projects in Three Weeks !! First one – COW CREEK

Project # 20 – Lower Sulphur Creek ( A Chapter from Bioengineering Case Studies) would like to thank our sponsors:


Profile, Solutions for your Environment

Finn, Smarter Ways to Work

Rolanka International, Inc., The True Green Solution

Filtrexx, Sustainable Technologies

John helped a retired couple on the Sacramento River, between Anderson and Redding, realize a dream, a plan to convert 1-ac of their 4-ac Riverfront property, containing all the trees indigenous to Sacramento River Riparian Forest, into a self-sustaining native grass understory.  The Smiths had battled the weeds, huge blackberry bushes, and massive California Grapevines – climbing and hiding even the most massive Cottonwood trees.  Physical removal along with generous applications of roundup and other herbicides, the acreage was ready for a ground cover.

The Smith’s were ‘all in’ when introduced to the idea of re-converting the ground cover to organic matter and native grasses and regenerating the silty soil to one with healthy microbes, mycorrhizae fungi, an organic source of slow-release fertilizer (BioSol).  We all agreed that the soil was, after several years of chemical treatment, was not healthy nor self-sustaining.

Carbon Sequestration was also a goal, and while the project was not a scientific experiment set up to determine the amount of CO2 reduction, all the parameters needed, an example if you will, to sequester C over the long-term.  This project was very interesting so Kevin Ernst, Haven Falls Motion Pictures, and I decided to produce the short clip.

The documentary movie “Kiss the Ground” clearly explains how Healthy Soils are, while rapidly disappearing, can provide one of the largest CO2 Sumps existing on Earth.

So in a way, this project demonstrates, by example, how to apply the principles of soil regeneration, i.e.

  1. Provide organic matter (Carbon to feed the organisms and reduce the soil bulk density)
  2. appropriate native perennial seed bank
  3. don’t forget to add mycorrhizae (with the previous soil treatments ** we were pretty sure mycorrhizae was absent.  These then are the basic building blocks for healthy soil and carbon sump.


See a compost blanket solution in action!

Video of compost blanket solution in action

We decided to film this project to show how an Express Blower Machine can apply a compost blanket over one acre. would like to thank Rick and Mary Smith for agreeing to the job and also allowing us to film it.

Redding Greenwaste Compost was used – approximately 200 CYs were applied.

This project is also dedicated to Phil Reiker, the original owner of Jet Mulch, located in Santa Cruz area. Phil passed away this year. He was an exceptionally generous and considerate man who always helped spread the word about Compost. Phil’s family sold the business to Jet Mulch’s dedicated employees, Mario and Ryan Gamboa, who are carrying on the tradition of helping with education and awareness.


Costs - Compost Project


The above PDF is an excerpt taken from a presentation made by John ( and Finn Corporation, entitled “Effective Erosion Control BMP’S Through Hydromulching and Compost Blankets” made during the IECA Virtual Conference 2021.

This restoration project takes place on the mainstem of the Napa River, south of Saint Helena. Over the years, the Napa River watershed has been confined to become more narrow, has been impacted by habitat destruction, and is highly susceptible to bank erosion and channel degradation. Adjacent properties have been subject to this erosion and riverbank instability and have lost vineyards lands and subsequently made costly repairs.

Tully Consulting Group prepared the SWPPPs, provided SWPPP Inspections as well as QSP/QSD services throughout the course of the restoration. They also did a lot of sampling for these and met with the water board several times during the different phases.

Learn more about this project here.

If you are interested in these types of River restoration projects, especially on “salmonid streams” – John has over 15 years of projects, many described in his recent webinar “Alternatives to Rip Rap – Environmentally-Sensitive streambank Stabilization Methods”. Available soon!



Construction WorkshopStorm Water Awareness Week (SWAW) goes virtual…

And DirtTime’s John McCullah, presented “The ABCs of BMP Installation at Construction Sites” at the 2020 Storm Water Awareness Week (Learn More).


John McCullah, a nationally and internationally recognized expert in erosion and sediment control, (interviewed by WGR’s John Teravskis), talks about very pragmatic tips when it comes to controlling erosion and sedimentation on construction sites. He shares some clips from his award-winning Dirt Time videos. Even very seasoned and experienced QSPs and QSDs can learn valuable field tips from John and his instructional videos.

View the video presentation here.


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John here at recently interviewed Kaeli Tully, QSP at Tully Consulting Group (TCG).

Tully Consulting Group - Onsite

1.   Tell me a bit about your company?  How long have you been in business and how many employees do you currently have?

We are a Stormwater Management and Civil Engineering firm located out of Dixon, California. Robin Tully, PE, QSD, and President of Tully Consulting Group (TCG), founded our company in 2005. She initially provided traditional Civil Engineering services, but when the new California Stormwater Construction General Permit was released, she dove into the Stormwater field and really loved the combination of environmental and civil engineering work.

Stormwater Management has since become our main focus. Our company provides comprehensive SWPPP Inspection, Monitoring, and other Stormwater Management services to a wide variety of clients, both public and private. Typically, we’re hired as a subcontractor by the prime contractor on a project to provide SWPPP services and/or to satisfy a DBE, WBE, or SBE requirement. Tully Group Stormwater Inspectors, QSPs, QISPs, QSDs, and Civil Engineers work to implement the Stormwater Construction General Permit and Industrial General Permits to keep our clients compliant.

Team Photo Tully Consulting GroupTCG Civil Engineers and QSDs develop the SWPPPs and Environmental Plans needed while the Inspectors and QSPs implement the plan on-site. We assist our clients with the permitting process; writing the WPCP, SWPPP, Creek Diversion, Dust Control, ESCAPE, Erosion Control Plan, or other Plans as needed; perform the Weekly, Quarterly, Annual, Pre, Post, and During Storm Inspections with the corresponding Sampling Reports; prepare the Annual Report; draft Winterization Plans; perform SMARTS Data Entry; sample and monitor for 401/404 In-Water work; communicate with regulators; assist with closing out the permit, and practically anything else you will need to manage stormwater on-site.

Our team has grown to over 30 employees over the last 15 years. We have worked on various Caltrans projects, wetland restorations, creek diversions, bridge replacements, etc. This year we calculated how many projects we’ve been involved with and were surprised to see that we’ve served as the Water Pollution Control Manager and/or assisted with Stormwater Management on over 600 projects. It’s an incredible feeling.

2.   What services do you provide?  Give me an “snap shot” at what a typical working day might be like for your staff.

On a typical project- we prepare the SWPPP or WPCP, serve as the Water Pollution Control Manager/QSP/QSD, provide weekly inspections, perform the rain event inspections (Pre-, During-, and Post-Storm), prepare Rain Event Action Plans (REAPS), take stormwater samples, provide the quarterly and annual inspections, amend the SWPPP/WPCP throughout the course of construction, assist with the NOI and NOT process, input data into SMARTS, and perform the Annual Report.

On many of our projects that work in or near a water body, we assist our clients with the applicable 401/404 permits, perform the Water Quality Monitoring as needed, and provide any Diversion and Dewatering Plans as well.

A typical day for a Stormwater Inspector involves getting up pretty early to get out to their sites, they check the weather and calibrate equipment, and once they get to their sites they perform a Stormwater Inspection to check for BMPs and erosion control. They then contact the contractors to keep them updated throughout the course of construction. Once the inspector gets back to the office they prepare their reports, add in any sampling data, and send it to the contractor.
Upon arrival at the Jobsite, an inspector will walk the project, note potential sources of pollution, check for areas needing erosion control, and take samples of flowing stormwater. They run the stormwater samples through a series of tests, such as Turbidity and pH testing. It’s our goal to work with our clients to provide both formal and informal training to explain the importance of proper stormwater management and erosion control and to work with our clients to work towards a common goal of preventing pollution. We have a lot of fun collaborating on solutions that balance budget, scheduling, and effectiveness to mitigate any situations. It’s really important to us, though, to emphasize preventing a problem before it happens.

Tully Consulting Group - Onsite

3.  The Tully Consulting Group has sent several staff to our BMP SUMMITS at Shasta College.  Tell me a bit about your Company’s policy of Continuing Education for your staff.  Has that policy paid off in your experience?

It’s extremely important to us that we properly train our team. We want to provide high-quality Stormwater Management services and hire a select crew of candidates. Effective training is needed to be able to give quality advice. From the start, when someone is hired at Tully Consulting Group, they go through some pretty rigorous training, and throughout their employment, we provide weekly team training as well as attend various workshops, CISEC courses, QSP/QSD training, and more. We’ve actually prepared our own Tully University for internal training uses to keep things consistent. It’s a program we are developing and working on weekly, and it already has so much good information in there. It’s nice to have that online training ready to go for our team.
We want our team to learn from various reputable professionals in the industry to expand their wealth of knowledge. In particular, the Dirt Time BMP Summit has been a TCG favorite. Our most experienced Inspectors have said that they learned something new and valuable. It offers another perspective and gets you thinking outside of your box. We’re grateful to have a team of individuals who crave and seek new training, they really appreciated this course.

4.  Does the Tully Group provide training itself?

We work hard to provide consistent training for our team. It’s a weekly investment for us, at the least. Every week we prepare training on a topic and create corresponding videos as well.

Tully Consulting Group - Onsite


6.   Anything else you’d like the folks to know about the Tully Consulting Group?

We’re incredibly thankful to be where we are at. We have an awesome group of people who have chosen to work for Tully Consulting Group. They are passionate, hard-working, and enjoy what they do. Our clients are becoming increasingly aware of stormwater pollution and are doing a great job of improving their practices and preventing pollution. We are getting more involved with our community to do our part to educate the public about preventing stormwater pollution. It’s fulfilling to be involved with a company that’s working towards protecting and preserving water quality, we feel very lucky.
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