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How To Build A Sandbag Levee Or Cap An Existing Levee

This is a dependable method to build or cap a levee and has been used many times over the years. An excessive amount of labor is required and progress is relatively slow. Due to the increasing scarcity of labor, flood fight teams should use faster, more efficient methods whenever possible.

The height of a sandbag levee or capping a levee is limited by the base area available. (A levee can usually be raised only a few feet by this method.) In general, the base width of a sandbag levee or levee cap should be three times the height of the cap.

Height Sandbags Required Tons of Sand
1 Foot 800 13 Tons
2 Feet 2,000 33 Tons
3 Feet 3,400 56 Tons

The following is a description of the proper steps required to construct a sand bag levee: The foundation where sand bags are to be placed should be scarified or trenched. This will provide for a good bond between the ground surface and the sand bags and reduce the amount of seepage that could occur between the ground surface and the first row of sand bags. A key trench should be dug in the center of the proposed sand bag alignment. This trench should be approximately 2 bags wide and 1 bag deep (4 - 6 inches).

Before placing sand bags in the key trench, plastic sheeting (poly) should be anchored in the bottom of the trench. This will reduce the amount of seepage that would occur between the ground surface and the first row of sand bags. Sand bags should be filled one-half to two-thirds full. If the bags are filled at the site of placement, then the bags should not be tied. If the bags are to be filled off the site and transported to the placement site, then tying the bags will prevent losses due to spillage. Start placing sand bags in the key trench on the plastic sheeting. Place the filled bags length-wise and parallel to the direction of the flow. Lay the unfilled portion of the bag flat on the ground.

Place the succeeding bags on the unfilled or tied portion of the previously layed bag and stamp into place to eliminate voids and form a tight seal. Stagger the joint connections when multiple layers are necessary and stack the sand bags in pyramid fashion. A good rule of thumb is to construct the sand bag levee base width three times the sand bag levee height.

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