Patent application title: METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR CREATING A FLOOD BARRIER
Norm Stinson (Alvarado, TX, US)
IPC8 Class: AE02B702FI
Class name: Artificial water barrier (e.g., dam, levee, etc.) in situ construction earthen
Publication date: 2013-01-24
Patent application number: 20130022404
A method and apparatus for compacting material in a unit. In one
embodiment the compacting apparatus comprises an attaching device, a base
coupled to the attaching device, and a head coupled to the base, wherein
the head comprises at least one sloping face. The head is lowered within
the unit to compact material within the unit. As force is applied by the
head, the sloping face distributes the force in a direction normal to the
slope of the face. This compacts the material within the unit and
prevents the formation of voids within the unit.
1. A compacting apparatus comprising: an attaching device; a base coupled
to said attaching device; a head coupled to said base; wherein said head
comprises four sloping faces.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said head comprises a top end and a bottom end.
3. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said top end comprises a greater diameter than said bottom end.
4. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said bottom end comprises a point.
5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said head comprises a pyramidal shape.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a vibrating device.
8. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said attaching device is removeably coupled to a mechanical arm.
9. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said apparatus further comprises a rotation table.
10. The apparatus of claim 9 wherein said rotation table is located between said attaching device and said base.
11. The apparatus of claim 9 wherein said head is freely rotatable beneath said rotation table.
12. A system for compacting a material, said system comprising: a compacting apparatus comprising: an attaching device; a base coupled to said attaching device; a head coupled to said base; wherein said head comprises four sloping faces; a unit for holding a material, wherein said unit comprises an opening.
13. The system of claim 12 wherein said head is sized so as to fit within said opening of said unit.
14. The system of claim 12 wherein said head has a similar shape as does said opening of said unit.
15. A method of compacting a material, said method comprising the steps of: a. affixing a compacting apparatus to a mechanical arm, wherein said compacting apparatus comprises an attaching device coupled to a base, and wherein said base is coupled to a head, wherein said head comprises four sloping faces; b. positioning said head above an opening in a unit, wherein said unit comprises a material; c. lowering said head such that said head makes contact with said material; d. compacting said material with said head.
16. The method of claim 15 wherein said compacting of step d) comprises applying a force upon said material.
17. The method of claim 16 wherein said force comprises force exerted by said arm onto said apparatus.
18. The method of claim 16 wherein said force comprises a substantially downward force.
19. The method of claim 16 wherein said sloping face distributes said force in a direction normal to said slope.
20. The method of claim 15 wherein said compacting of step d) comprises compacting said material downward and outward to the outer periphery of said unit.
21. The method of claim 15 wherein said compacting of step d) reduces voids formed in said unit.
22. The method of claim 15 wherein said affixing comprises affixing an apparatus comprising a head, wherein said head comprises a top end and a bottom end.
23. The method of claim 22 wherein said affixing further comprises affixing a head wherein said top end comprises a shape which has a similar shape to said unit.
24. The method of claim 15 wherein said compacting of step d) further comprises vibrating said compacting apparatus.
25. The method of claim 15 wherein said positioning further comprises rotating said apparatus along a substantially vertical axis.
26. The method of claim 15 further comprising the step of filling said unit with said material, wherein said filling step occurs prior to step b).
27. The method of claim 15 further comprising the step of partially filling said unit with said material prior to said compacting of step d).
28. The method of claim 27 further comprising adding additional material after said compacting of step d.)
29. The method of claim 28 further comprising the step of further compacting said material with said head after adding additional material.
TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to a method and system for creating a flood barrier. The barrier is a series of interconnecting mesh and fabric, framed enclosures that are filled with soil and compacted. The method of compacting the soil is crucial to the stability and strength of the barrier system. In one embodiment, a positionable, inverted pyramid head is used to force the soil to the outermost vertices of each individual enclosure.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Flooding is a force of nature that yearly destroys billions of dollars of property and needlessly kills people of all ages. The force of moving water can carve through solid rock over time. It can pull houses from their foundations and pull crops out of the ground. Many of the major rivers in the United States have been tamed through the use of dams and levees. The dams allow rapidly rising water to fill a predetermined basin during heavy rains, runoff and snow melts. That excess water can then be released over a long period of time in a safe manner. Likewise, a levee is an artificially raised river bank. If the river level rises, the levee is designed to contain the swollen volume of running water.
 The design of levees must take into account many factors, including the hydrostatic and hydrodynamic forces exerted by the flowing river. The US Army Corps of Engineers is the premier designer of levees, and yet only a small percentage of the rivers in this country have levees, whether partial or complete. If an excessive amount of snow falls in the winter, then the melt from that snow mass will exceed the containment capacity of the downstream river banks and levees. When this happens, the water overflows the banks and floods.
 The 2009 Red River flood along the Red River of the North in North Dakota and Minnesota in the United States and Manitoba in Canada brought record flood levels to the Fargo-Moorhead area. The flood was a result of saturated and frozen ground, Spring snowmelt exacerbated by additional rain and snow storms, and virtually flat terrain. Furthermore, the Red River of the North flows from the United States into Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. Unlike the vast majority of rivers in the United States, it flows northward, which means melting snow and river ice, as well as runoff from its tributaries, often create ice dams, which cause the river to overflow. The valley is essentially flat, leading to overland flooding, with no high ground on which to take refuge.
 Warnings for the 2009 flood occurred as early as March 9 when the National Weather Service warned that the Fargo-Moorhead area could see a significant flood of between 35 feet (11 m) and 36 feet (11 m). As preparations began for the flooding on March 16, North Dakota Governor John Hoeven declared a statewide disaster in anticipation of flooding across the state. On March 19, the National Weather Service raised the predicted flood level in the Fargo area to between 37 feet (11 m) and 40 feet (12 m). The city began filling sandbags on March 20. In anticipation of a rain and snow storm, the predicted crest level was raised on March 22 to a range from 39 feet (12 m) to 41 feet (12 m).
 Volunteers continued preparing sandbags, with 560,000 bags filled by late March 22, out of an expected 1.5 million to 2 million needed. By March 24, residents in Fargo-Moorhead had filled over 1 million sandbags and were attempting to fill a total of 2 million by the 26th. A levee in Georgetown, Minn. was raised another two feet, and emergency dikes were built in Fargo, Moorhead, Harwood, Grafton and Richland County. And even with these preparations, the predicted flood crest was raised again to 42 feet. In other words, there was a rapid and changing environment that was difficult to anticipate. And even with volunteers, there is a need for a mechanized method of preparing more substantial barriers than sandbags.
 One system for creating a temporary levee is made by Hesco Bastion USA. Its Concertainer® units are a geotextile lined unit for general use as an earth filled gabion. The units are suitable for filling with earth, sand, gravel, crushed rock and other granular materials. Referring to FIG. 1, the units 100 can be placed on river bank 14 adjacent to the river 12. As the river 12 rises, the units 100 add a barrier that is capable of withstanding the forces from the rising water. FIGS. 2 and 3 provide a more detailed view of the units 100. Note that each unit 100 has a number of individual compartments 102, 104, 106. Each of these compartments is generally cubical in shape having an opening on the top for receiving the fill material. The fill material is contained within the compartment by a wire mesh frame 114 that lends form to the geotextile material. Each unit 100 has at least one compartment 102. Units 100 can be linked together to form a barrier of any desired length. For instance, in one embodiment, the unit 100 has five compartments 102, each being three feet in width and depth and four feet in height. The set of five compartments creates a barrier of approximately 15 feet in length. Multiple units can be attached to each other using a pin 118 to interlock the end vertices of the unit. The units are usually filled by hand. As shown in FIG. 3, soil is scooped into the units by hand and a person 20 actually stands on top of it and moves the soil with a shovel 16 to distribute soil within the unit. The worker 20 has only his weight to compress the fill.
 As useful as the Concertainer® units are, each must still be properly filled with material to provide the weight and stability required to withstand the turbulent currents produced in floods. Specifically, the dirt or other fill material must be properly packed into the bottom edges around the bottom perimeter of each compartment. Failure to properly pack fill into those spaces results in voids 18. The voids 18 can create a risk of the compartment sagging and underwash. If the soil under the unit begins to erode because flowing water has infiltrated between the unit and the ground underneath it, the entire unit can collapse and fail to act as a Barrier.
 Therefore a need exists for an improved method of filling and compacting barriers such as the Concertainer® units described above. This improved method should allow for the rapid deployment, filling and compaction of the soil inside the units 100. Such a method should also minimize the need of human labor to accomplish the deployment.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 A more complete understanding of the apparatus and methods of the present invention may be had by reference to the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
 FIG. 1 is a side view of a unit deployed on a river bank;
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a series of units deployed on a river bank;
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a person filling a unit;
 FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the compacting apparatus in one embodiment;
 FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the compacting apparatus in one embodiment comprising a rotation table.
 Where used in the various figures of the drawings, the same numerals designate the same or similar parts. Furthermore, when the terms "top," "bottom," "first," "second," "upper," "lower," "height," "outer," "inner," "width," "length," "end," "side," "horizontal," "vertical," and similar terms are used herein, it should be understood that these terms have reference only to the structure shown in the drawing and are utilized only to facilitate describing the invention.
 All figures are drawn for ease of explanation of the basic teachings of the present invention only; the extensions of the figures with respect to number, position, relationship, and dimensions of the parts to form the preferred embodiment will be explained or will be within the skill of the art after the following teachings of the present invention have been read and understood. Further, the exact dimensions and dimensional proportions to conform to specific width, length, and similar requirements will likewise be within the skill of the art after the following teachings of the present invention have been read and understood.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 Several embodiments of Applicant's invention will now be described with reference to the drawings. Unless otherwise noted, like elements will be identified by identical numbers throughout all figures. The invention illustratively disclosed herein suitably may be practiced in the absence of any element which is not specifically disclosed herein.
 FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the compacting apparatus 200 in one embodiment. In one embodiment the apparatus 200 comprises an attaching device 206 which is coupled to a base 204 and a head 202 which is coupled to a base 204.
 The attaching device 206 can comprise any device which couples the apparatus 200 to equipment. As shown the attaching device 206 is coupled to a mechanical arm 300. As used herein a "mechanical arm" refers to any piece of equipment which can maneuver the compacting apparatus. The mechanical arm 300 can comprise the arm of a tractor, back hoe, or any other equipment which can be used to maneuver the apparatus 300. As depicted the attaching device 206 attaches at two hinge points. In other embodiments the attaching device 206 attaches at a single hinge point, whereas in other embodiments the attaching device 206 comprises more than two hinge points. As can be seen in FIG. 4, the attaching device 206 couples to the mechanical arm 300 in such a way that the angle of the apparatus 200 can be controlled. Thus, while the apparatus 200 is depicted as pointed downward, by manipulating the mechanical arm 300, the apparatus 200 can be pointed in any desired direction. As an example, if the unit 100 is on an inclined surface, the apparatus 200 can be positioned so as to enter the inclined unit 100. In one embodiment the attaching device 206 is removeably coupled to the mechanical arm 300.
 As noted the attaching device 206 is coupled to the base 204. The attaching device 206 can be welded, soldered, or attached to the base 204 in any method known in the art. In one embodiment the base 204 and the attaching device 206 comprise a single piece and are thus integrally attached. The base 204 can comprise virtually any shape. In one embodiment the base 204 comprises a smaller diameter than the head 202. In one embodiment the base 204 serves to add weight to the apparatus 200. The apparatus 200 can be made from a variety of materials including steel, iron, etc.
 The head 202 can be coupled to the base 204 in any of the manners previously discussed. In one embodiment the head 202 is sized so as to fit within the internal area of the unit 100. As will be discussed, the head 202 is placed within the unit 100 to compact material 16 loaded in the unit 100.
 In one embodiment the head 202 comprises a top end 202a and a bottom end 202b. In one embodiment the top end 202a comprises a wider diameter than said bottom end 202b. In one embodiment the bottom end 202b comprises a point. As depicted the top end 202a comprises a rectangular shape whereas the bottom end 202b comprises a point. As shown, the head 202 comprises a pyramidal shape. The head 202 further comprises four sloping faces 202d which begin at the top end 202a and angle downward to intersect at the bottom end 202b. A sloping face refers to any planar face which comprises a slope. The angle at which the sloping faces 202d slopes depends upon the height of the apparatus 200. Two sloping faces surfaces 202d intersect at an edge 202c. As depicted there are four edges 202c. In an embodiment wherein the top end 202a comprises a triangular shape, there are three sloping faces 202d and three edges 202c. Virtually any number of edges 202c can be utilized, just as virtually any shape for the top end 202a and the bottom end 202b may be used. Likewise, virtually any number of sloping faces 202d can be utilized. In one embodiment wherein the top end 202a is circular, the head 202 does not comprise any edges and consists of a single sloping face 202d.
 In one embodiment, as a force in the downward direction is applied to the apparatus 200, the sloping face 202d distributes the force in a direction normal to its slope. Referring back to FIG. 4, as a downward force is applied to and/or by the apparatus 200, each sloping face 202d distributes the force in a direction normal to the slope of the face. Therefore, each sloping face 202d and each edge 202c presses material 16 downward and outward to the outer periphery of the unit 100. This causes the material 16 to compact. If voids 18, such as those depicted in FIG. 3, exist, the downward and outward force from the head 202 will cause these voids 18 to be compacted. As noted, the sloping face 202d presses material 16 downward and outward. This causes the outermost vertices of the unit 100 to be compacted. Therefore, the bottom corners of each unit 100, which are susceptible to void formation, are also compacted. Thus, the force distributing qualities of the head 202 decreases or eliminates voids 18. Decreasing or eliminating these voids 18 significantly increases the stability and effectiveness of the units 100 in preventing flooding. By having a stable base, via the elimination of voids 18, flood water is preventing from eating away at the voids 18 and thus compromising the unit 100.
 As noted, virtually any shaped head 202 can be utilized. In one embodiment the shape of the top end 202a of the head 202 substantially conforms with the shape of the unit 100 to be compacted. For example, if the unit 100 is in the shape of a pentagon, in one embodiment the top end 202a of the head 202 is also in the shape of a pentagon. In such an embodiment the force distributing properties of the sloping faces 202d compact material 16 in a direction normal to the slope, thus preventing and eliminating any voids. Likewise, in one embodiment wherein the unit 100 is in the shape of a rectangle, the head top end 202a also comprises the shape of a rectangle. In one embodiment the top end 202a of the head 202 comprises a smaller diameter than the inner diameter of the unit 100. This ensures the top end 202a of the head 202 is able to enter into the unit 100 and compact material 16. In one embodiment the top end 202a substantially conforms to the area of the opening. In one such embodiment the top end 202a fills from about 70% to about 95% of the available area of the opening of the unit 100. In one embodiment the largest diameter of the apparatus is less than the inner diameter of the unit 100. As used herein "diameter" refers to the greatest distance between two points on an object that lie in the same plane. Thus, the diameter of the top end 202a of the head 202 is the distance from the bottom left corner to the top right corner in FIG. 4.
 FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the compacting apparatus in one embodiment comprising a rotation table 400. The rotation table 400 allows the apparatus 200 to rotate. In one embodiment the rotation table 400 allows the apparatus 200 to rotate along a substantially vertical axis. The rotation table 400, in one embodiment, allows the apparatus 200 to freely rotate. Such an embodiment provides flexibility as the operator need only position the apparatus 200 over the unit 100 and the freely rotating apparatus 200 will automatically align itself into the proper position. The rotation table 400 can comprise ball bearings or other such friction reducing devices to allow the apparatus to rotate. In other embodiments the rotation provided by the rotation table 400 can be controlled. For example, in one embodiment an operator can manually rotate the apparatus 200 along the rotation table 400. This can be accomplished using hydraulics, drive shafts, gears, actuators, or other methods known in the art. One advantage in having an apparatus 200 which can rotate is that the equipment, for example, a backhoe, can remain in one location while compacting many different units. Referring back to FIG. 2, a single backhoe could compact the adjacent compartments 102, 104, 106 without having to move. Instead, the mechanical arm 300 approaches each unit, compacts the material, and then moves to the next unit. Because the apparatus 200 can rotate, the apparatus 200 can align itself to match the proper orientation of the unit. This increases the speed with which the apparatus 200 can compact units. The rotation table 400 can be located anywhere above the head 202. In one embodiment the rotation table 400 is located above the base 204, as depicted, whereas in other embodiments the rotation table is located below the base.
 In one embodiment the apparatus 200 further comprises a vibrating device. The vibrating device can be located at any location on the apparatus 200. In one embodiment the vibrating device is located on the base 204, whereas in other embodiments the vibrating device is located on the attaching device 206. In still another embodiment the mechanical arm 300 comprises a vibrating device. Vibrating the material 16 in the unit promotes compaction of the material 16.
 While a compacting apparatus has been described, now a method of compacting will be discussed. First is the step of affixing a compacting apparatus 200 to a mechanical arm, wherein said compacting apparatus 200 comprises an attaching device 206 coupled to a base 204, and wherein said base 204 is coupled to a head 202, wherein said head 202 comprises at least one sloping face. Next, the head 202 is positioned above an opening in a unit 100, wherein said unit 100 comprises a material 16. Thereafter the head 202 is lowered such that said head 202 makes contact with said material 16. Finally, the material 16 is compacted with the head 202. The compacting step can use the weight of the apparatus 200 to compact the material 16. In another embodiment force is applied by the equipment. In one embodiment the force applied comprises a substantially downward force. As noted above, in one embodiment the sloping force distributes the applied force in a direction normal to the slope of the sloping face.
 In one embodiment the compacting step comprises compacting said material 16 downward and outward to the outer periphery of said unit 100. In one embodiment the compacting step reduces voids 18 formed in the unit 100. In another embodiment the compacting further comprises vibrating said apparatus 200 which further helps compact the material 16. As noted above, in one embodiment the apparatus 200 can be rotated along a substantially vertical axis.
 In one embodiment the method of compacting further comprises the step of filling said unit 100 with said material 16. The unit 100 can be filled any time prior to the compacting step. In one embodiment the material 16 comprises dirt, soil, sand, and/or combinations thereof. The material 16 can comprise virtually any substance which can fill the unit 100. In one embodiment the entire unit 100 is filled with material 16 before compaction begins. In yet another embodiment the unit 100 is only partially filled with material 16 before compaction begins. In such an embodiment the unit 100 is filled at between about 30 and about 60% capacity and the material 16 is compacted as previously discussed. Thereafter, additional material 16 is added to the unit. In one embodiment, after additional material 16 has been added, the material 16 is compacted as previously discussed.
 While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to a preferred embodiment, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.
 The following clauses are offered as further description of the disclosed invention.