Sediment Forebays

Image of Sediment Forebays


A sediment forebay is a post-construction practice consisting of an excavated pit, bermed area, or cast structure combined with a weir, designed to slow incoming stormwater runoff and facilitating the gravity separation of suspended solids. This practice is different from a sediment trap used as a construction period BMP.

Ability to Meet Massachusetts Stormwater Management Standards

2 - Peak FlowProvides no peak flow attenuation
3 - RechargeProvides no groundwater recharge
4 - TSS RemovalMassDEP requires a sediment forebay as pretreatment before stormwater is discharged to an extended dry detention basin, wet basin, constructed stormwater wetland or infiltration basin. No separate credit is given for the sediment forebay. For example, extended dry detention basins with sediment forebays receive a credit for 50% TSS removal. Wet basins and constructed stormwater wetlands with sediment forebays receive a credit for 80% TSS removal. When they provide pretreatment for other BMPs, sediment forebays receive a 25% TSS removal credit.
5 - Higher Pollutant LoadingRecommended as a pretreatment BMP
6 - Discharges near or to Critical AreasRecommended as a pretreatment BMP
7 - RedevelopmentUsually not suitable due to land use constraints


  • Provides pretreatment of runoff before delivery to other BMPs.
  • Slows velocities of incoming stormwater.
  • Easily accessed for sediment removal.
  • Longevity is high with proper maintenance.
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other BMPs.
  • Greater detention time than proprietary separators.


  • Removes only coarse sediment fractions.
  • No removal of soluble pollutants.
  • Provides no recharge to groundwater.
  • No control of the volume of runoff.
  • Frequent maintenance is essential.

Pollutant Removal Efficiencies

  • Total Suspended Solids (TSS) - 25%.
  • Nutrients (Nitrogen, phosphorus) - Insufficient data.
  • Metals (copper, lead, zinc, cadmium) - Insufficient data.
  • Pathogens (coliform, e coli) - Insufficient data

Special Features

MassDEP requires a sediment forebay as pretreatment before discharging to a dry extended detention basin, wet basin, constructed stormwater wetland, or infiltration basin.

MassDEP uses the term sediment forebay for BMPs used to pretreat stormwater after construction is complete and the site is stabilized. MassDEP uses the term sediment trap to refer to BMPs used for erosion and sedimentation control during construction. For information on the design and construction of sediment traps used during construction, consult the Massachusetts Erosion and Sediment Control Guidelines for Urban and Suburban Areas: A Guide for Planners, Designers and Municipal Officials.


  • Sediment forebays are typically on-line units, designed to slow stormwater runoff and settle out sediment.
  • At a minimum, size the volume of the sediment forebay to hold 0.1-inch/impervious acre to pretreat the water quality volume.
  • When routing the 2-year and 10-year storms through the sediment forebay, design the forebay to withstand anticipated velocities without scouring.
  • A typical forebay is excavated below grade with earthen sides and a stone check dam.
  • Design elevated embankments to meet applicable safety standards.
  • Stabilize earth slopes and bottoms using grass seed mixes recommended by the NRCS and capable of resisting the anticipated shearing forces associated with velocities to be routed through the forebay.
  • Use only grasses. Using other vegetation will reduce the storage volume in the forebay. Make sure that the selected grasses are able to withstand periodic inundation under water, and drought- tolerant during the summer. MassDEP recommends using a mix of grasses rather than relying upon a single grass species.
  • Alternatively, the bottom floor may be stabilized with concrete or stone to aid maintenance. Concrete floors or pads, or any hard bottom floor, greatly facilitate the removal of accumulated sediment.
  • When the bottom floor is vegetated, it may be necessary to remove accumulated sediment by hand, along with re-seeding or re-sodding grasses removed during maintenance.
  • Design sediment forebays to make maintenance accessible and easy. If machinery is required to remove the sediment, carefully incorporate equipment access in the design. Sediment forebays may require excavation so concrete flooring may not always be appropriate.
  • Include sediment depth markers to simplify inspections. Sediment markers make it easy to determine when the sediment depth is between 3 and 6 feet and needs to be removed. Make the side slopes of sediment forebays no steeper than 3:1. Design the sediment forebay so that the discharge or outflow velocity can control the 2-year peak discharge without scour. Design the channel geometry to prevent erosion from the 2-year peak discharge.
  • Do not confuse post-construction sediment forebays with the sediment traps used as a construction- period control. Construction-period sediment control traps are sized larger than forebays, because there is a greater amount of suspended solids in construction period runoff. Construction-period sediment traps are sized based on drainage area and not impervious acre. Never use a construction-period sediment trap for post-construction drainage purposes unless it is first brought off-line, thoroughly cleaned (including check dam), and stabilized before being made re- operational.
  • Refer to the section of this chapter for information on the design of the check dam component of the sediment forebay. Set the minimum elevation of the check dam to hold a volume of 0.1-inch of runoff/ impervious acre. Check dam elevations may be uniform or they may contain a weir (e.g., when the top of the check dam is set to the 2-year or 10-year storm, and the bottom of the weir is set to the top of the 0.1-inch/impervious acre volume). When a weir is included in a stone berm, make sure that the weir is able to hold its shape. Fabric or wire may be required.
  • Unless part of a wet basin, post construction sediment forebays must be designed to dewater between storms. Set the bottom of the forebay at a minimum of 2 feet above seasonal high groundwater, and place pervious material on the bottom floor to facilitate dewatering between storms. For design purposes, use 72 hours to evaluate dewatering, using the storm that produces either the ½ inch or 1-inch of runoff (water quality volume) in a 24-hour period. A stone check dam can act as a filter berm, allowing water to percolate through the check dam. Depending on the head differential, a stone check dam may allow greater dewatering than an earthen berm.


Sediments and associated pollutants are removed only when sediment forebays are actually cleaned out, so regular maintenance is essential. Frequently removing accumulated sediments will make it less likely that sediments will be resuspended. At a minimum, inspect sediment forebays monthly and clean them out at least four times per year. Stabilize the floor and sidewalls of the sediment forebay before making it operational, otherwise the practice will discharge excess amounts of suspended sediments. When mowing grasses, keep the grass height no greater than 6 inches. Set mower blades no lower than 3 to 4 inches. Check for signs of rilling and gullying and repair as needed. After removing the sediment, replace any vegetation damaged during the clean-out by either reseeding or re-sodding. When reseeding, incorporate practices such as hydroseeding with a tackifier, blanket, or similar practice to ensure that no scour occurs in the forebay, while the seeds germinate and develop roots.

Inspect sediment forebaysMonthly
Clean sediment forebaysFour times per year and when sediment depth is between 3 to 6 feet.