Stone columns are an established method of liquefaction mitigation in clean sands (fines content <15%). Although stone columns are considered less effective in silty soils, an increase in the area replacement ratio or the addition of wick drains may still produce improvement in the normalized blow count. Limited case histories are available with a direct comparison of the use of stone columns with and without wick drains at one location. The Salmon Lake Dam Modification project provided such a scenario. Two test sections were completed at the site prior to construction to determine the area replacement ratio for the final design as well as to compare the application of stone columns with and without wick drains. Visual observations of water and air escaping from wick drains within a distance of 15 ft of the stone column construction confirmed that drains aided in pore pressure dissipation. Test results indicated that stone column treatment with wick drains produced greater improvement in blow count than stone column treatment without drains. For the overall site, there was an increase in improvement ranging from 3 to 8 SPT blow counts. When compared to the results of a similar evaluation of a site in Ogden, Utah, which had a comparable fines content and an area replacement ratio of 26%, the increase in stone column effectiveness produced by adding wick drains was lower at the Salmon Lake Dam site. The increase in improvement at the Ogden, Utah site ranged from 12 to 18 SPT blow counts. At the Ogden site, wick drains were placed between every stone column while they were only placed between vertical rows of columns at Salmon Lake dam. Despite the beneficial effects provided by using wick drains with stone column treatment in silty soils, the performance was below what would be expected for stone column treatment without wick drains in clean sands with less than 15% fines. Stone column treatment also proved less effective in layers of sandy silt than in layers of silty sand, which was indicated by lower average improvement and more points of negative improvement in layers of sandy silt. Although several different area replacement ratios were analyzed (23, 27, 31, and 35%), no consistent trend towards greater improvement in blow count was seen as the replacement ratio increased beyond 23%.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





stone columns, wick drains, liquefaction mitigation, silty sands, high fines content, Salmon Lake Dam