Sept. 15, 2014 06:31

Business Talk

Eroding Hill Creates Hazard

A certain waterfall in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is viewed as an eyesore rather than a natural beauty. The result of a chamber formed from erosion into a local hillside, the ‘waterfall’ has caused up to $20,000 in local property damage when an intense storm struck the area. A 33-year-old drainage design is being blamed for the erosion and ensuing destruction.

The drain, intended to carry water down to the streets below the waterfall, is prone to clogging and overflowing. Since the drain’s installation, numerous complaints lodged with the city about its propensity to cause erosion have gone with minimal response, until recently.

The city has been interviewing contractors to create a new stormwater design for the area that would mitigate the current hazards. The project is designated a medium priority on Colorado Springs’ stormwater project list, though that label can change. “If the problem worsens, it sometimes allows us to juggle things around,” Colorado Springs Storm-water Engineer Steve Gardner said.

Stream Conservancy Plans to Stop Bank Erosion

The Bushkill Stream Conservancy in Tatamy, Pennsylvania, has an erosion plan in the works to stop silt from washing into a nearby water treatment plant. Without help, the Bushkill Creek’s banks will be swept away, exposing tree roots along the bank and sending silt into the plant downstream.

The group plans to use stone deflectors, or strategically placed rocks, to nudge the stream away from the creekbed. A spokesperson said the Bushkill conservancy has funds saved to start work next summer.

Iowa Loses Tons of Soil

An environmental group’s survey has found that the state of Iowa had lost a total of 15 million tons of soil due to erosion during the period ending this June. The study, published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), states that intense storms that struck the Southwest and Northeast regions of the state during April, May and June caused much of the erosion.

EWG Senior Vice President Craig Cox feels that this erosion can be reduced if more Iowa residents will take measures against it, such as installing grass buffers and reducing or ending tillage. “They lose a lot of soil and a lot of mud and…chemicals are delivered to ditches and streams,” he said. “It’s intolerable that we know how to solve these problems and we’re just not doing it.”

Brush Control Program May Cause Erosion

Researchers at Texas A&M University believe that the state’s brush-clearing program, instituted to save water, not only fails to do just that, but also contributes to widespread soil erosion. “The scientific evidence is overwhelming that shrub control will not increase water supply in Texas,” wrote a Texas A&M range management scientist, in a letter to the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board. The letter was signed by seven other researchers from the university. “We believe the plan, as currently, designed, is a poor use of taxpayer money and we recommend that it not go forward.”

The program, established in 2011, gives ranchers state funding if they clear shrubs and trees from their properties. The rationale behind the measure is that removing thirsty brush from the land frees up the local water supply.

However, scientists have found that mismanaged brush control will lead to water runoff, loosening the soil and running it into nearby streams.

The results have concerned local conservationists. “You’re losing productivity, and drying out the land,” said Steve Nelle, a retired conservationist who worked for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Landowners would be participating in the degradation of their own land if they participated in these programs.”

Beach Threatened by Sea Levels

The coastline along Cape Romano, Florida, faces threats from an ever-rising sea level, according to an official from the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council. However, unlike other beaches in the area, there is no replenishment plan in place for the sand there. “Every inch of sea level rise accelerates the rate that sand is taken from the beach,” said Jim Beever, the council’s principal planner.

According to the director of Collier County’s Coastal Water Management, bureaucracy impedes speed on this matter. The county must get permits from both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any beach replenishment can take place.

Cape Romano’s coastline has receded more than 200 feet since the 1980s. This rate is normal, according to experts at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. However, they also believe rising sea levels play a role in the continued erosion going on at the beach.

Ordinance Considered

Local officials in Rice County, Minnesota, are pressuring the county Soil and Water Conservation District to institute a soil erosion control ordinance. Floods have been causing significant erosion issues in the county since 2012. “There isn’t any kind of local law to enforce erosion control,” Rice Soil and Water Conservation Manager Steve Pahs said. “It’s not regulated in Rice County.”

The city of Lonsdale within Rice County has been especially victimized by the flooding and subsequent erosion problems. “I’ve been working with the county and the Soil and Water Conservation District to design a plan for erosion control,” Lonsdale Mayor Tim Rud said.

Minnesota has a state statute that deals with soil erosion. However, the statute only carries the force of law if a county adopts a similar ordinance. Goodhue, Fillmore and Mower are the only three counties in the state that have their own soil erosion ordinances, but more are considering it. “There is an excessive erosion problem in our area, and has been for several years,” said Steele County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Dan Arndt, whose county has proposed an erosion law. “There are some landowners who do not participate in soil and water conservation practices and that has initiated thought of the ordinance.”

Beavers Cause Erosion

Officials at a popular beach in Dalton, New Hampshire, are searching for a way to undo damage done by beavers. The beach, officials say, has eroded because the beavers have blocked nearby culverts.

If the beavers dam up the wrong culvert and heavy rains come, flooding and washouts can cause further erosion. The state transportation department is unblocking the culverts and is working on a trapping strategy.

Erosion Eats Away At Cape Cod

Researchers and regulators are concerned about the erosion rates of U.S. coasts. According to Rob Thieler of the U.S. Geological Survey Science Center, “Sixty to 80 percent of the coast is eroding…at the same time the population is moving towards the coast, the coast is also moving to that population.”

That erosion is especially bad on some important U.S. beaches, like Cape Cod, where manmade structures such as jetties, breakwaters, and sea walls interrupt natural sand flows. While these structures can preserve their own sections of coast, by keeping sand in place they starve the areas downstream of new sand, causing greater erosion. One of the best examples is the north side of the Cape Cod Canal where a mainland jetty traps the sand and the Cape side is sharply receding.

To address Cape Cod’s problem, the Massachusetts Coastal Erosion Commission will spend the next six months assessing erosion rates, future damages, and possible solutions.

County Offers Funding for Soil Conservation

The Land Conservation Department in Dodge County, Wisconsin is offering cost share funding for finding ways to conserve soil and water. The money can be used to pay for repairs on land that was affected by gully erosion. It can also go towards measures that prevent soil from washing away and entering drainage ditches, streams and lakes. Cost share funds can also go towards measures to ensure groundwater isn’t tainted by pollutants such as commercial fertilizer and manure.

The county is willing to allocate more than $30,000 for each qualifying application. Cost sharing rates are expected to be approximately 70 percent. Applications are being taken up through November.

Beach Needs Emergency Erosion Control

Lawmakers and the California Governor approved $2 million in state funding for emergency shore protection work underway at a Port Hueneme beach in California. The emergency protection work became necessary when high tide caused a large portion of the seawall and part of the adjacent sidewalk to collapse into the water. City officials then closed the nearby pier and Lighthouse Promenade Walk for safety reasons. The city is copying a fix that has previously been used by the Army Corp of Engineers that includes strategically placing a very large rock to shield the shore from further damage.

Also in Soil Erosion News

In many ways, we are fortunate that, in our chosen profession, we are able to help people when certain disasters occur: the tornadoes in Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Georgia, the flooding in Louisiana, the snows in the northeastern part of the country, the rain in California, and the snow in Colorado....

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