Erosion Control

What is Erosion?

Erosion is the process of soil and rock being removed by wind or water and transported and deposited to other locations.  Erosion is a natural process, however; human activities have increased the rate at which erosion is occurring by as much as 10-40 times the natural rate.  Unsustainable agricultural practices, deforestation, and urbanization are among the most significant human activities in regard to their effect on stimulating erosion.

BAD NEWS:  Excessive erosion can cause problems such as instability of stream banks, decreases in agricultural productivity, sedimentation of waterways, reduced vegetative cover and increased runoff. 

GOOD NEWS:  There are many prevention and remediation practices that can limit erosion such as those listed below:

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Stream Bank Stabilization

Either due to natural meandering of a stream, or by man-made activities, the banks of a stream can become unstable and begin eroding. Streambank stabilization practices are designed to hold this eroding soil in place. Due to the erosive power of moving water, stabilizing streambanks can be a challenge. Changes made to a section of streambank can affect neighbors both upstream and downstream of a site. The design and installation of streambank stabilization practices are often expensive and time-consuming, and need to be conducted by trained professionals. Streambanks can be stabilized using both structural and vegetative practices. Before beginning any streambank stabilization project, the proper permits need to be issued. Please contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Water, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, US Army Corps of Engineers, and local county agencies.

streambank-stabilization When unstable streambanks erode, soil washes downstream. Silt in the water can coat the streambed, destroying habitat for insects, mussels and fish eggs. Sediment suspended in the water (turbidity) decreases visibility and the blocks sunlight. This impacts fish that rely on vision to find food. Aquatic vegetation needs sunlight in order to photosynthesize. Some species are more tolerant of sedimentation than others. The biodiversity is decreased in streams with embedded sediment in the bottom or suspended in the water.

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Stream barbs are small rock ridges that redirect the flow of water away from the eroding streambank. They can be used on small streams. Vegetation can be planted as part of this practice. (Image courtesy of NRCS Engineering Field Handbook)

For more information on Streambank Stabilization:

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Conservation Buffers

Conservation buffers are areas of permanent vegetation, like trees or grass, which help control erosion, pollutants, and other environmental concerns. Examples of buffers include grassed waterways, contour grass strips, field borders, filter strips, field windbreaks, riparian buffers, and ponds. The vegetation in a buffer slows surface runoff, stabilizes soil and enhances water infiltration. They also trap sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, pathogens and heavy metals, reducing the amount of these pollutants entering surface and ground water. Other buffers are designed to reduce wind erosion, minimize snow drifts, and provide protection to buildings, crops, wildlife and livestock. Buffers can be utilized in a variety of areas, such as along parking lots and roads, along and in agricultural fields, around residential and commercial property, and along streams, lakes, ponds or wetlands. Buffers are needed in any area that can serve to filter runoff and pollutants before they reach a body of water.

Riparian buffers are streamside plantings of trees, shrubs and grasses that can filter pollutants before the reach the stream, river, or ditch. This vegetation also helps to stabilize the stream bank. Buffers can also improve fish and wildlife habitat. (Photo courtesy of NRCS) This field border was planted to warm-season grasses in order to provide habitat to wildlife, particularly quail. Farming alongside the grasses is easier than next to the trees, because producers don’t have to deal with low-lying or fallen branches and crops are not shaded.

For more information on Conservation Buffers:

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Grassed Waterways

Grassed waterways are or natural or man-made channels planted to grass and used to move surface water. After a rainfall, water flows across the surface of land and often runs together forming small streams of water, or areas of concentrated flow. This concentrated flow of water can cause the erosion, where the surface of the soil washes away. Grassed waterways work by moving water through the grassed channel, instead of across the bare ground. The dense vegetation in the waterway helps to hold the soil in place and slows the water down, which helps prevent erosion.

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A newly constructed grassed waterway.
Waterways are designed to have the capacity to carry enough water for a ten-year rain event. After the shape of the waterway is created, straw blanket and erosion control blanket are installed to protect the waterway from eroding while the grass becomes established.

An established grassed waterway.
The grass in a grassed waterway is often tall fescue, which has dense, sod-forming roots which work well for controlling erosion. Other plants, such as clover, can be planted alongside the grass to create better wildlife habitat. 

For more information on Grassed Waterways:

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Residential Guide for Soils, Drainage, and Erosion Control

Residential Guide for Soils, Drainage, and Erosion Control (Pdf File)

flood-drainageThe single biggest investment that the average person will make during their lifetime will be the purchase or construction of a home, but keep in mind that your dream home could turn into a nightmare as looks can be deceiving. What appears to be a lovely wooded homesite in summer or times of dry weather may actually be a swamp in the springtime. Having knowledge of your soils can save you time and money as there are many different types and each have preferred uses and limitations. Some soils are well drained and are ideal sites for homes with basements. Other soils are heavy clay with high ground water tables that can cause septic system failures and flooding in homes with basements.

We have seen or heard almost every problem imaginable. It doesn’t matter who you are; anyone can make mistakes about drainage and erosion. Our Residential Guide for Soils, Drainage, and Erosion Control will provide you with excellent information that can be used when purchasing a new property or solving problems with your existing home. It will identify and answer most drainage questions and help you control erosion on your building site. This is important in order to maintain soil fertility, protect the quality of our water, and will help you establish a healthy lawn and landscape.

 

 

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