Tuesday, July 19, 2005
The West Tennessee River Basin Authority and Choctaw Transportation of Heloise worked together to create a longitudinal stone toe in the Obion River near Moss Island Wildlife Management Area. The stone toe will help to shore up an existing bank-stabilization project (seen in the foreground to the right). The project was completed Friday.
This week's rain might be a good test for a new bank-stabilization project on the Obion River near Moss Island Wildlife Management Area.
David Salyers, executive director of the West Tennessee River Basin Authority, said the longitudinal stone toe was completed Friday. The stone toe may look like a pile of rock in the river, but it is engineered to strengthen and protect an existing bank-stabilization project.
Longitudinal stone toes have been used with success on several small rivers and streams in Mississippi. Salyers said, to his knowledge, this is the first time a longitudinal stone toe has been used in a large, powerful river like the Obion.
"This is a little experimental," Salyers said. "This is a big river."
Longitudinal stone toes are placed parallel to a riverbank that is sloughing off due to swift river currents. The riprap toe is supposed to blanket the vulnerable riverbank and stop the sloughing.
On the Obion River, water currents were undercutting a bank-stabilization project the basin authority had completed in 1987. Riprap from the 1987 project was tumbling into the river.
Through the state bidding process, the basin authority hired Choctaw Transportation of Heloise to build the longitudinal stone toe. Salyers said it took about two weeks and about $75,000 to build the stone toe. Work was completed on Friday, July 8.
When he heard that the remnants of Hurricane Dennis would bring several days' worth of rains, Salyers was a bit nervous. He worried that the predicted 5- to 6-inch rain would be too much, too soon.
Although the stone is in place, the structure needs a little bit of time and sediment to settle into position. Salyers said a gentle rise and fall of the river would help lodge the sediments and make the stone toe stronger.
He might have gotten his wish. This week's rain has been gentle and the thirsty ground soaked it up quickly. Area farmers and the official river gauges have reported little to no rise in the rivers, despite a couple inches of rain in the last few days.
While the longitudinal stone toe appears to be some distance from the riverbank it's protecting, Salyers said that space will eventually fill with woody debris and sediments.
Salyers showed photographs of the work during the basin authority board of directors meeting Tuesday afternoon in Humboldt. If the longitudinal stone toe works there, the concept may be used in several other locations where the river is undermining old bank-stabilization projects, he said.
In other business, the basin authority board:
* Learned that the attorney general's office has prepared a "motion for a clarification" and is finishing an accompanying affidavit that could ultimately lead to river-restoration efforts on Stokes Creek.
The paperwork asks the U.S. District Court in Memphis to clarify orders it made in 1985 when settling a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The court order forbids the Corps to work in the rivers until specific mitigation lands had been purchased.
Because the Corps hasn't been able to buy all of the land required on the Obion River, Corps attempts to test river-restoration ideas at Stokes Creek have been thwarted.
After the Corps bowed out, the basin authority tried. It obtained a $326,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1998. Before the work could begin, though, the basin authority had to obtain timber easements from area landowners. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the largest landowner in the area, refused to sign the easements until another unrelated matter was resolved. The project floundered.
So, in 2003, a group of landowners decided they'd try it. Their proposal, however, didn't please environmental regulators. Several state and federal agencies asked the basin authority to intervene and to consider one more attempt.
The basin authority agreed, but only if the legal issues could be resolved. An attorney general opinion last year indicated that the basin authority could work in the Stokes Creek area. It cited two specific reasons.
First, the state was not a party to the lawsuit against the Corps that generated the consent order and, therefore, is not required to abide by the provisions of the consent order.
Second, Stokes Creek was not a part of the original WTTP territory.
The original plaintiff, Clark Akers of Nashville, objected to the ruling. He said the basin authority "became a surrogate corps" after the consent order was signed. He indicated in a letter that he believes Stokes Creek is a part of the original WTTP work area and the basin authority is forbidden to work within uncompleted WTTP areas.
The motion for clarification, which could be filed at any time, is expected to clear the confusion.
* Learned that neither the president's budget proposal nor the House of Representatives budget plan contain any funding for the West Tennessee Tributaries Project. The Senate budget plan includes $500,000 for the WTTP, board member and former Friendship resident M.V. Williams reported. A conference committee is now trying to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate budgets. It is not known whether the WTTP money will remain in the final budget.
Congress had authorized $100,000 in the 2004 and 2005 budgets, but that isn't enough to complete a pilot project testing a more environmentally sensitive approach to the WTTP flood-control project.
The WTTP originally attempted to provide flood control on the Obion and Forked Deer rivers by channelizing them. The project worked too well in some respects, draining countless wetlands and sparking environmental outcries that eventually stopped the project. Tennessee began attempting to revive the 100 percent federally funded project in an environmentally sensitive manner a decade ago. A governor's task force developed a mission plan outlining key ideas, such as river restoration and the removal of obstacles in the floodplain. Proposed pilot projects on the Forked Deer River fell victim to political squabbles.
Now, the basin authority, the Corps, the Tennessee Department of Environment and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are considering a project along the Obion River. The Corps has presented a conceptual approach, and the other agencies are reviewing it.
* Voted to enter an agreement with Gibson County to provide maintenance work on five dams in the North Fork Forked Deer Watershed District. The county is responsible for the maintenance, but the county highway department can't legally work on private property, where the dams are located. Maintenance projects include repairing erosion on the wave walls and around the water-outlet pipes. Gibson County will reimburse the basin authority for its expenses, which are estimated at $2,892. The Gibson County Commission needs to approve the agreement before it goes into effect.
* Passed on first reading a change in the quarterly meeting schedule. Instead of meeting on the second Tuesday of each month, the board plans to meet on the second Wednesday of each month beginning in January. The meetings begin at 2 p.m. in the basin authority offices, 3628 East End Drive in Humboldt. The motion will need to be passed again at the board's Oct. 11 meeting.
* Agreed to establish an expanded beaver-control management plan. Counties and municipalities that fund the basin authority at the requested amount will be eligible to receive up to $2,500 a year in beaver-damage management. Partially participating counties will be eligible for $2,000 a year in services. Those services may include city or county projects, with the basin authority covering 75 percent of the costs, or projects with private landowners, with the landowner covering 50 percent of the costs.
The city or county will report beaver problems to the basin authority. The basin authority will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to determine eligibility and potential costs.
The USDA Wildlife Services already contracts with the basin authority for beaver management on basin authority dams and on highways that flood because of beaver activity.
Salyers said landowners might be surprised by the costs, but the program will introduce landowners to the concept of managing their own beaver problems.