Conservation Showcase - Elk River EWP
Stream Projects Benefits Thousands in Southwestern Missouri
They may not know it, but each day passengers in the 2,000 cars that travel Highway H about two miles west of Pineville benefit from a USDA program that reduces risks to life and property.
In the fall of 2009, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided about $230,000 in cost-share funds from its Emergency Watershed Program (EWP) to rebuild the bank of the Elk River, which had eroded to the point that it was no longer stable.
"It was at the point where we were about to lose the road into the river," says Steve Campbell, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot) resident engineer.
NRCS engineers designed a project to rebuild and stabilize the bank. The agency provided the technical assistance to design the project and 75 percent of the cost of materials and labor, with MoDot contributing 25 percent. MoDot also administered the contract.
"We built a new slope from the roadway to the river, with a rock bench that starts at the water line and extends 10 feet out into the river," says Harold Deckerd, NRCS assistant state conservationist for water resources. "Then there is another, underwater slope that extends from the bench another 30 feet out into the river channel."
Lynn Jenkins, NRCS district conservationist in McDonald County, says keeping Highway H open was important to area residents. It's a major route from Southwest City and Noel to Highway 71, and many motorists also use it to get to the county seat of Pineville and to jobs at a poultry processing plant at Noel. Before the repairs were made, heavy rains often made the road dangerous to travel.
"People coming into that area during a flood were in trouble before they knew it," Jenkins says. "Loss of life was a concern."
Jenkins says there are other benefits resulting from the project. The amount of soil that was eroding from the streambank was adversely affecting water quality in the river and its watershed, and maintaining access at the site was critical to a local canoe-rental business. He adds that the improvements to the river have made the area more aesthetically pleasing, and they also have created good fish habitat.
Deckerd says it didn't take long to realize that the project was a success.
"They had a flood four days after the project was completed, and the water never got onto the roadway. And there was no damage to the new rock-lined bank. Without the repairs in place, one lane of the highway likely would have been gone after that flood."
Jerry Davis, MoDot project manager, says without the EWP assistance, MoDot would not have been able to take preventative measures.
"We didn't have funds available for that," Davis says. "We probably wouldn't have done anything until the road fell into the creek."
NRCS State Conservationist J.R. Flores says EWP is a good program because it can be implemented quickly in response to problems caused by natural events.
"This is a good example of what we can do by working cooperatively with local sponsors," Flores says. "A project like this helps so many people."
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