March 15, 2011
It’s nothing new for this time of year, but we sure have seen our share of precipitation lately. While we’ve likely seen the last of the snow (finally), more wet weather is in store. Good for planting trees, but maybe causing problems on your roads. Out in the field over the last several weeks, I’ve seen plenty of issues with roads. Here are some examples.
Example #1: A landowner has a steep, winding access road that leads from her house down to her pasture. Adjacent to the road, a culvert underneath a county road feeds into a small field. But heavy rain washed sediment and gravel off the county road and it collected in front of the culvert, diverting water from the field onto the landowners’ access road. Because the road had not been designed with water diversion features, severe erosion ensued. Lesson: Get the water off your road as soon as possible. Use ditches, waterbars, and cross drains to do so.
Example #2: The sidecast fill failed on an industrial haul road high up along a steep slope, sending a landslide that reached almost down to the fish-bearing stream that the landowner had been working hard to restore. In this case, the road was an old one that would have been designed differently under today’s standards, and if it were not for the need to access a harvestable unit in the near future, the landowner would have closed this road a while back. Lesson: Old roads are often the worst. If you have an old road that is no longer needed, consider closing and restoring it.
Example #3: Busy beavers have created a pond directly upstream of a culvert on a landowner’s property. A timber company has a road easement to access their land in back of this property, and they dynamited the beaver dam in the past to protect the culvert and the road. But the beavers came back, and the pond is even bigger than before. Now the landowners are concerned that a big rain could cause the culvert to plug and the road to fail. Lesson: No easy solution here. Nature’s engineers are crafty. Re-engineering the stream crossing may be the long-term (but expensive) solution.
If any of these situations sound familiar, or if you have other road issues, check with the friendly folks at the NRCS and Soil and Water Conservation District office. They might have some technical and financial assistance to help you out and protect our watershed health at the same time.