Monday, August 29, 2011

Restoration Setback Courtesy of Hurricane Irene

The creek at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.  Though it had only been about three hours 
after the crest of the flooding,the creek had already subsided significantly--
a typical "flashy" urban stream.
In our heavily urbanized watershed, restoration is always going to be a challenge.  There are non-native invasive plants lurking in backyards and untended corners of commercial properties.  White-tailed deer find refuge from hunters in those same pockets of green, and then make their way under cover of darkness into the preserve to eat the trees.  Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is that every storm brings a new wave of flooding, and hurricanes like Irene create so much havoc on the floodplain that it's difficult to get trees firmly enough established to withstand the onslaught of the next big flood.
Floodwaters toppled trees protected in plastic shelters on the creek floodplain.

Our last hurricane was Floyd in 1999, so our trees have had 12 years to put down roots deep enough to remain in place. Unfortunately, between the highly competitive non-native porcelain-berry vines (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) and the fact that many of the planted trees are growing in broken shade (cf., out in full sunlight), they tend to grow slowly.  Few had achieved a stature to allow them to stand up to floodwaters that nearly rivaled Floyd's.  So, more planting is in order over the next few years.  The pattern has become discouraging and more than a little bit disheartening.
The approach to the second-oldest stone arch bridge in the county, built in 1817.

Formerly a municipal road along the creek and now closed and  incorporated into the preserve trail system.
I don't think the municipality wept any tears about giving up the rights to this perennially flood-prone road.

For a time, the wetland (pond on the right of image) and the creek were one.
At normal flows, the wetland is 10 feet above the level of the creek.

After filling the wetland basin (left side, out of image), the creek washed away the split rail fence
and moved debris against this bench cemented deeply in the ground.

Bench and flood debris from a different angle.  Historical note: the log jammed against the bench is hollowed out.  It is a wooden water pipe used by mill workers in the mid-1800's to bring sweet water from a spring on the the hillside above the creek to one of the many water-powered mills on the banks of the creek.  Even in the mid-19th century, the creek's water had become so fouled that the mill workers needed a source of clean water.  The wooden pipe was excavated from the mucky bottom of the wetland when we restored the wetland pond a few years ago.
Part of a bird blind formerly located on the edge of the wetland.

Flood debris lodged against an access gate.


John Gray said...

oh heart breaking

if I was nearer I would offer to help out!

Scott said...

I'd take you up on your offer, John!

Jain said...

Oh, I'm always sad to see trees go down. I'm sorry for all of the damage.

Scott said...

Jain, as bad as it was with Hurricane Irene, it was even worse when the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee barreled through mid-week last week. My staff said, "Let's stop planting on the floodplain." I've got to admit, I'm sorely tempted to agree with them.

grammie g said...

Hi Scott...I had just remembered I asked Jane the Black went to see if she answered my question ....I read her reply,and saw my name in what was your comment....hahahaha just wanted to thank you for the great laugh I got from your description of processing them !!

Sorry about all the damage ..hope it is repairable...