A couple of weeks ago, in between rains, I was sitting on my deck drinking a cup of hot tea and watching the Locust Fork River rise. Some of you may put that in the category of watching paint dry, but when you live a very short stone’s throw from the river during a “flood watch” you want to keep an eye on the river. It was much higher than the typical four feet or so (1,500 cfs) during the winter season. At www.alabamawhitewater.com flow page, the river was at nine feet and rising. Flow page reflects the USGS water level monitoring gauge located at the U.S. 231 bridge crossing in Cleveland. I moved my truck to the high end of my driveway… just in case.
It is pretty cool to see the river with that volume of water, but it wreaks havoc in many ways. A good bit of the Locust Fork has sandy banks that erode during high water. Excessive runoff with sedimentation from a storm water event is difficult to control. However, there are some land management practices that mitigate the negative effect. There is valuable land management information at the website www.al.nrcs.usda.gov.
If we can stop excessive erosion and sedimentation, it would save many critters that contribute to the biodiversity and health of all rivers. For instance, in a normal 24-hour day an average-size mussel can filter up to two liters of water! It filters organic particles and sediment suspended in the water. The relationship between mussels and water quality is remarkable. Immersion by Abbie Gascho Landis is an easy-to-read book that touches on that relationship and other wonders of the natural world with special attention on rivers.
There is the unbelievable amount of trash that a rain event delivers to the river. While sitting on my deck, I saw foam cups, plastic bags, plastic bottles, etc. floating down the river. Heck, one time I saw a kayak floating down the river… without its paddler. Obviously the river won that day. Kayaking and canoeing the river can bring joy to a person. The trash brings sadness, embarrassment, and anger. You and I can help prevent most of the trash from getting into the river. We need to start by “caring.” We need to have pride in where we live and how we express respect for our neighbors. We will discuss trashing “The Garden” in coming months.
A friend called that night asking if I had started building my ark yet. I laughed and said, “If I wake up the next morning and cannot hear the river, then I may have a problem.” That is what happened! The flood watch turned into a flood warning. The Locust resembled a lake. It was 14 feet and rising. When it finally stopped rising, it was just short of 16 feet. Something like 20,000 cfs! I am glad I parked my truck on the high end of the driveway. Good move, Sam.