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Living in a flood zone  RSS feed

 
Adrien Quenneville
Posts: 61
Location: Alexandria, ON, Zone 4a
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Assuming one wants to move to a rather flood-prone area (for any varied reasons) and wants to improve his/her land to avoid sandbagging every spring, is there anything that is taught by permaculture concepts that could help?

So far, I'm thinking...

a) Digging ponds and/or ditches, using the soil to form a sort of dyke/soil fence around the property - disruptive, but only initially, result is a sort of microclimate and aquaculture potential.
b) Building up the soil - takes a looooooong time to build enough soil to raise the land
c) "on't even think about moving into a flood plain, it'll give you grief the whole time you live there"

Comments?

BTW, I am thinking of the Red River Valley South of Winnipeg. They're already planning for a "best case scenario" equal to the very damaging flood of 2009, worst case the flood of '97.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9691
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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A couple great references:

"Water for Every Farm" by PA Yeomans

"Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Volume 2" by Brad Lancaster.

I can't recommend both of these books highly enough.  The Yeomans is THE classic work about earth-shaping to manage floods and droughts.  The Lancaster book is more recent and more useful for smaller-scale endeavors.

http://www.yeomansplow.com.au/

http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

I live in a flood-prone area (39 million gallons of run-off over my land per hour in flood) and I will say it is a BIG challenge.  It's shocking to see fences and trees knocked down in your backyard or your chickens nearly drowned from rising water.  And damage to structures and roads is expensive to repair.  So be aware of what you're getting into.  On the other hand extra water is a precious resource if you can afford to capture and use it.  So far, because of limited financial resources, I haven't been able to do much with flood mitigation and rainwater capture.
 
                                      
Posts: 22
Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia
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Any references for farms vulnerable to coastal flooding?  Salt water poses its own unique challenges.  As sea level rises I worry about this affecting more areas of my farm.  Should I saturate the soil prior to storm surge?  Building dikes is a possibility but once flood waters intrude it's most important to get that salt water off the land fast.  I'd love to know how other folks have dealt with this.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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In Jordan, geoff lawton's earth shaping and mulching seemed to counteract salt very quickly.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43RDIochym0 ; But I should think avoiding salt intrusion with berms might be the best plan, plus of course concentrating on planting salt -tolerant species as your framework. 

The tropical section of "Permaculture: a designers manual" has information about building and planting in hurricane-prone areas, but because it's tropical, not much of the planting advice might apply.

 
                                      
Posts: 22
Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia
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Ludi, thank you for that link.  Geoff Lawton is really inspiring. 

I think controlling the flow of flood might be as important in my case as in freshwater flooding.  I always thought of swales as something for people who have relief in their landscape -- I'm on flat tidal plain.  But of course it's not FLAT flat, and over the years I've come to know the high and low spots.  I'm going to revisit that information in the Permaculture Design manual. 

I can have sacrificial areas that are planted only in salt-hardy natives (which includes many useful plants).  I'm also focusing on incorporating improved varieties of natives throughout my design, and finding markets for those fruits and products rather than growing what everyone else already sells.
 
Adrien Quenneville
Posts: 61
Location: Alexandria, ON, Zone 4a
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Ludi, thanks for the book links. I'll do a bit more research on the topic. What have you done over the years during times of flooding? Sandbagging the important areas and leaving everything else under floodwaters? Do you lose any trees, fences, and valuable topsoil each year in the flooded areas??

I would guess that especially in the first few years after moving in and planting trees that berming and adding lots of soil to the foot of trees would be quite the time-intensive activity. Just trying to figure out ways that a permaculture operation would be viable in such areas. Maybe all it is is embracing the floods, and mark the flood-prone areas on the property as pasture?

Anyone else cope with yearly floods, or frequent flash floods?

 
                          
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It is totally possible, and you don't have to be thye one interviewed by the news crew if you play it smart.

Is there a home already built there? If not, I have some ideas for you.

Ponds do little because they simply fill up, they become 'deep spots' which is actually dangerous for tractors/livestock scapering past for safety. Ponds dissapear during floods. The benefit of digging a pond is the amount of material that comes out of it- you can use this elswhere- to put animal housing/feed storage etc etc up high and dry on.

Find out the worst case water depth (200 year flood level?) and keep that in mind with everything that you do.

I've dealt with this a lot here, the 200 year level is 14' deep, so everything I do requires easy access to high ground, which I had to create, as it was a prefcetly flat field before moving here.
 
Paula Edwards
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Were do you want to move? A flood can take whole houses with it sometimes earthworks. Your garden will be completely destroyed, and depending were you live there will be a lot of chemicals spilled over your land too.
There is a huge difference between flood and flash flood and the latter being far more dangerous.
I would not move in flood prone land.
You either make a hill and build the house on top of the hill on stumps. Or you build a house that can swim, but in Brisbane the famous swimming restaurant was destroyed because it was tied down to stay in place.
 
Adrien Quenneville
Posts: 61
Location: Alexandria, ON, Zone 4a
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Well, I will probably have the chance to move to southern Manitoba this winter/next year. Been looking at houses with acreage just outside the Perimeter Highway in Winnipeg, and many of them are near/on the shore of the Red River. With a bit of luck, by the time I move there will be a house for sale well away from the flood zone - west of the city, but...

Anyhow, I'm doing my research, not jumping on what appears to be a deal, I'll definately take my time with this. What I am looking for is a relatively well-kept hobby farm or house with pasture fields. The selection area is small, since I will require to be within 45 minute's driving distance from downtown. Most of the flood waters within this area are fairly slow-moving since it is so flat (in '97, the river grew from 1/2 mile wide to almost 30). Silt goes everywhere in small amounts, waters last for one to two weeks then recede.

Foolish idea, or possible permacultural dream land?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9691
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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AQ wrote:
Ludi, thanks for the book links. I'll do a bit more research on the topic. What have you done over the years during times of flooding? Sandbagging the important areas and leaving everything else under floodwaters? Do you lose any trees, fences, and valuable topsoil each year in the flooded areas??

I would guess that especially in the first few years after moving in and planting trees that berming and adding lots of soil to the foot of trees would be quite the time-intensive activity. Just trying to figure out ways that a permaculture operation would be viable in such areas. Maybe all it is is embracing the floods, and mark the flood-prone areas on the property as pasture?

Anyone else cope with yearly floods, or frequent flash floods?


Fortunately our house and outbuildings are uphill of the major flood area, so we haven't done anything when it floods except stand back!  The driveway has been washed out twice.  The first time we got a payment from FEMA to fix it because we were in an official natural disaster area, the second time my folks paid for the new driveway.  That time we had it redone with large rocks, which makes driving on it a pain but which we hope will mostly stay put next time it floods badly.  We're slowly trying to put in some earthworks as time and money become available.  We had a large berm and basin (aka "pond" or locally "tank" installed on one of the seasonal creeks the other year.  Eventually I hope to put basins throughout the home and outbuilding area to slow and infiltrate heavy rains.  Except for the road work and the large berm and basin all will probably be done by hand by me, a woman pushing 50. 
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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I live on the flood plain and am happy to have moved here.People warned me 15yrs ago when I bought but my research paid off as it has never actually flooded in my garden area.I chose a spot where the river has the most room to spread out.I didnt level the land but left the old channels for flood waters to travel through.Between the channels are high levies that I built the raised buildings.Around the dwellings I put berms around them facing the river.
 
                    
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Some flood-proofing strategies include building a house on stilts or on an area where soil has been bermed up by earth moving equipment, putting essentials utilities (electric box, furnace, etc) on the second story, building wall panels that will break off during a flood (along with structural posts sunk very deep to support and anchor the house). 

 
Paula Edwards
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Really, I would rather have half an acre without flood that four acres which are flooding. You must bear in mind that sea levels are likely to raise in your lifetime.
A neighbour of us said that a bushfire is better than a flood as you simply start new, whereas in a flood you have to tidy up first.
 
            
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Hi. I'm new and I live in a flood plain.

We bought the place about a year and a half ago. With the exception of last year, the stream had only breached it's banks maybe twice in the last 20 years. It is a small stream that is about ten feet wide from bank to bank and in the summer is down to a trickle. When it flooded last year, the water was about a foot deep at the base of the retaining wall (see photo). Fortunately, the flooding was all gone in about four hours. You wouldn't have even known that it had flooded. We bought the place because we like the idea of having a fresh water source nearby and for the seclusion.

I am not sure what to do in terms of gardening. I am currently reading Gaia's Garden and am hoping to apply this new knowledge to my garden design. I have a very steep slope on the far side of the stream that I was considering planting some apple trees on, but I am not sure if this is ideal. I could plant them up closer to the house.

The ground stays moist in the summer and after heavy rains some areas will be soggy for several days. In fact, last summer when everyone else's lawns burned up, I was mowing weekly. Because of this, I am not sure what to do. It seems that raised beds are the solution, but my property has such an odd shape that I am not sure how to lay it out so it doesn't look out of place.

Here are a couple of photos. One looking down the drive and the other islooking from just off the front porch, up the drive. We have an acre and the house sits on the back property line.
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Paula Edwards
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Half of Brisbane is built on a floodplain. It flooded 1974 and it flooded this year. A butcher took a photo of a bull shark in front of his shop 30 km inlands. Really I would never ever buy on a flood plain.
 
            
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ediblecities wrote:
Half of Brisbane is built on a floodplain. It flooded 1974 and it flooded this year. A butcher took a photo of a bull shark in front of his shop 30 km inlands. Really I would never ever buy on a flood plain.


If I get a picture of a shark, then all of New Jersey is under water.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9691
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Tom, here's a video showing raised beds fit into odd shaped spaces, for growing in a wet climate:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugFd1JdFaE0
 
            
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Ludi wrote:
Tom, here's a video showing raised beds fit into odd shaped spaces, for growing in a wet climate:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugFd1JdFaE0


Thanks for the vid.
 
220 hours of permaculture video, freaky cheap! http://kck.st/2q6Ycay.
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