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Too Much Volume for a Grass Waterway  RSS feed

 
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I changed a few things last year and I am getting a significant amount of volume of water channeling through one of my fields. Total acreage above this point is probably only 30 acres, but one third of it is on a 9% slope with highly erodible soil.

I have always used this field as a pasture, but this year things have changed and I must hay it instead. This erosion is worse then the picture shows. It is about 3 feet deep though it does not look it. More concerning is that this happened in one years time. Granted, we got a few big storms last fall that caused it, but here we get a lot of rain and snowmelt. Because I have to cross it with equipment all along its length, I can broaden it out and reseed it, but am still not sure if a grass waterway is really enough. This channel is overflowing and swift during storms.

Alternatives would be to limit the flow further uphill. A rock check dam might work, and the area is conducive for a nice pond, but that is a significant investment at this point. I might be able to put in a culvert even further uphill and get the water diverted quicker to the forest, but it would only reduce the water volume by half, and not fully eliminate it.

The first shows the middle portion of this 1000 foot erosion gully though I am sorry about the thick fog. The second photo shows the outlet of the erosion gully that eases up as far as erosion goes, but again apologies in order for my LGD refusing to move out of the photo.

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Several ideas: terraces or grass strips perpendicular to the flow where it starts might lower your water quantity.  There's definitely rock checks, or ripple-and-pool design to slow the water once it collects, looks kind of like it's starting to do it a little on its own, but you could help.  You'd have to make a bridge over that or avoid the area, and call it your own personal creek.  Since your loosing dirt, a sediment basin would catch it, but it would be betterif that weren't the case.  Old straw bales perpendicular to the draw also might help.  You tie them together and stake them strongly in the ground. Make sure you tie enough of them in a row or ther water will just make a new hole.  I was always taught the place to deal with water accumulating is where it comes from and then work your way down but it sounds like your options are limitedin that front at this point.
 
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Classic erosion caused by clearing.
The mechanics of erosion involves the speed of the water.
If it gets above about 3-4 feet a second it will cause the soil grains to move.
Speed of course is a function of volume and size of the gully.

The best anti erosion systems invoke stopping the water from getting up to erodible speeds.
Dams, flood retention basins all work, but the best systems involve keeping the water as static as possible, so that it creeps along and does not rush away.
Of course it means some  of the pasture you have created will need to change, but if you don't change it,
nature will.
In Australia we have a few different systems developed.
Keyline which you may know about and another one, its name slips me at the moment which involves vegetation to slow water down.
In the UK, some shires have adopted similar plans and they tend to not have the big floods that we see from time to time. Their rivers and creeks are tangled messes that prevent a quick escape, thus ensuring the lower towns are not flooded.
Keyline involves ploughing along the contour and having small connected dames to hold water and encourage it to soak in .
 
Travis Johnson
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Yeah I am 100% to blame for this problem. When I said, "I changed a few things last year", what happened was I put a road in going straight up a 9% grade (the steepest the logging trucks can climb), but it channeled a LOT of water downstream, and into one place. Total drop is about 250 vertical feet over a quarter mile.

​Two culverts dump 90% of the land base into a depression. I was somehow able to find a 8 foot saddle in the bedrock letting the water flow out of here, then down across the pasture I need to turn into a hay field. Because of the saddle, I am wondering if I could not build a concrete/wooden sluice and then build a berm pond in the depression.

​I HATE ponds, I really do, but in this case it would really slow the water, and the area is conducive for it. Between Web Soil Survey and Lidar, it shows I have two feet to bedrock, and about 8 feet of depth for a pond about 75 feet wide and 275 feet long. That would give me a capacity of some 1.2 million gallons of water.

I have never built a berm pond, but having sold my equipment, I am very limited on what I can do earthwork wise. I can however build berms, and teh lay of teh land would allow me to do that. I just lack the money right now to bring my bulldozer off a jobsite just to dig the center of the pond out, but I could at a later date perhaps?

​I might do some surveying and see how everything looks. Don't laugh though, because that consists of string, a line level, and grade stakes!!
 
Travis Johnson
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I did not do any surveying as I was too busy doing earthwork with the tractor and making headway. I got the erosion dug out/filled with a roughed out belly where I want the water to run. Tomorrow I can grab the grader and give the grass waterway a final grading. It will look a lot better than this, but at least people can see how things get messy before they get better.

These pictures were taken in the same spot, but the fog and maybe camera angles make them look altogether different.

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Travis Johnson
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As for the pond area, well I did not do any surveying as I said, but I did get pictures, that does mean something doesn't it?

The first picture shows where I took a small bulldozer, found a saddle in the ledge and drove a drainage channel about 75 feet to drain the pond area leading down to the lower part of the field. This is where I would like to put a dam of some sort to kind of slow down the water. It is kind of hard to see in the picture, but the channel is filled with water during heavy weather and during snow melt.

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Travis Johnson
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This is the pond area. Again the foreground would be the pond, about 75 x 275 feet. There are two inlets, both on the left side of the photo by the sheep fence. The outlet is on the far end towards the right of the photo and where the dam would be.

From this angle you can see where the road goes up over the hill in my other field. Not only this field, but the upper field drains into this and channels down, through a culvert into the pond area, past the dam area, and finally down to the lower field. It is a long ways!

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Amit Enventres
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An engineer friend taught me that by artificially creating an opposite grade on a road every now and again can really help get water off the road, which can make a huge difference.  Culverts almost always suck. Wider is better, because the calculation for erosive power includes depth. but most people put in the smallest they can which usually creates erosion potential. Good luck!
 
John C Daley
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Whoa, one extreme to another. A small erosion issue to a huge dam.
What is your issue with ponds?
In Australia we capture as much water as possible because we don't have much from rainfall generally.

Can the pond be put to use?
 
Travis Johnson
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John C Daley wrote:Whoa, one extreme to another. A small erosion issue to a huge dam.
What is your issue with ponds?
In Australia we capture as much water as possible because we don't have much from rainfall generally.

Can the pond be put to use?



I don't know about "huge", the dam would be about 8 feet long and about 8 feet high, but I agree it is kind of overkill.

My issue with ponds is that they take up space, and I only have so many acres here. Adding in property taxes and lack of agricultural production, I think they should be limited. They also silt in over time, cost money to build, and due to the laws in the USA anyway, limit where manure can be spread uphill of them. So it is not just their footprint that takes up space, but all around them because they can be an opening to the aquifer and no one wants to pollute that.

Here in Maine we have the opposite problem, too much water. We really need to get the water off the land and not retain it.

In the last 20 years, due to climate change; we are experiencing 5 more inches of precipitation then we normally get. We average 51 inches a year here, but keep in mind a lot of that is with snow. last year we had the 8th snowiest year on record and that was 120 inches of snow!! When the ground is frozen, then spring hits, the snow has to go somewhere; it is not going to soak into the ground. Channeling it to the right place is really important, but then we got to control erosion too. It can be a challenge.
 
John C Daley
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Its interesting to become aware of differences about the same thing.
I have never heard of regulations about manure and ponds for instance.
I am aware of aquifers, but we don't seem to have rules about them either.
Bottom line if you don't need to water I see why a pond is useless, whereas in Australia 98% of the country is dry.
My rainfall is about 18 inches and dropping.
 
Travis Johnson
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John C Daley wrote:Its interesting to become aware of differences about the same thing.
I have never heard of regulations about manure and ponds for instance.
I am aware of aquifers, but we don't seem to have rules about them either.
Bottom line if you don't need to water I see why a pond is useless, whereas in Australia 98% of the country is dry.
My rainfall is about 18 inches and dropping.



Tht is why observation is so important, because even microclimates mean changineg things up.

Here, manure application in fields is a HUGE deal, like not spreading it between December 1st and March 15th due to the frozen ground. Not only would it not go into the soil, the phosphrous in the manure would run off into waterbodies later causing algea blooms. I cannot remember all the distant reqirements from water bodies as it changes depending on if the spreading of manure is uphill or dowm, and if the water body (or well) is for domestic water, public water, etc. They call them Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans and every farm has to have one over a ceratin size. They mean well, but considering their cost, and that few farms actually open them up and even read them, it is silly buracracy.
 
John C Daley
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How did the concept of such plans get developed, in the 70's?
 
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