Agencies plan to slow pace of Hubble Creek

Sunday, March 14, 2004

In an effort to slow down Hubble Creek and the watershed's erosion, government agencies are expected to come to an agreement Monday to fund a "grade control structure" that will cost roughly $100,000 to $150,000.

Representatives from different agencies will approach the Cape Girardeau County Commission to discuss the issue.

The structure will be the second added to the creek in the last year. The design of the structure is incomplete, but officials say the second one will be smaller than the first.

The first structure consists of rocks that are cemented in place on the creek banks with wire baskets placed in the bottom of the creek to slow down the water, particularly during floods. The idea is to help the ecosystem and prevent the erosion that muddies up the water and robs farmers of land.

Erosion of the creek in recent years has intensified as development in the northern watershed, including the city of Jackson, has flourished.

The problem began many decades ago when the Diversion Channel was constructed. The creek, over time, has deepened to the level of the Diversion Channel and when a channel goes deeper, it also goes wider.

Over the decades, the farmers along the creek have lost many acres as the soil washed down the watershed, polluting the water.

Fewer fish

The erosion problem has resulted in fewer fish in Hubble Creek. A study done in 1996 by conservation officials showed that of the original 22 species of fish that were found in a 1940 sample, only five remained 56 years later.

The erosion has also placed some county bridges in jeopardy if the problem is not addressed. Some officials are also concerned about water quality.

The deal, to be considered Monday, is a cooperation between several government entities and land owners. The new project will be built south of Gordonville on Art Bodenstein's property.

The Conservation Reserve Program has agreed to lease more than 40 acres from farmers at $100 per acre to restore wooded areas along creeks. This helps prevent runoff from fields, keeping the soil intact.

Once those arrangements were made, the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation agreed to pay for the structure through its Stream Stewardship Trust Fund Grant Program.

Stan Murray, the Hubble Creek watershed manager from the National Resource Conservation Service, has helped facilitate the arrangement. He said the county commission has been involved in Hubble Creek projects as a go-between for easement acquisitions and stormwater grants.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said the deal will be a good one for the county.

"The Missouri Department of Conservation came up with a grant source for projects like this and it really speeds up the process," Jones said. "We wouldn't have even been able to design this project until next year, so this deal speeds it up by about two years."

The county will be in charge of the maintenance of the structure, but Murray said it would take a pretty major natural disaster to cause any damage.

"It's a relatively low-cost solution when you compare the costs of replacing approaches, roads and bridges," Murray said.

Murray said Hubble Creek will likely need one more structure before all is finished.

"Hopefully that will be enough," he said.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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