Officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife are hoping a new program will help reduce stream erosion and restore the natural habitat for aquatic wildlife in the Appalachian region.
The “Stream Team” is a part of Fish and Wildlife, and they are working to help repair eroding habitat and natural movement to the waterways in Kentucky. They are currently focusing on the Big Sandy Region which includes Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Martin and Pike counties, although they are capable and willing to repair any stream in the commonwealth.
According to Mike Hardin, program manager in the Division of Fishery, several natural and unnatural factors can cause erosion to a stream.
“It can be caused by a variety of different factors. Sometimes from where streams have been straightened or what some people call channelized,” said Hardin. “That changes the energy dynamic of the stream.”
Hardin said that if a stream has been straightened it often causes more water to go through on the edges of the stream than in the center. This can cause the stream to lose some of the natural dips and rises that slow the water flow, also altering the force of the water.
Streams that erode the banks often become wider instead if deeper and pick up unnatural amounts of silt. This creates a strained situation for fish and wildlife in the streams.
“So if we can make a stable situation and create a habitat, that is good,” said Hardin.
Other issues that can cause stream erosion are heavy water changes such as flooding and severe storms. However, one of the largest issues that can take years to present itself is cutting down trees. Trees and tree roots act as infrastructure for the banks of streams, and when they are removed the soil becomes loose and unstable.
The way to fix streams with erosion issues is a complex but natural processes, Hardin said, and includes plans from engineers and building flood shelves. The repairs are started by having some of the Stream Team asses the waterway, including taking measurements and testing to see how much water is flowing through the stream.
After this assessment, engineers using drafting software model the stream and create riffles to slow erosion and reduce silt. They go back out and use rock on log structures to make natural changes to the stream that help make it a better habitat for fish and wildlife.
“This is all what they call natural,” Hardin noted. “The intent is to restore habitat. It is not really a flood control project.”
While the department is able to begin work immediately in the Big Sandy area, they are encouraging landowners in all counties to begin contacting them with projects. This way they can begin funding for different districts that show the most erosion.
“It is good if we can identify areas ahead of the funding because that gives us a little bit of time to plan,” said Hardin.
If you know of a stream that is eroding, the Stream Team urges you to contact them either by phone, email, or on the Department of Fish and Wildlife website. B.J. Jameson is the person in charge of this round of stream correction, and can be reached at (502) 564-9802 or email@example.com.
You can also go to http://www.kdfwr.state.ky.us/ and click on the Stream Team link on the left side of the page.