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story.lead_photo.caption McDonald County Press/FLIP PUTTHOFF Steve Herrington with The Nature Conservancy talks about the Elk River stream bank restoration project completed one mile upstream from Noel, Mo., earlier this year. A bend in the river had severe erosion problems that polluted the stream with silt and caused property owners to lose chunks of land.

Fish, floaters and landowners all benefit from the new look of a sweeping bend on the Elk River, one of the Ozarks' most popular float streams.

Paddlers on the river's home stretch a mile upstream from Noel, Mo., see firsthand a completed stream bank stabilization project spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy and funded by agencies, companies and a group of riverside property owners.

Project stats

Project lead: The Nature Conservancy in Missouri, partnering with six private landowners. Total cost: $652,000.

Construction time frame: December 2017 to February 2018. Funding support: Tyson Foods Inc., Missouri Department of Natural Resources, private landowners.

More info:

Source: The Nature Conservancy

Before the work, the scenic curve was a pollution machine. Tons of dirt washed into the Elk River every time it flooded, clouding the normally clear water with sediment.

The muddy water is bad for the Elk River's prized smallmouth bass and anglers who love to catch them. Dirt degrades water quality. Streamside landowners watched chunks of their property wash away with every heavy rain event before the work because a shoreline barren of vegetation cradled the bend. There were no trees or brush with deep roots to hold the soil in place. Floods ate the bare dirt bank inch by inch, foot by foot.

The Nature Conservancy staff in Missouri figures the erosion caused landowners along the 1,650-foot bend to lose 7.5 acres of property in the last 20 years. That's 170,000 tons of soil swept into the stream, says a Conservancy report.

The good news? Something could be done about it.

Elk River floaters now pass a stabilized bank that will grow stronger over the years. The Nature Conservancy, Tyson Foods and six streamside landowners cooperated to fund and finish the $652,000 project.

Representatives from The Nature Conservancy were proud to show the project during a recent tour of the rehabilitated river bend. The Conservancy worked with professional stream restoration and engineering companies. Work started in November 2017 and finished in February.

Crews transformed the 6-foot-high cliff-like dirt bank into a gentle slope. Boulders and root wads were buried beneath the dirt and gravel of the slope.

Reams of fabric designed to prevent erosion were laid along the bend. Some 50,000 willow, buttonbush and silky dogwood branch cuttings were stuck through the fabric and into the soil. These will sprout roots that are key to preventing soil loss.

Hundreds of larger potted trees were planted hither and yon along the bend, explained Steve Herrington with The Nature Conservancy. Roots from trees and vegetation "act like fingers that hold the soil in place," Herrington explained on the tour.

Since mid-February, the project has survived three flood events. Roots from new plantings should be firmly established in a year, Herrington said. Roots will grow deeper year after year, making the bank more stable and strong.

Over time, a willow jungle will grow along the bend.

The project required heavy equipment to be operated in the river channel, work that could have muddied the water far downstream from the project. To prevent this, a temporary dam was built to divert the river away from the work. Now equipment could operate "in the dry" and the Elk River remained clear as work progressed.

Project leaders didn't receive any complaints about muddy water during construction, Herrington added.

Funding was three-fold. Some $350,000 came from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and $260,000 came from Tyson Foods. Six landowners paid a total of $45,000 in cash and in-kind donations, according to The Nature Conservancy.

"Our property looks better, and now we're not watching it wash downstream."

Roddy Lett, streamside landowner

Roddy Lett, a streamside landowner and float trip outfitter, invested $20,000 in the project.

"It's excellent," he said after the tour. "Our property looks better, and now we're not watching it wash downstream."

Brothers Galen and Gary Manning have a family farm downstream from Lett's property.

"It breaks your heart to see this land washing away," Galen said. "Now we won't have to watch Roddy's land rushing past our place."

Other bank stabilization projects have been completed along the Elk River and its tributaries, but most are funded by landowners themselves, Herrington said. Bank stabilization advice is available from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service or Missouri Department of Conservation. In Northwest Arkansas, Beaver Watershed Alliance can offer advice.

Some stream projects may require a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers or other agencies, Herrington said.

General News on 06/07/2018

Print Headline: Riverbank Rehab Work Done On Elk

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