Things must change along Yadkin Creek

    It’s not uncommon for governments at all levels to be reactionary when it comes to a wide range of problems, rather than working to keep bad things from happening in the first place. Steelville is a perfect example. Rather than working to address its continued flooding problems along Yadkin Creek, it has continued with decades of mismanagement of the waterway that had led to costly repairs to damaged city infrastructure. Things must change.

    The latest damage caused by just a minor high-water event in the city led to a serious discussion of closing the Third Street bridge, which crossed the Yadkin behind the Crawford County Courthouse. Because the bridge links the courthouse to the Crawford County Jail, city officials actually asked the county to help repair its bridge, despite the fact that repairs only amounted to about $500.
    It wasn’t the first time the bridge had to be repaired…and it won’t be the last. And, it’s not the only bridge that has needed repairs…and they will all need more.
    Those things will continue to happen as long as the city manages Yadkin Creek to look “pretty” rather than to protect its banks and city infrastructure. Those are the things that will continue to happen if the city continues to take no action on reducing or eliminating the city’s flooding problem.
    Help has been offered to the city for both managing Yadkin Creek to create improved habitat (with hopes of reestablishing the Latham Schweider Memorial Trout Fishing Area), to stabilize the banks to prevent erosion and reduce the amount of gravel that is washed down the creek, and to seek funding to create floodwater retention basins in the creek’s drainage area to reduce flooding. I know this because I’m the one who has offered that help.
    I have provided the city with contacts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private companies that can help with bank stabilization and habitat improvements. No action has been taken. I set up a meeting with the Meramec Regional Planning Commission in St. James to discuss funding possibilities for flood control. No one from the city showed up for it.
    Yet, members of the Steelville City Council continue to complain about damage being caused to city bridges and other infrastructure. It’s almost unbelievable.
    What’s worse, however, is that in addition to the city not taking any steps to seek professional and government help to improve the Yadkin and reduce flooding, the action it has been taking is only making the situation worse.
    This summer, city workers “cleaned out” the banks along the Yadkin, effectively removing vegetation that is needed to hold the banks and gravel in place and keep the swiftest of flood waters in the center of the creek, where it is less likely to damage bridges and streets. Trees and shrubs, especially upstream from bridges and other infrastructure, would help slow floodwaters down and reduce damage. These plants would also keep gravel from washing down the creek, and banks from eroding into the creek…two things that actually make the creek bed shallower and increase the town’s flooding problems.
    It’s almost understandable why the city would want to remove the Third Street bridge, given the headache it has become in recent years. Much of the problems with it, however, have been made worse by the city’s management, or lack thereof, of the creek.
    There are ways to make the creek deeper, to keep its banks in place, to slow down its floodwaters to reduce damage during high-water events, to permanently reduce or eliminate flooding, and make it look “pretty.” The city is doing none of them. Things must change.

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