Shoring up Hinkson Creek

Workers are digging and planting willow and cedar trees along a vulnerable stretch of Hinkson Creek to protect the waterway from future erosion.
Wednesday, May 4, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:42 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fair or not, developers have a reputation of moving into natural areas and bulldozing trees to make way for construction.

Centerstate Properties, however, is financing a project that will combat erosion by adding thousands of trees to a lengthy section of the Hinkson Creek bank near the Columbia landfill.

Centerstate, the company responsible for the new Bass Pro Shops store and surrounding development at U.S. 63 and Vandiver Drive, put up about $65,000 to pay for the work. Centerstate manager Curtis McDonald said the mitigation project is part of an agreement he made with the city in exchange for permission to fill a drainage ditch as part of his development.

Excavators worked along more than 1,000 feet of the creek to make the slope of the bank more gradual. Landscapers then anchored cedar trees six feet into the ground along 600 feet of the bank.

That section of the creek bank was extremely vulnerable to erosion, and water was eating away at the soil, said Erin Daugherty of Allstate Consultants, which engineered the project.

Phillips Grading and Construction started the work by excavating along the bank to change the slope of the land. JC Landscaping then anchored cedars into the ground and is now planting willow cuttings. The small trees are a foot long and planted 10 inches deep every two feet at the top of the slope.

Company owner Jeff Cook said he and two co-workers hope to finish planting the willows tonight.

The idea behind the project is for the cedars to catch sediment as water rushes up the bank during or after rainstorms. Eventually, the sediment will cover the trees, providing a place for new vegetation to grow and returning the creek bank to a more natural state. The willows, meanwhile, will grow and hold the soil.

Cook said the project came just in time. The revetment held up well during the recent heavy rains that hit Columbia, he said.

The cedars used were harvested near the site and brought to the creek bank to save money. Cedars are usually 20 to 25 feet tall and are difficult to move, city arborist Gene Busteed said. Landscapers put the trees into the ground while they were still fresh so they would last longer.

Columbia officials gave Centerstate permission to work on the city-owned property. Busteed said the city provided a “conservation easement” that meant it would not interfere with anything being done at the site.

Cook said he hopes to have his company’s work done in about two weeks.

The erosion-control project is the first of its kind in the area. Cook said the Missouri Department of Conservation has done similar work on private property and provided the machine to drive the cedar tree anchors into the ground.

All others involved have been learning as they go, changing their plans to determine what will work best, Cook said: “We’re excited to get in on the ground floor.”

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