Soil Preservation Takes Root with Help from Volunteer Operators

A wide variety of trees beautify the landscape and put the brakes on stream bank erosion at a Missouri clean-water plant.
Soil Preservation Takes Root with Help from Volunteer Operators
Tree plantings are designed to curtail erosion on the bank of the Cinque Hommes Creek.

Operators and staff of the 1.8 mgd Perryville (Missouri) Wastewater Treatment Facility planted more than 1,400 trees last spring to halt erosion along the banks of the Cinque Hommes Creek, which passes in front of the plant and is its receiving water.

In the bargain, they’re beautifying the landscape. “We sure hope it works and the trees take hold before a gully washer rain comes along,” says Jeremy Meyer, water and wastewater superintendent at the two-stage trickling filter facility. A portion of creek bank near the plant has eroded away at least 10 to 12 feet in the last decade.

An inside job

Using a planting machine pulled by a 108 hp John Deere model 6415 tractor, operators Robert Brown and Dave Myer planted 14- to 16-inch-tall cottonwood, bald cypress and sandbar willow cuttings, spaced 10 feet apart and in rows with 10 feet of separation. Operator Wendell Valleroy drove the tractor.

In eight hours over two days, the men covered nearly 11 acres of field and the embankment near the creek, assisted by Neil Bert, plant operations foreman, and Mike Compte, operator. Meyer used a dibble bar to hand-plant 100 willow stakes on the eroded portion of the stream bank. He plans to plant 300 more next spring. “We are counting on the root structure of the trees to stop the erosion,” says Meyer.

The operators also used a dibble bar to hand-plant 3-foot-tall saplings of pin oak, red oak, shumard oak, white oak, bur oak and black walnut in the area farther from the creek. “The idea is to have the slower-growing trees mature to provide shade in an area where a planting attempt several years ago partially failed,” says Meyer.

Controlling an invasive

The idea of planting the trees grew out of a request from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Staff members spotted the severe erosion while surveying the creek for Japanese hops, an invasive species that can quickly choke off a waterway. “I asked them if the hops could be used to make beer,” Meyer recalls jokingly.

The creek empties into the Mississippi River, where the Japanese hop vine is most commonly found. In recent years it has been increasing its range into streams and tributaries. The MDC worked with the city and Meyer to negotiate a cost-sharing agreement that provided 90 percent funding for the nearly $7,000 project. A portion of the funding was to revisit and update the previously failed planting. The cost also included field preparation by chemical application to eradicate competing vegetation around newly planted and existing trees.

As a condition of the agreement, plant operators will be responsible for the maintenance, mowing and weed-control spraying of the newly planted field for 10 years. Meyer says the project was worthwhile and an efficient team effort: “Once we all got going and figured out how to do it the best way, we got it done quickly. We hope the roots of the new trees will stabilize the creek bank and stop the erosion.”  



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