Volunteers to chart 44 Duluth streams to assess flood damageBy the end of this week, Judy Gibbs aims to assemble a detailed picture of how Duluth’s 44 streams came through the recent floods, but she’ll need plenty of help to make that happen.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
By the end of this week, Judy Gibbs aims to assemble a detailed picture of how Duluth’s 44 streams came through the recent floods, but she’ll need plenty of help to make that happen.
Gibbs, the city’s trails coordinator, is assembling and coordinating a team of volunteers to walk, photograph and map the damage along miles of stream, using GPS technology. Prompt reporting could put Duluth in line to obtain sorely needed federal emergency aid to shore up the streams and guard against further degradation.
In places, the aftermath of the June flooding appears daunting, Gibbs said.
“You look at some of the damage, and ask: ‘How will we ever fix that?’ Of course, it can be fixed, but it won’t be cheap or easy,” she said.
One area where Gibbs believes the city could use some serious help is along a section of the old, deserted Thompson Hill Road uphill from the Lake Superior Zoo. The unused roadway has eroded so badly that in places, runoff has gouged out a channel up to 25 feet wide and 12 feet deep. The latest gush of floodwaters carried away a heavy load of sediments, dumping them into Kingsbury Creek, a designated trout stream.
Gibbs said her first priority will be to document the conditions along the city’s 16 different designated trout waterways, including Kingsbury, both the main channel of Amity Creek and its east branch, Buckingham Creek, both the main channel of Chester Creek and its east branch, Coffee Creek, Keene Creek, Knowlton Creek, Lester River, Merritt Creek, Miller Creek, Mission Creek, Sargent Creek, Stewart Creek and Tischer Creek.
Gibbs expressed confidence that detailed reports will be put together not only for Duluth’s trout streams but for all 44 waterways which tumble down local hillsides. She’ll rely on citizen volunteers and the help of several agencies concerned with preserving local water quality.
The Duluth City Council is expected to pass a resolution tonight that will authorize city staff to apply for funding from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
If the city is successful in obtaining support from the program, federal authorities would pick up 75 percent of the tab, and the city would commit to providing a 25 percent match for needed repairs and improvements. The local match can be made in cash or in the form of in-kind services. For instance, Gibbs said the city would receive credit for the value of volunteer efforts to document flood damage.
The state of Minnesota probably will chip in, too, according to Gibbs.
Gibbs urges landowners not to clear away fallen trees along creek banks in their efforts to clean up after the flood.
“We want people to leave that kind of debris, which provides wildlife habitat and helps slow down the water, reducing erosion,” she said.
Rich Axler, a limnologist with the Natural Resources Research Institute, recently wrote that the loss of so many mature trees along river banks will take a toll on trout waters. “The trees provided shade that kept the water cooler, stabilized the banks and the occasional limbs that fell created diverse fish and bug habitat,” he said.
Gibbs expressed concerns that even trees the floodwaters left standing could be susceptible to further damage, because of compromised root systems that are now largely exposed.
HOW TO HELP
WHAT: Analysis of the damage floodwaters did to Duluth’s streams
WHEN: Volunteers will work to map and document damage by the end of this week.
WHO: Anyone interested in lending a hand should contact Judy Gibbs, the project coordinator, at (218) 269-4712 or email@example.com
WHY: Documentation could help Duluth receive federal emergency remediation funds.