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Assessing Streambank Erosion in Baldwin Creek

This summer Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) performed streambank erosion assessments in the Baldwin Creek subwatershed to prioritize erosion prevention projects. The work was supported by a Great Lakes Commission grant that will help prevent sedimentation in the Rocky River watershed.

The Rocky River Watershed Action Plan identified Baldwin Creek as a critical area for the restoration of disturbed riparian areas. Walking the entire Baldwin Creek main stem and a few of the tributaries this summer confirmed that this is indeed a critical area. Meandering through residential, commercial, and park areas, Baldwin Creek lies in a diverse watershed with accelerated streambank erosion. In an effort to preserve existing streambanks many stream property owners have resorted to man-made armoring, utilizing gabion baskets, rip-rap, bricks, or even just pouring cement right over the streambank. This project will serve as an opportunity to communicate and implement more natural methods of streambank stabilization that work with the stream in slowing down streambank erosion.

Over ten stream miles were assessed with the help of a CSWCD intern and Cleveland Metroparks volunteers. We used the Bank Erosion Hazard Index (BEHI) protocol to assess the entire main stem of Baldwin Creek as well as targeted tributaries. BEHI is a rapid assessment protocol that Cleveland Metroparks staff adapted for our local streams. By looking at streambank protection (roots, vegetation, natural armoring like embedded boulders or bedrock),  streambank angle, stratification, and streambank materials you can quickly score a bank and rank it as having low to extreme potential for erosion. Notably 24% of banks assessed were ranked high to extreme.

When combined with a visual assessment of near-bank stress, the BEHI results allow us to generate estimates of the amount of erosion occurring, in tons/year.  Using this method, we have estimated that streambank erosion in B

aldwin Creek generates ~5400 tons/year of sediment.  Using mapping tools and the BEHI results from this summer we are in the process of prioritizing areas for streambank stabilization projects. Areas in red on the neighboring map are estimated to have over 100 tons of annual streambank erosion. Property owners in prioritized parcels will be contacted and offered cost-share money to implement streambank stabilization projects targeting the restoration of 2,500 feet.

 

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