The levee broke
OR
The land is the authority

I fight authority, authority always wins
— John Mellencamp

creek shoring project 1

My creek shoring project as of April 5th, 2008
creek shoring project 2

My creek shoring project as of April 5th, 2008 (you can kind of see the 1-2 foot drop in this picture)

We had some big storms yesterday and last night, and it was storming when I woke up at 7:00 this morning. As I was eating breakfast around 7:30, I looked out the window and saw large puddles of water forming in the backyard, but was comforted by the fact that the water was not flowing. That is, the creek had not risen over its banks, like it has on about 5 occasions since we moved here last June. At some point last fall or so, I discovered where the creek was flooding most. One part of the bank a little past the grape arbor had been consistently eroding every time it flooded, and had lost several feet of its bank. I thought that if I could shore up the bank here, that it would be less likely to flood. So in the spring I started the project, first putting some broken cinder-blocks, large rocks, and bricks in there, to provide some stability. Then I added in leaves, washed up branches (from previous floods), and mud, dirt, and sand (also from previous floods).

Empty cement pond

The cement pond after I had removed most of the mud and water. I tried to catch most of the incoming water in the bucket while I was working.
Clogged drain in cement pond

Clogged drain in cement pond.

I got most of the sand and mud from the small cement pond which had been completely filled in. This seemed like a win-win situation. I could clean out the cement pond and restore it to its former glory, and use all the sand and dirt for my creek shoring project. I worked on this over several months at various points when I found the time. The last week or so I became determined to finish it, and on Saturday, I spent most of the afternoon digging out the rest of the cement pond and emptying the water that was in it bucket by bucket into the creek. Dave did a very good job of designing the pond. It is fed by the spring in the hill (via an underground pipe, which must be at least 100 feet long). And it has a drain in the bottom of the pond which drains into the creek. The spring flows year round. This design solves many problems. It strategically directs the water from the spring instead of having it just make the hillside all wet, and it creates a pond which is not stagnant water, but is constantly being recycled. By sticking a pipe in the drain hole, one can set the desired height of the pond (similar to how a traditional toilet tank works). Unfortunately though, the drain had become clogged, and I could not find it under all the mud and water until it was pretty much completely empty. I figured that cleaning it out with my fingers or a stick would easily free it up. No such luck. So then I tried using a snake. Still no luck. I even tried using a snake from the other end, and that didn’t work either. So I finally gave up. My friend Sean hypothesizes that the drain pipe collapsed sometime in the last 15 or 20 years, which seems very plausible. So I guess I might have some more digging in my future.

flooding 1

flooding 1
flooding 2

flooding 2
flooding 3

flooding 3
flooding 4

flooding 4
flooding 5

flooding 5
flooding 6

flooding 6

Anyways, back to the creek. At 7:30 this morning, I was pleased that my efforts were paying off. After I finished breakfast around 8:00 and looked out the window again, my heart sank. The backyard was filled with water. The levee broke, and so did my spirit.

I went upstairs and got to work on my normal stuff, and around 10:00, decided to look out the window again. The flooding had stopped. I was quite surprised by this. In fact, the backyard didn’t even look that wet, so I went out to investigate. It turns out that my levee had indeed broke, but it was not completely washed out, and as you might be able to tell from the picture, the flooding would have been much worse had I not tried to shore up the bank. You also notice that there is next to no grass on the levee. I had been meaning to plant grass there very soon, since the grass roots will help prevent erosion. I guess this weekend I will have to make that my priority.

The other good part of the story is that we wisely moved the garden from the backyard (where it was last year) over to the side of the garage, where it does not tend to flood, and this was the case today. So I am still disappointed, but it could have been much worse.

Cement pond refilled

The cement pond has been completely refilled again from this flood. Until I get the drain working again, I do have stagnant water.
Debris washed up from the flood

Debris washed up from the flood
The bridge still stands

The bridge has not washed out yet.
Partially broken levee

Had I not done any shoring up, this bank would still be overflowing.
Close-up of levee

A close-up of where the levee broke.