As we discussed in the last post, many “urban” streams receive additional stress from development and man-made activities such as channelization.  This translates into potential problems for homeowners that have a small stream (or prominent ditch) in their backyard.  Let us take a look at what can make a flood worse.  Below are two pics of streams that are free to do their thing.

Trout Steam in TN

Not much looks like this in our area…this is kind of cheating because this is a pic from Tennessee.  Point of the photo: this stream has room to move.

14 Mile Creek in Charlestown

14 mile creek in Charlestown.  A standard stream in Southern Indiana.

The classic backyard

Most people understand that a stream (as shown above) will flood at some point and cause them a problem if their home is too close.  But what about that little stream or small ditch behind their house?  I regularly speak with property owners that tell me they purchased their new home, moved in and were shocked the first time it rained…where did all the water come from?!

Heavy Flooding

It barely rained and our backyard looks like this?!

So… we all live downstream of someone else.  At least in the above picture, you can see that the structures are fairly high (at this spot) and look protected.  But what about in this image:

Flooding Will Happen

The fences and red shed will be underwater during the next flood…the creek in this area is fenced in on both sides.

Here you can easily assume that the fences and shed go underwater.  What about the homes you ask?  The water can make it to their back steps during a serious rain event.  I love this photo because you can barely see the orange cable line hung in the tree to cross the creek.  During raging floods, the cable actually collects debris.  It’s a classy utility install.

Safe From Flooding

The yards are fairly high, but the pipe (far left side) will be completely submerged during heavy rains. Do the fences help keep the homes from being flooded?

This picture is of a ditch that was reconstructed.  Prior to construction, the top of the concrete pipe on the far left side was even with the bottom of the ditch.  Just a fun fact.  Notice the fences, shed, and utility poles right at the top of the bank.

Fence in Creek

This fence did not survive #installfail.

Or your fence could just fall in the creek.  If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the creek…the chain link is hanging horizontally over the water.

Drainage Ditch

Can you see where the ditch is supposed to be located? You also can barely see the water damage on the wood fence near the bottom.

Here we have a ditch for stormwater.  Wait…did I say ditch?  I am standing just to the left of where the ditch should be located.  Notice where the wooden privacy fence dips down.  That is where the ditch used to exist; water still tries to follow that path.  Hence the water damage.

Flooding at Barn

This barn is about to be flooded. The small stream channel next to the tree is around 3-4 ft. wide on a normal day.

In this photo, you can see that the barn is barely higher than the water.  If additional water moves through the area, then the barn and its contents (assuming they cannot be easily moved) will be drenched.  This barn was constructed very close to the small stream channel and is in the floodplain.

The flood finale

So what do all these pics have in common?  Fences, sheds (or other out-buildings), and utilities can encroach on the stream or ditch, and can even cause a total blockage.  Flood waters need some room to spread out and when that happens, all the man-made stuff in the way gets soaked and damaged.  The encroachments also intensify the flooding; the water must go somewhere.  I used to regularly visit with residents and talk to them about making sure that their new fence or shed did not get placed in the easement or in the low spot near the waterway.   It is a conversation worth having.

And of course…May the 4th be with you!