Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Flood Damage - Floodplain

Probably the most visible effects of the flood are in the floodplain where water doesn’t normally flow.  A flash flood through the steeply graded corridors of the upper watershed can strip away everything in its path.  The resulting bare ground is impossible not to notice.

The stream corridor is primarily wooded, so the ground cover is composed of scattered plants and a layer of decomposing leaf litter.  This is not the type of material that can withstand the force of speeding flood water.  Somewhere downstream, a quiet backwater has received a deposit of rich organic material that recently covered the floodplains of Blue Jay Barrens.

Floodplains don’t necessarily flood each year.  The areas near the bank of this meandering creek receive flood water on a regular basis, but the majority of the area hadn’t been underwater for decades.  This flood ignored the channel location and filled the valley.  For a few minutes, this quiet creek did its best to imitate a river.

It’s easy to find the bounds of the flood water.  Until a few days ago, the creek bank resembled the leaf covered hill in the background.  Now the only floodplain leaves that remain are those wrapped around the small trees and shrubs.  During the next couple of months I’ll find out what spring wildflowers remain to add stability and cover to the bare ground.

Flooding is a natural event and its occurrence is beyond my control.  I can return the damaged bridges to their previous state by collecting and reassembling the various parts, but there’s nothing I can do to fix the barren floodplains.  All I can do is watch and learn as natural processes work to restore the floodplain soils.

Areas that only experience a few inches of moving water should green up nicely and quickly hide the evidence of their ordeal.

Other areas will show their scars for some time to come.  It’ll be years before I can walk along the creek without seeing evidence of the record Flood of 2012.  Even so, the floodplains will green up through the summer and after the autumn leaves fall, much of the disturbance will be masked.  Dealing with uncontrollable events is probably the most frustrating part of land management.  I know there’s nothing I could have done to stop the flood, but that doesn’t keep me from being aggravated by the results.

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