A Tale of Six Cities

by Dennis E. Palmer, (M.ASCE), Vice Pres.; Barr Engrg. Co., 6800 France Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55435,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1985, Vol. 55, Issue 4, Pg. 68-70

Document Type: Feature article


Battle Creek is a four mile urban stream that had an erosion problem that was accelerating with urbanization of its watershed. Erosion created unstable ravine slopes over 60 feet high, destroyed a valuable regional park, endangered public utilities and damaged private property. A watershed district, a form of regional government based on watershed divides, was created to plan the construction and financing of the necessary channel stabilization. Over a seven year period, the District defined the scope of the project, prepared construction plans and implemented construction. After considering the positions of city, county and regional agencies, the district coordinated agency input and established a successful cost allocation formula for the project. Several erosion control techniques were employed including grade control, pipe enclosure, and a combination of grade control and pipe. In the worst areas, an 8 ft diameter pipe was buried in the ravine, which was completely regraded and backfilled to restore stable slopes without removal of remaining vegetation. Above the buried conduit, the base flow of the creek was carried in a channel, which featured six waterfalls for grade control and park aesthetics. A formula was developed to allocate the costs of channel stabilization on the basis of contribution to peak discharge, contribution to runoff volume, location, effects of upland storage and mainstream reservoirs, land use and parcel size. The assessment formula was applied to more than 6,000 parcels. Only 11 of the 6,000 parcels filed appeals to the allocated cost. Although administrative costs were high, the lengthy public participation helped implement a project which deferred up to $6 million in sewer relocation costs and permitted redevelopment of a regional park.

Subject Headings: Erosion | Watersheds | Parks | Construction costs | Pipelines | Municipal water | Channel stabilization | Buried pipes

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