A weekly blog for all things conservation
By: Tess Flynn-Belles, Natural Resource Specialist
Hey all! It’s your old Uncle Conservation here and I’ve got a secret for you. And let me tell you, it’s a good one. Especially if you or someone you know lives near a stream which, let’s be honest, is the entire county. Ok, gather ‘round now. Ready for it? You can clear trees and woody debris out of a stream… WITHOUT A PERMIT!!! Holy Cow!! Did I just blow your mind?! I did, didn’t I?
It is no doubt that we have seen an increase in the annual precipitation rate in recent years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “in recent years, a larger percentage of precipitation has come in the form of intense single-day events. Nine of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events have occurred since 1990”. Let’s talk about those crazy, extreme storms for a minute. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the term “100-year flood” or “500-year flood” and rightfully so. The terms make it sound like we are only supposed to get those types of flooding events every 100 or 500 years. We all know that is not the case, we’ve seen a 100-year flood, or even a 500-year flood, somewhere in the county every year for the past 3 years! Ok then, so, what do those terms really mean? Truthfully, it is based on percentages. The term “100-year flood” means that there is a 1%, or 1 in 100 chance that we will experience a rain event of that intensity per year and 500-year flood is a 1 in 500, or 0.2% chance per year. Clear as mud? Ok!
Last year’s intense storms caused flooding and damage to an overwhelming amount of the county. One common complaint that we hear when a flooding event occurs is, “this culvert… or that bridge plugged with debris” which caused the water to jump out of its banks and cut a new channel or flood out a home or business. Most culverts in the county are undersized. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. Over the last two summers the Bradford County Conservation District, with the assistance of trained interns, has been working toward assessing every stream culvert in Bradford County. From these assessments, it has been noted that 90% of the county’s culverts are undersized and can’t handle the major flows we get after a big storm. What happens when a log jam forms at the inlet end of that culvert? Debris gets backed up, causing it to spill out onto people’s properties, making a huge mess. And this could happen even if the culvert is properly sized.
One thing that could help cut down on all these culverts getting plugged up is to walk the stream reach on your property and take note any trees laying in or across the channel. If the tree is to large to deal with by hand, use a tractor if you have one available! You can get in the stream with equipment to remove woody debris if the stream channel is not altered from the existing condition. Pull those trees out and use for fire wood or just cut them up into floatable pieces that can pass through the downstream culvert or bridge. A good tip when removing a leaning tree is to cut the trunk off and leave the root wad in the stream bank. The roots will help hold the stream bank together. This may sound like a lot of work and it may take a weekend or two, but the next time we get a major rain event it could make a big difference. Remember, you DON’T need a permit if it’s just woody debris removal!
So, sharpen up those chainsaws (always practice safety when operating!), dust off your tow straps, gas up those tractors, grab some buddies and move some wood! Maybe someone will finally be able to answer that age-old question, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?”, now that you know the woodchuck can chuck wood… out of a stream at least.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District