Sustainable Streams presents Idle Brook floodplain project

by Laura Bednar

Bob Hawley, representative from Sustainable Streams, an environmental group that completes improvement projects like floodplain restoration and stream rehabilitation, outlined the Idle Brook floodplain project in Bath Township on Nov. 21 preceding a township trustees work session.

Sustainable Streams previously completed a study of the Yellowcreek Watershed and determined that Idle Brook was an ideal area for the floodplain project.

The proposed project would take place on Summit County-owned property at the confluence of Yellow Creek, West Fork and Idle Brook. According to Hawley’s presentation, the project is the “best opportunity to intercept erosive flows from a large portion of the watershed and help reduce erosion in Yellow Creek.”

Dean Koontz, engineering project manager with the Summit County Engineer’s Office, explained, “The high velocity during storms creates erosion in the streams, which then creates sediment being carried downstream the length of Yellowcreek, there is also flooding downstream.”

The 35-acre property is made up of three parcels between N. Hametown Road and Crystal Lake Road. Sustainable Streams projected the cost of the project to be between $1.2 and $1.6 million.

Hawley said that the existing floodplain, which is low-lying ground adjacent to a river, has feet of sediment occupying the space, which makes the streams less connected to the floodplains. When the high velocity water has nowhere to go during heavy rains or flooding, the excess water creates erosion, which results in high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and other sediment in the water.

The proposed project will intercept medium and high flows of water to create a more natural flow that reduces flooding, is less erosive and removes pollutants. Restoring the floodplain would intercept 10.4 square miles of drainage, which is one-third of the total Yellow Creek drainage area.

Through land excavation, the project would create 25 to 40 acre-feet of storage for offloaded sediment and nutrients during medium or high water flows. Excavated areas would be created for water to flow, meaning flooding would be non-existent due to the low water level, according to Hawley.

The erosive stream flow would offload into an established wetland. Hawley said vegetation would be established prior to constructing the river connection and the entire wetland habitat would attract migrating birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

Resident Susan Locke asked if the wetland would attract more mosquitoes. Hawley explained that the wetland would support more wildlife, which would eat the mosquitoes.

Resident Jeremy Simmons said his property’s backyard is next to the location of the proposed floodplain wetland. He said his family has 20 acres of farmland in a low elevation point and currently has no flooding. He stated he was concerned about the wetland causing flooding in his backyard.

“As a civil engineer, I can’t stamp a plan set without showing it’s not going to make flooding worse,” said Hawley.

Simmons also asked if trees would be cut down to create floodplain. Hawley said some trees would be removed for excavation, but added that reforestation is included in the project.

Criteria engineering is nearly completed for the project, and Sustainable Streams is working with the utility companies and beginning the permit process. Once the preliminary work is done, the company will choose a contractor to design and build the floodplain wetlands. Sustainable Streams has also applied for state grants for the project. Trustee Sharon Troike explained that some grants require nature trails in a project like this, but if not, the county would discuss it with township trustees, who would also seek resident input. ∞