County Approves Funding For Logjam Cleanup - Brevard NC
County commissioners moved ahead Monday with a plan to clear out current logjams along the French Broad River in an effort to maintain the recreational value of one of the county’s most popular attractions.
By authorizing $20,000 in funding from the 2013-2014 fund balance during their regular meeting, commissioners authorized a local group known as the French Broad River Stewards to hire a contract worker to remove a logjam that is currently blocking the river just 50 yards upstream of the site of the county’s last major logjam, which was successfully removed in 2012.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Eric Caldwell, the county cooperative extension director, said the current logjam is beginning to erode soil along the riverbank and will only continue to get worse if nothing is done.
“This is four or five trees that have fallen from both sides of the river that are all intertwined and causing a complete obstruction of the river,” he said.
Caldwell said recent efforts by volunteers organized by Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper, were helpful in opening up a clearing to allow boats to go through, but much more work is needed to remove the logjam completely.
When reached for comment after the meeting, Carson called the commissioner’s decision “terrific.”
“I think this is a good example of the importance of getting to these things early before they become $20,000 jobs,” he said.
He said the latest logjam started like most: with one tree blocking the river. When it did, it caused the river to erode away the opposite bank, which caused another tree to fall. Once both trees were in the water a debris jam formed behind the trees and it quickly began to grow in size.
On Nov. 11, Carson and a group of volunteers worked to cut away a small clearing in the logjam, but the extent of the problem was far greater than they could address.
“We were able to chop a little hole through there,” he said. “But it certainly needs a lot more work.”
Carson said the speed at which the logjam has grown is astonishing. He said he first noticed a tree had fallen across the river a few weeks ago, but by the time he got back to work on removing the tree one week later a tree on the opposite side of the river had fallen in and caused a significant blockage all the way across the river.
“Hopefully with this fund they can get someone to do this on a regular basis, which would make it much, much cheaper in the long-term to deal with these types of problems,” he said.
Carson said that while he would have liked to have done more to remove the logjam, it is a difficult, dangerous task that is not easy to complete from a canoe.
“If you just have to chop a few branches off, it’s not too tough,” he said. “But once it grows to 20-feet-deep it becomes really challenging.”
He said the problem with the French Broad River in Transylvania County is that the river is about as wide as a mature tree, which means that when one falls it can easily block the entire width of the river.
Further downstream, as the river widens, when a tree falls into the river it doesn’t pose as much as a problem, he said. During the commissioner’s meeting, Caldwell told commissioners the cost estimates to remove the new logjam range from $7,000 to $17,000. The remaining money will be set aside for future use and will be used on an “as needed” basis.
Caldwell said there are other areas along the river in Transylvania County that currently have downed trees that could lead to further logjams.
In addition to organizing the removal of the logjam, Caldwell said the French Broad River Stewards are working on developing a system that would allow for timely reporting and removal of downed trees in an effort to prevent the extensive safety issues, property damage and expense that have been incurred in the past due to logjams.
“When it is one tree across the river it isn’t so hard to clean up,” he said. “But when it is multiple trees intertwined it gets much more expensive.”
Caldwell said the group is optimistic that through working with property owners they can prevent many of the trees falling into the water that lead to the problem.
The Cooperative Extension and Soil and Water will provide technical and organizational development for the group. The group has applied for a grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority that could help with future efforts.
County Manager Artie Wilson recalled the river cleanup program was something that was done in the past, most notably by Bill Ives, who was instrumental in launching a river cleanup effort in the 1980s.
Wilson said that program had been continued by county staff for years, but was recently discontinued due to the level of danger involved in using chainsaws and canoes to clean up logjams.
Wilson said the idea with the new river stewardship program is that the county will be able to work more quickly than they have in recent years in an effort to prevent these larger types of logjams from occurring.
Commissioner Page Lemel, who attended some of the early meetings of the group, said she was very excited to see the efforts of the late Sid Cullipher come to fruition.
“This is a smart, wise thing to do. It’s a necessary thing to do,” she said. “By setting aside $20,000 now we’ll be saving ourselves $60,000, $70,000 or $80,000 next year. It’s important to help clear these things out, because if we don’t these things will just grow and the soil erosion will just get worse.”
After the meeting, Brevard Councilman Mac Morrow, a longtime advocate of the river who worked closely with Ives on the river cleanup program, said the commissioners’ decision to fund the program this year was fantastic. He commended Caldwell’s efforts in keeping the program going and for moving it forward.
“This is going to be a very important in helping to keep the river open and prevent further damage,” he said. “This is something we should all be proud of.”