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Stream-bank erosion can be fought without breaking the bank     Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 15, 2004]  URBANA -- "What's mine is yours" might be a good personal philosophy, but landowners downstream who are on the receiving end of soil eroding from stream banks upstream probably don't appreciate the sentiment -- or the sediment.

In recent years, stream-bank erosion has become a serious threat to land along many streams in Illinois and throughout the nation, due to increasing volumes and velocities of surface water runoff from both agricultural and urban areas.

"The good news," said Bob Frazee, University of Illinois Extension natural resources educator, "is that landowners now have several low-cost alternatives they can use to provide effective control for stream-bank erosion."

A new brochure entitled "Streambank Stabilization in Illinois: Protecting Land, Property and Water Quality" recommends that landowners and farmers begin the stabilization process by using the channel evolution model to identify what stage of erosion a stream is going through. The brochure describes this model, which helps determine the underlying cause of the bank erosion and identifies five stages of erosion:

  • Stages 1 and 5: The stream banks are practically stable and may only require minor spot treatments.
  • Stages 2 and 3: The channel bottoms of streams are eroding or have eroded and are deepening.
  • Stages 3 and 4: Streams have stopped getting deeper but are widening or meandering, trying to establish and build a new floodplain.
  • Stage 4: The channel is beginning to stabilize and floodplain development is near completion.

Treatments to stabilize eroding stream banks are also outlined in the new brochure. Options include bend-way weirs, stream barbs, stone toe protection, rock riffles, willow posts and vegetation. Each option is specifically suited for certain stream conditions and must be selected carefully by a qualified stream specialist. In some cases, more than one treatment method may be combined to effectively return the stream to a stable condition. Frazee cautions that installation of the wrong practice will not solve the problem and could lead to failure of the treatment.


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Traditional methods of controlling stream-bank erosion relied on large quantities of riprap and a variety of concrete and steel structures, at a cost of $50 to $300 per foot of linear bank treated. These latest stabilization techniques can be installed for $15 to $25 per linear foot, with limited use of materials and maintenance.

The new, full-color brochure identifies a number of advantages for landowners who are considering a stream-bank stabilization installation. It also identifies key agencies that may provide technical assistance in the assessment and treatment of stream-bank erosion problems.

The brochure is being provided free of charge to landowners, farmers, watershed groups, contractors, agency staff and other interested individuals. It is available at local Soil and Water Conservation District offices and University of Illinois Extension Unit offices.

A copy may also be ordered by contacting Bob Frazee, Natural Resources Educator, University of Illinois Extension, East Peoria Extension Center, 727 Sabrina Drive, East Peoria, IL 61611. His phone number is (309) 694-7501, ext. 226, and his e-mail address is

The brochure was printed by authority of the state of Illinois and produced by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and University of Illinois Extension. An electronic version will be available on the cooperating agenciesí websites in January 2005.

[University of Illinois news release]

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