Spring Creek - Part 1
Upstream site (April, 1997).
1504 Ann Arbor Drive
Norman, Oklahoma 73069-5363
“A river is the cosiest of friends. You must love it and live with it before you can know it.”
G.W. Curtis, Lotus Eating: Hudson and Rhine
“The song of the river ends not at her banks but in the hearts of those who have loved her.”
“Serious problems cannot be dealt with at the level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein
Spring Creek - 1
Spring Creek - 2
Spring Creek - 3
Spring Creek - 4
Spring Creek is a tributary to Fort Gibson Lake (Neosho River) in Northeast Oklahoma. Its watershed encompasses approximately 184 square miles traversing Delaware, Cherokee, and Mayes Counties and is almost entirely within the Central Irregular Plains Eco-region. The project site is located at Timber Lake, a name given to a reach of Spring Creek located in Section 18, Township 19 North, Range 21 East of the Indian Meridian in Cherokee County, Oklahoma.
Location of Spring Creek project (red stars).
Spring Creek, like most, if not all, of the streams in the region is experiencing increased sediment loading due to changing land uses. The result has been channel bed aggradation, increased bank erosion rates and a decrease in aquatic habitat. The Spring Creek restoration project was implemented by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission Water Quality Division (OCCWQ) as an EPA 319 demonstration project to show land owners how fluvial geomorphic principles may be applied to address bank stability problems and improve aquatic habitat. The Timber Lake site was selected for implementation because of the severity of the bank erosion present at the site and because of local involvement in the Spring Creek Coalition. Landowner’s included Carroll Shafner, Tom Russell, Neil Russell and Glenn Russell.
The extent of the Spring Creek project was originally envisioned to be more substantial than it turned out. A lack of cooperation by one land owner and limited resources resulted in a project somewhat reduced in scope over that which was originally proposed. In the end, work was done on approximately 1,500 feet of the channel at two different locations.
The scope of the field work conducted for this project was quite extensive. In the spring and early summer of 1997, a longitudinal survey was conducted over a distance of over 11,000 feet with cross-sections established (using 3/8” rebar pins) every 300 feet. Pebble counts were also conducted. I conducted this entire survey (except for 3 cross-sections) with no assistance. It was quite enjoyable spending those numerous hours alone, along and in, beautiful Spring Creek. My home away from home during the study is shown on the Contacts page.
To document the site further, we paid Dutch, a pilot out of the Tahlequah Airport to fly me over the site. I borrowed a camera with a large zoom lens and hung out of the airplane window and took pictures.
I used the data collected during the intensive survey along with regional curve data I had collected in the area and various regime equations to determine the bankfull discharge (2,000 cfs) and morphology (Wbf = 95 ft and Hbf = 4 ft) of the design channel. I wrote a design report and submitted an application for a 404 permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers. We had made arrangements with Tonto Construction and were prepared to commence construction in August, 1999. Unfortunately, John Hassell left OCCWQ in June, 1999 and the project was put on hold.
Upstream site (April, 1997).
Upstream site - looking downstream
Upstream site - looking upstream
Downstream site (April, 1997).
Downstream site (April, 1997).
Downstream site - Upstream end looking downstream (June, 1997).
Downstream site—Downstream end looking downstream (June, 1997).
Downstream site - Upstream end looking upstream (June, 1997).
Downstream site—Downstream end looking upstream (June, 1997).
One of the conditions for obtaining the 404 permit from the Corps for this project was that we would do an archaeological survey of the site. I contacted Charles Wallace of the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey and he met me at the site on September 7, 1999. Charles is an interesting and knowledgeable man. We searched the site together for relics of past cultures, and found a lot of evidence of chipping, but found no significant artifacts, such as arrowheads or scrapers. Charles showed me how to make arrowheads, chipping a pretty good one out in just a few minutes.
Charles Wallace doing an archaeological survey.
In February, 2000, I too left OCCWQ and started Riverman Engineering, PLC. In July, 2000, OCCWQ hired me to manage construction of the project. Due to the length of time that had elapsed since the site was surveyed the channel had changed significantly and required resurveying. I did this and as a result made some minor adjustments to the design.
Construction was initiated on August 14, 2000. Downey Contracting, LLC won the contract. Larry Pinion, Terry Edmonds, Pat McGuire and Danny Harper would be operating the equipment which included a Komatsu D135A bulldozer, a Cat 325BL excavator (with hydraulic thumb), a Cat 330BL excavator (with hydraulic thumb) and a Komatsu WA32o front end loader. Over 1,700 tons (66 semi-loads) of boulders were used in the project. We worked 28 days and completed the project on September 10, 2000. Eighteen of those days it was over 100 oF and on nine of them it was over 105 oF. Needless to say, it was hot and dry.
The first three days were spent getting an access road built down to the creek so we could get semi-loads of rock to the site. The first load of rock arrived at the end of the third day.
The plan was to complete the downstream site and then if resources allowed complete the upstream site. Day 4 we started shaping the channel and building the first cross-vane. We had some growing pains in the first few days, since the crew had never built a stream channel with cross vanes and rock vanes before and I was thoroughly frustrated by Day 5. Then I proceeded to drown my cell phone on Day 6.
It had not been a good first week, but things began to turn around on Day 7 as we finally had all 4 pieces of equipment working efficiently. On Day 8 the first cross-vane was completed and the channel shaping was progressing nicely. The haul road was a continuous problem and required significant work on Day 9. We repeatedly had to go and work on it to keep the truck drivers bringing the rock in satisfied. We spent over $6,000 just to prepare and maintain the haul road, which was not factored into the cost estimate for the project.
Shaping the channel—downstream site.
Building the first cross-vane -
On Day 10 Terry completed the first rock vane that he had started the previous day. And good news, we obtained permission from Carroll Shafner, one of the land owners, for the rock trucks to return using his established road. This greatly reduced the amount of time that we had to spend on the haul road. Pat, the dozer operator who had spent time in Kuwait after the Gulf War fighting oil well fires, cut a diversion channel across the downstream point bar to allow for better drainage of the site by allowing what little flow existed in the creek to bypass the work area.
It continued to be very hot such that I was having a hard time staying hydrated. It seemed that no matter how much I drank it wasn’t enough. The operators were in air conditioned cabs. I was out in the heat, moving my chair to whatever shade I could find. The crew said that I should change my name from Riverman to Shade Chaser.
On Day 12, Terry completed the second rock vane and started on the third. Larry continued to shape the right bank and Pat was shaping the point bar. Danny was moving rocks and gravel as needed. We made good progress even though Terry broke a couple of teeth on the excavator bucket. This is a recurring problem and I have learned that it is good to have several backups on hand to replace them when they get lost.
Terry got the teeth to the excavator fixed on Day 13 and Pat completed all of the dozer work at the downstream site (except for the final dressing), so I sent him down to the low water crossing to clear out some of the gravel around the culvert. He sure pulled my leg at the end of the day. He came back acting put out and said that he’d been waiting down there for me to tell him what to do. I was a bit miffed but when I went down to show him what I wanted, he had already done it. He sure had me going for a while though.
Terry started the second cross-vane on Day 14. Larry continued shaping and packing the right bank. Pat continued to clean out around the low water crossing, Danny was moving rock and I was reading “A Rehabilitation Manual for Australian Streams, Volume 2” and trying to stay cool. We said goodbye to Danny at the end of the day as we didn’t need him any more although he did a great job for us.
Two weeks of construction have been completed, but there’s still more to come.
For more of the story go to Spring Creek - 2.
Building the first rock vane -
Cutting the diversion—downstream site.
More channel shaping—downstream site.
The Crew - Danny, Terry, Pat and Larry.
One of 66 semi-loads of rock being dumped.