St. Joseph River Soil Erosion and Sediment Control
St. Joseph River Soil and Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds:
The National Resource Inventory in 1982 estimated average annual erosion (wind,
sheet and gully erosion) on 1.5 million acres of cropland in the St. Joseph
River watershed to be 5.9 tons per acre per year. An estimated 853,000 acres
of this cropland (nearly two thirds) needs erosion control practices. Sedimentation
is impacting the water quality in the lower portion of the St. Joseph River.
Investigations indicate high phosphorous levels and total dissolved solids.
The St. Joseph Harbor must be continually dredged due to significant sediment
load from the St. Joseph River.
The goal of the St. Joseph River Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Demonstration
Project is to demonstrate an innovative, cost-effective method of controlling
severe gully erosion. The St. Joseph River watershed covers about 2,742,400
acres in southwestern Michigan. The St. Joseph River flows into Lake Michigan
at Benton Harbor-St. Joseph and is listed by the National Park Service as a
significant free-flowing stream (river). In Berrien County, the river is deeply
entrenched, having a high riverbank (escarpment) on one or both sides of the
river. The escarpment reaches nearly 140 feet in height at Berrien Springs.
River bank erosion and adjacent gully erosion is contributing a large portion
of sediment to the river.
The Great Lakes Basin program provided $9,997 over a one-year
period to support the demonstration of an innovative cost-effective method
of controlling sever gully erosion on a typical farm, adjacent to the St.
Joseph River, in Berrien County. The project developed alternative Best Management
Practices (BMPs) for the site, then selected and implemented a preferred option.
The planning and construction sequence were documented to enable widespread
duplication of the process at other locations and an intensive information
education project will teach landowners how to implement soil erosion and
sediment control practices.
The Disterheft family farm was chosen for the demonstration site. The Family
has farmed the crop fields in the area for nearly 100 years; the soils are sandy-textured
and highly erodible. Problem sites were identified with landowner concurrence
and construction plans developed. 20 acres underwent erosion control practices
saving 300 tons of soil per year from entering the St. Joseph River. Erosion
control practices implemented include:
- 1,500 feet subsurface outlet
- 1,300 feet diversion channel
- two sediment and water control basins
- one acre of critical-area seeding
The Disterheft site was also chosen for its excellent education
and demonstration opportunities. A demonstration tour was held on June 3, 1995
to show landowners methods of controlling severe gully erosion.