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Streambank stabilization on a Farm in Grayson County, VA

Posted: Jan 17, 2014

A major streambank stabilization project has been completed on a family farm in Grayson County owned by James Phipps, his mother Emma Phipps, and the late Eugene Phipps. This project, a partnership between the Phipps, the National Committee for the New River (NCNR), the Nature Conservancy, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Grayson County, has stabilized and protected over 6000 feet of stream and river banks on the property.

In 2010, Gene Phipps and his son James approached NCNR about erosion problems on the creeks and river banks on their farm. The 173-acre Phipps farm has been in the family for four generations. It currently has about 50 beef cattle and produces tobacco and hay. NCNR worked with the Nature Conservancy to obtain funding for the project, and contacted the Natural Resources Conservation Service to help with a fencing plan and additional funding to provide a protective buffer between the cattle grazing areas and the waterways.

The exclusion of cattle from the streams and river is an important aspect of the project. Cattle keep the grass cropped close to the ground and trample shrubs, leaving the streambanks with little or no root systems to hold the soil in place. The result is severe erosion and loss of soil from the farm. Fencing was completed in June. The cattle are now limited to pasture and have access to clean well water at gravity fed troughs.

Work has been completed to stabilize the banks of the New River at the mouth of Potato Creek as well as two additional un-named tributaries and associated wetlands on the property so that they will remain healthy throughout rain and flood events.

Notice the before and after photos of the stream banks on one of the unnamed tributaries that flow into the New River. Sections of the banks which were eroding have been sloped back, and structures installed to stabilize the bank and direct the flow of water away from the bank, especially in times of heavy rain and flooding.

Native trees, shrubs and grasses, whose root systems are vital to holding the soil in place, have been planted on the newly sloped banks and on any bank lacking shrubs and trees. This vegetation (the riparian buffer) serves not only to protect the land but will filter and slow rain runoff, shade the river so that the water is cool for fish, and provide shelter and protection for birds and other wildlife.

The Phipps farm has been protected by a voluntary conservation easement for many years. This conservation easement allows the land to be farmed and even sold throughout the future, but forever protects important resources on the property by restricting uses like subdivision and excessive development. NCNR worked with the Phipps to strengthen the riparian buffer rules in the old conservation easement, to ensure that future generations will also protect the streambanks.

The Phipps family’s dedication to this farmland and to the health and stability of the streams serves as an inspiration and an example to all who love the beautiful rolling hills of southwestern Virginia. Their partnership with the Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the USDA Farm Service Agency,and NCNR is allowing the vision to become a reality. To date, NCNR has stabilized and restored habitat on over 80 miles of the New River and its tributaries; including the installation of multiple rock veins, as shown in this photo, to help divert water away from the riverbank and prevent future erosion.

For more information on conservation easements and streambank stabilization efforts, please contact NCNR at info@ncnr.org or call toll free 866-481-6267.

Your donation today will help continue to retore stream and river banks throughout the watershed, please give now.


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