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story.lead_photo.caption Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista Floodwaters rush past the Lake Bella Vista Dam, just upstream from the streambank restoration project. The heavy rain that northwest Arkansas received late March, as well as other flood events, contribute to erosion of the creek bank.

A project to restore part of the Little Sugar Creek streambank is nearing completion.

Erin Rushing with Northwest Arkansas Trailblazers said this project, performed by Fayetteville-based Watershed Conservation Resource Center and funded by a $250,327 Walton Family Foundation grant, is primarily to protect the Razorback Greenway portion making its way into Bella Vista. The project is expected to be complete by May, he said.

The Trailblazers started looking at this trail extension in 2014, he said, and received a Walton Family Foundation grant to start survey and design work in 2015.

When Trailbuilders came to start installing the trail, he said, they found a streambank that wasn't where it used to be.

"The stream had actually really just cut into that bank about 10 to 15 feet," Rushing said. "It wasn't worth putting it on top of there and jeopardizing that investment that we put in that trail."

The foundation agreed to provide a grant for this streambank restoration project, he said, and the section of trail that sits closest to it will be the last portion built.

The restoration, he said, should also have other benefits, like reducing the gravel deposits near the Mercy Way bridge -- which are largely the result of earth being eroded from the shoreline.

"This should be a long term solution," Rushing said.

Aaron Thomason, staff watershed specialist with the Watershed Conservation Resource Center, has been the lead engineer on the project to restore and harden an approximately 700 foot portion of the bank between Lake Bella Vista and Mercy Way.

The bank had eroded to a point that it was largely vertical, he explained, and before the project started there was a hydrology analysis coupled with an examination of similar streams and their tendencies. This excessive erosion and instability, he said, is not uncommon with urban-adjacent streams.

Workers are taking a multi-pronged approach, he said, and heavy construction is expected to wrap up by next week, with the remaining work expected to be focused on placing plants.

"What we ended up doing is completely rebuilding the bank here," he said.

Full trees were laid down under the earthwork to help give a sturdy base and harden the shoreline's toe, Thomason explained, and a series of terraces, each hosting several native plants -- including trees and other plants -- were formed alongside the shore, up to what's called the bankfull elevation -- a potential high water point that helps to define the shape and order of the stream.

The plant life, he said, will see ongoing care for three to five years until it is stabilized and reestablished. The root networks will help keep the soil stable, he said, and the reestablished plant community is expected to improve the habitat for local wildlife.

In addition, he said, the reduced erosion should improve water quality downstream. When land erodes, he said, the water carries sediment and nutrients downstream.

"The water will be improved downstream from here," Thomason said.

General News on 04/11/2018

Print Headline: Creek Bank Restoration Underway

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