By: Hughes Simpson, BMP Forester, Texas Forest Service
Q: My family owns some forested property located near the Red River Valley in Lamar County that we use extensively for recreation. The heavy rains that fell this past winter have caused severe erosion to occur on the main road, making it impassable in certain areas. We tried revegetating it with grass, but the seed did not take, probably because the area is heavily shaded by hardwoods. This is the only road that provides access to the backside of the property and we must be able to drive it. What can we do?
A: The sandy soils that are typical of the landscape along the Red River Valley are highly erodible. Combine this with the heavy rains we had this past winter and even the slightest topography, and it is extremely difficult to keep your road from washing. However, the use of certain Best Management Practices can prevent this from occurring.
The first area of concern that needs to be addressed is the shading of the road system. Road systems that are heavily shaded do not receive enough sunlight necessary to dry them after storm events. This can lead to rutting and increased washing, which ultimately limits vehicular access. Harvesting trees along the road bank can ensure drying of the road and will go along way in fixing the erosion problem.
The road will also need to be reconstructed in the areas that have severe erosion in order to make them passable again. During the reconstruction process, it is important to consider installing water control devices. These structures are useful in diverting water off the roadway, reducing the erosion hazard of the site. Rolling dips can be used to accomplish this and at the same time, allow truck traffic on the road. A medium sized dozer should be able to handle this task.
To provide additional protection to your road, it would be a good idea to revegetate it again. This activity will help hold the soil in place, stabilizing it so that future washing will be minimal. Since the hardwood trees are not shading the area anymore, more sunlight can reach the seeds, allowing them to germinate. If necessary, fertilizer can be applied to speed up the process of establishing vegetative cover.
Fixing washed out roads can become quite expensive and time consuming, but is absolutely necessary in order to have good access to your property. It also prevents sedimentation from occurring in nearby streams. Finding a contractor that can perform a turnkey operation (harvest the roadside timber, rework, and revegetate the road) on your property will be more economical.
The Texas Forestry Best Management Practices Bluebook can help you with the recommended specifications of constructing rolling dips (p. 45-46) and seeding (p. 61-65). If you have a question regarding BMPs, please call me at (936) 639-8180.
* This article was published in the July 2002 issue of the Texas Logger