Erosion from Columbia stream causing safety concerns

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COLUMBIA - A local stream's rapid erosion is causing safety concerns for some Columbia residents and has got some city employees' talking.

The City of Columbia hosted an open house style meeting with the public Thursday to discuss the Alhambra Stream Bank Stabilization Project.

Engineering Specialist for the City of Columbia, Tom Wellman, said input from homeowners affected is crucial to starting this project.

"We have a fairly lengthy process to go through, especially for this project because it's going to involve some stream study and flood plains study. So we just want to get off to a good start and get input from everybody and then get the project underway," Wellman said. 

He said an earlier government project that decreased flooding in the area, among other factors, may have caused the erosion problem.

"When we did those projects earlier, we tried to set things up so it didn't really increase the velocity of the water. But just increased development, certain weather patterns or sometimes you have a really dry year, and lately that seems like that's been followed by a really wet year, and that would cause more erosion than you think," Wellman said.

One Alhambra Drive resident, Mike Walz, said while he hasn't noticed too much erosion over the years, his neighbors have.

"The issue is really two houses past me where I don't know if the creek turns a little bit or what but there is a lot of erosion in their backyard," Walz said.

Wellman said there are some safety concerns residents of the area should be aware of.

"Sometimes the erosion goes kind of underneath the bank, and and you're not always aware of that," he said. "So you could be standing on ground that is undercut, so particularly in the middle of a big storm if there is water flowing in that channel and you're standing really close to that stream there is always a chance that some of that bank could cave in, and you could be in the water."

Walz said this is a precaution the neighbors have taken.

"I believe they have a young daughter, maybe two or three, but they are afraid to even let her play in the backyard because the trees all the dirt has washed out from under the trees," he said.

Different possible solutions were discussed at the meeting, one of which would use rocks and plants to stabilize the ground to keep it from washing away so quickly.

Wellman said they have an important factor to consider before deciding on the solution.

"It's kinda early to say, but we favor solutions that fix the problem that don't transfer the problem downstream," he said.

The next step of the project will be a public hearing at a city council meeting.