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by Dale Finseth
Last week, I introduced to you a couple of landowners, Lush Lawn Lenny and Unruly Ursula. They have very different attitudes about how to care for their property. This week I'd like you to meet a "Dudley Do-right" of conservation, Soil Health Sherman. He works with landowners and property managers around the lakes to help them keep rain runoff and stormwater from eroding the soil and depositing erosion and phosphorus into the streams and ponds.
We've discussed stormwater runoff before. "Stormwater" is just that: the rainfall or melting snow that then runs across the landscape in liquid form. Soil Health Sherman has some great advice for people living around the lakes and streams. Sherman can be a bit of a "know it all," but he tries to focus on the basics: The ditch next to your driveway will have a lot of water in it during and soon after a rainstorm. The culvert beneath your driveway will run full. While that stormwater flow is just nature doing what nature does, nature sometimes does more than usual. We need to prepare for those cases. Sherman can help!
Sherman will provide advice on how to manage that stormwater. In some cases he can even help his crew of workers to help construct, or reconstruct waterways and runoff corridors. He helped Unruly Ursula to design gravel "filtration steps" so she could get to the water's edge without creating an eroded pathway. And then he helped her install rain barrels and rain gardens to collect runoff from her roof and parking area. They slowed it down and allowed it to seep into the ground rather than run across her property to the water.
Unfortunately Lush Lawn Lenny didn't take the same advice. During a recent heavy rainstorm he lost "control" of the stormwater runoff. One inch of rain on a single square foot of pavement, sidewalk, or roof equals 0.6234 gallons of water. During that big rainstorm recently, Lush Lawn Larry's property flooded from his house, driveway, parking and lawn areas. Those impervious areas channel to the lowest point and cascaded into the lake from a concentrated runoff area. An impervious surface doesn't soak up the rain but carries it off to another location. For every inch of rain that falls on those surfaces, your property needs to deal with tens of thousands of gallons of water. Depending upon how your structures are designed, that concentration of water can do a lot of damage. Now consider your property. How much impervious surface do you have? And how is the runoff managed?
What can a property owner do in order to mitigate the damage? Soil Health Sherman had helped Unruly Ursula plan for it! The stormwater was directed into vegetated areas or rain gardens. She'd installed filtration steps. The water from her parking sheeted off the edges and into areas that did not erode the soils.
Take the opportunity now to use some of those best management practices. Sherman, or someone like him can help you focus on how to manage your yard and property. Control the water runoff. Look for places that have been damaged in past storms. It will happen again unless you do something.
A good buffer planting, if well established, does a good job of intercepting water runoff and filtering it before it gets to the lake. The objective is to filter it so it doesn't concentrate and transport soil, chemicals, or other toxics into the water. Remember, there is a lot to do in order to protect water quality.
Conservation Too columns are written by staff at by the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District in Augusta. For more information about the district and its projects, call Dale Finseth at