Several years ago in front of our place the county brought in some heavy equipment to clean the ditches that run alongside the road. They brought in backhoes, dump trucks and a grader. Being a man I just watched them – not thinking too much about it because I had to go to work shortly.
A few days later as I was mowing the lawn (we were renting at the time and that was part of the agreement – personally I don’t want a lawn) in the waning light of evening it struck me that what they do to maintain these roadside ditches is really environmentally unsound.
There had been some grass growing alongside the road and a little bit in the ditch. When they were done there wasn’t any grass along the road and no vegetation in the ditch. Now, anyone who has looked at a stream knows that water coursing down hill likes to find the path of least resistance. The less resistance that faster it can flow and the more soil it will carry with it.
This whole thing came to mind partially from a show we watched on PBS entitled “Mystery of the Megaflood” and in it they talked about how water works to carve out dirt and rock. It was really interesting.
The ground here is very high in clay – ok, all clay – which makes runoff, especially in areas not covered with vegetation, as clay is very slow to absorb water and cannot hold all that much. So, vegetation is all the more important to hold back the water and prevent erosion.
They removed all the vegetation that would have slowed the flow of water reducing the rate of erosion and it will be several years before there are enough plants to reduce the runoff. They have done this before as there is a fire hydrant there which was set into a block of concrete and you can see that the bottom of the concrete is beginning to show.
I don’t think that the planners have taken into consideration that roadside ditches like these that are void of growing plant material will erode the road base and destroy the integrity of the road. Which between the annual scraping and future road repairs is more costly than a couple of people picking up the refuse and using weed whips every 3-4 weeks.