EEL RIVER BANK: Grassroots work to lower stabilization project costs

SOUTH WHITLEY — After a sticker shock of close to $500,000 to stabilize the Eel River bank, South Whitley Town Council members researched ways to cut costs and has found some viable solutions.With erosion running rampant along the riverbank, it is only a matter of time before the Eel River uncovers newly laid wastewater lines. Project engineers advised council members that the erosion could cause pipes to be exposed creating a possible threat to the wastewater lines.But the council received some good news at Tuesday’s meeting when alternatives were suggested to fund the project.More importantly, the council heard how the cost could be lowered to approximately $237,000. With a volunteer approach, labor costs would be diminished saving the town money.Amy Lybarger, with Whitley County Soil and Water Conservation District, is working with the town to coordinate a possible project.“Nothing is a 100 percent for certain, but if it all goes according to plan, we would use about 50 to 60 volunteers to help with stabilizing the bank,” Lybarger said.According to engineering reports and state approved permits, the stabilization procedure would be a bio-engineered system. This is made up of natural products such as rock, wetland plants and live stakes.Installing the live plant material will most likely not happen until fall. In order for the plants to be the most successful, they need to be placed in the ground while they are dormant.The bio-engineered project is nothing new to South Whitley. Thirteen years ago the town completed a similar project farther down the river next to the town’s park.Starkey suggested the council approve a motion to move forward with the project contingent on funding being finalized. The council agreed.A preliminary stabilization solution will begin right away. Engineers with the wastewater project suggested work to begin on the stabilization as soon as March. Lybarger said more than likely rip rap will be laid with some grass seed to at least give some foundation for the bank. However, the real stabilization will come in the fall with the planting project. For a more in-depth look at this story, see the Feb. 18 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition. For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage and find us on facebook.