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Bank Assets Eroding in NJ

October 5th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Stream Bank erosion destroys land, soil, water quality, fisheries, and community assets

unnamed tributary, Ringoes, NJ

With all the recent focus on the Wall Street “financial crisis”, I thought I’d illustrate erosion of real assets. These assets took hundreds of years to build and provide billions of dollars in annual benefits and avoided costs. These real erosion problems are caused by increasing volumes and velocity of stormwater runoff, not Wall Street bandits.

storm water outfall below Rt. 202 erodes hillside (tributary of Alexauxen Creek, West Amwell)

The narrow and shortsighted obsession surrounding this “financial crisis” reminds me of the wisdom of Wendell Berry, one of my favorite writers on land use and right livelihood:
“We are involved now in a profound failure of imagination. Most of us cannot imagine the wheat beyond the bread, or the farmer beyond the wheat, or the farm beyond the farmer, or the history beyond the farm. Most people cannot imagine the forest and the forest economy that produced their houses and furniture and paper; or the landscapes, the streams and the weather that fill their pitchers and bathtubs and swimming pools with water. Most people appear to assume that when they have paid their money for these things they have entirely met their obligations.”
One way we could describe the task ahead of us is by saying that we need to enlarge the consciousness and the conscience of the economy. Our economy needs to know — and care — what it is doing. This is revolutionary, of course, if you have a taste for revolution, but it is also a matter of common sense.”
Essay: “In Distrust of Movements
Trees and vegetative cover along stream banks help intercept rainfall, thus reducing the amount and speed of stormwater as they filter pollutants that eventually flow to streams.
This is what a healthy stream looks like:

headwaters of Stony Brook. Hopewell
Portion of Stony Brook, Hopewell

But as developers destroy forests and pave over natural landscapes, rainfall has nowhere to go. When rainfall hits rooftops, roads, and parking lots, it warms up and picks up various pollutants. Huge volumes of water are created that rapidly overwhelm streams, causing erosion, sedimentation, flooding, and water quality problems, especially for sensitive species like trout and small invertebrates that are essential to healthy ecosystems. These problems impose hundreds of millions of dollars of costs on local governments, flooded out homeowners, and water purveyors for additional drinking water treatment. Take a look at the damage – photos all shot downstream of roads or new development – Alexauxen Creek (West Amwell), Jacobs Creek (Hopewell), and Stony Brook (Hopewell):

Alexauxen Creek, West Amwell
Jacobs Creek, Hopewell
Jacobs Creek, Hopewell
Jacobs Creek, Hopewell
Jacobs Creek, Hopewell
Stony Brook, Hopewell
stormwater outfall below Rt. 202 in West Amwell erodes hillside (tributary to Alexauxen Creek)
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