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Protecting Water Wells

March 15, 2012, 10:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

Protecting Water Wells
VERMILLION, SD -

The record floods on the Missouri River last year are long gone, but the damage the high water left behind is still very evident. That is why crews are shoring up riverbanks near Vermillion.

It's earth shaking replacing the piece of earth the Missouri River swept away last year.

Record floods eroded a one-mile stretch of river bank; a river bank that was reinforced to protect 11 of Lewis and Clarks' water wells built to help pump millions of gallons of water to several communities in three states. 

"A couple hundred thousand people are going to be relying on this well field and having protection is absolutely critical to the operation," Lewis and Clarks operation manager Jim Auen said.

This process is called revetment, in other words, reinforcing the riverbank with rock, dirt and vegetation.  They're just getting started because it's going to take 20 million pounds of rock to repair what's been damaged.

"As they build up this rock, this slope will become gradual 22 degrees.  They'll cover the rock with soil.  Then they'll put willow plantings in amongst the quartzite rock down into the ground water level, so these willows have a chance to flourish.  Then up slope from the willows, we'll plant dogwood and cottonwoods and native prairie type grasses," Auen said.

Not only making the river bank aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly, doing a job in case the river ever rises again.

The total cost of the project is over $660,000. FEMA is paying for 75 percent of it.

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