By Todd Wels

Triplicate staff writer

SMITH RIVER After two years of planning, the county has begun a project that will re-channel the flow of Rowdy Creek protecting nearby businesses and residences.

Construction began this week on the $340,000 Rowdy Creek Enhancement Project. The project has become necessary because Rowdy Creek is coming down through here and eating this bank in the winter, said Grants Coordinator William Mickey Youngblood Wednesday, at the construction site.

According to Youngblood, five years of record rainfall, beginning in 1994, caused flooding that washed away more than an acre of commercial property near the Rowdy Creek Mobile Home Park.

When that happened, bedrock was washed into the bottom of the creek. That caused the creek to flow faster because bedrock provides less friction than the gravel normally found in the creek bed.

What were hoping to do is re-channel the winter flow to the middle of the stream, Youngblood said.

To do so, the county has employed John N. Peterson Inc. to carry out the project in three phases.

In Phase One, which began Monday, rip-rap boulders are being placed along the west bank of the creek, between its confluence with Domini Creek and the southeastern edge of Rowdy Creek Mobile Home Park.

While this is happening, log structures are being placed in the channel to provide resting pools for fish.

Its a completely new concept, Youngblood said of the structures, noting that this is the first time structures of this nature have been used.

The structures will be anchored in concrete along the shore and held together with cable. They will be shaped into a wedge that the builders hope will slow the creeks flow and channel it inward.

In Phase Two, more boulders will be placed along the east bank of the creek, between White Rose Inn and the McLennan Mobile Home park, with gravel fill between the boulders and the existing creek flow. Another four wooden structures will also be sunk into the channel.

In Phase Three, which is expected to begin in mid-to-late September, boulders will be placed along the creeks west bank between White Rose Inn and McLennan Mobile Home Park.

At the same time Peterson personnel are moving the boulders, California Conservation Corps members will be transplanting vegetation along the bank of the creek.

Without shade on the creek, it will warm the water up 10 to 15 degrees, Youngblood said.

Youngblood said a sandbag dam will be built upstream of the construction zone to prevent contamination by hydraulic fluid and other petrochemicals.

Though he expected some backlash against that decision, he argued that temporarily damming the creek would be better environmentally in the event of a spill.

Construction on the project was originally planned for Aug. 1, but a delay in receiving a necessary permit from the Army Corps of Engineers pushed the project back to Monday.

The countys permits run out Oct. 15, but Youngblood said he is certain construction will be complete by the end of September.

Despite the tons of rock and man-hours involved, the project will not take anything out of the countys general fund.

This project is completely grant funded; no county funds were used at all, Youngblood said. In addition to grant funding by the county, the CCC used a $50,000 grant for its transplanting efforts.

I think it shows how the county can protect its constituents, Youngblood said. I think this is county government at its finest.

County Supervisor Chuck Blackburn, who represents the Rowdy Creek area on the Board of Supervisors was on-site Thursday.

This is really a godsend that we could do this, he said. Its going to save peoples property.