Scour holes bring trouble, unexpected benefit

A scour hole from the 2011 flood remains along Highway 159, a few minutes from the Missouri River on Sept. 23, 2012. Filling scour holes takes time and money, and many have only been partially filled. Photo by Teresa Avila.

By Teresa Avila

Scour holes look like oddly placed ponds along the side of the road. They stand in half-circles on either side of the road, ringed by muddy sand and scraggly vegetation.

They’re reminders of the 2011 Missouri River flood. Swiftly moving water gouged sand from the ground and deposited it further inland. Atchison County farmer Steve Klute compared it to hose water blasting debris from one point to another.

He estimated that the scour holes averaged 80 feet deep.

Many scour holes still litter the landscape, showing up regularly along the levee.

“Leaving the scour holes is a matter of economics,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative Jud Kneuvean. He explained that roads need to be reestablished, but the rest of the hole is left alone.

An unintended benefit is an improvement in wildlife habitat, Kneuvan said. The scour holes now hold frogs and fish, which in turn attract birds such as migrating pelicans and herons. Raccoon and opossum tracks visibly line the muddy sand on the water’s edge.

The scour holes will remain part of the landscape for decades, Kneuvan said, before they eventually fill up.

— Edited by Cade Cleavelin

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2 responses to “Scour holes bring trouble, unexpected benefit

  1. Pingback: On the Missouri Floodplain « Lucifera Photojournalism

  2. Pingback: Amy Bruer Photography:On the Missouri Floodplain « Maverick-Media

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