Corps reveals plans for erosion issues at Tonica cemeteries
TONICA — Bob Folty was never short on suggestions.
Late-night emails would be sent to Anthony Heddlesten, an engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, of different bank stabilization techniques Folty found surfing the web.
“He sent me YouTube videos of stuff I’d never seen before,” Heddlesten said during a recent meeting with the Tonica Cemetery Association.
It’s been more than three years since the association reached out to the Army Corps of Engineers seeking assistance with erosion control issues at Fairview and Brookside cemeteries due to flooding on Bailey Creek.
But now a feasibility report has been completed, which gives the Corps recommendations on how to correct the issue. And the report sized up a lot of different options for the project before recommending stone toe protection.
It also comes with an estimated price tag of about $787,000, and that leaves the cemetery association with a decision.
The Association will have to pick up 35 percent of the project cost if they decide to continue to move forward on the project. The Corps covers the other 65 percent.
But the cemetery association also does not have a spare $275,000 lying around to cover those costs and will likely seek a grant to pay for its portion.
“We’re going to have to decide if we can handle this,” Folty said.
What’s the project entail?
A contractor will place quarried rock at the toe of the stream bank as armor to deflect heavy currents from the bank that is slipping away.
Bailey Creek has two bends that are cutting into cemetery property causing erosion. The cemetery association’s concern was that if the erosion continued, it would eventually encroach on gravesites at both cemeteries.
It will be the cemetery association’s duty to secure easements onto property they do not own so the contractor will have access to the construction site.
What were other options?
Grave relocation: Heddlesten said the Corps considered moving an estimated 130 graves away from the eroding banks, but the more they looked into it, the more the costs and red tape piled up.
Heddlesten said families of the deceased would have to be contacted before graves were moved, and he said due to the age of the cemeteries — especially Brookside — there might not be concrete vaults holding the remains.
“It would be like an archeological dig,” he said. “Nobody wants to move graves if you don’t have to.”
Heddlesten also said the Corps considered building a mausoleum for the relocated graves.
New channel: One suggestion of Folty was to eliminate the bends in the creek where the erosion is occurring by digging a new, straighter channel.
Bioengineering: Heddlesten said one consideration was to implement more vegetation along the banks so the soil would not as easily fall away. Heddlesten said the current in the creek can see a velocity around 9 feet per second, and vegetation begins to wash away when stream velocity reaches about 7 feet per second.
Gabion baskets: Gabion baskets are wire baskets filled with stone that individually might be too small to withstand forces of a stream.
Do nothing: Another option was to simply do nothing and wait and see. Heddlesten said if the area continues to see heavier rains, doing nothing could lead to further damage.
“So much of these kinds of erosion events are driven by a big storm,” he said. “My fear is anything over a 3-inch rain is going to be critical.”
Potential cost savings
Jim Homann, project manager with the Corps, said the estimates are in no way set in stone. He expects the overall costs will be less, especially due to the roughly $114,000 estimation of real estate costs.
“Those costs are — in my opinion — very high,” he said. “I don’t think it will cost you anywhere close to that.”
The cemetery association could also see savings on material costs and construction costs if they look local.
Homann said the project currently projects bringing in stone from a quarry from out of state, which adds a lot of transportation costs into the mix.
He said if the association could find something locally, there would be savings. And the same can be said about a local contractor, who may give the cemetery association a lower bid because they do not have to transport equipment as far.