I have written about Thieme Drive on numerous occasions with my primary concern the construction of an atrocious, 1100-foot long, 10-foot high concrete wall along the river bank at the intersection of West Berry Street, Thieme Drive, and Nelson Street. But Thieme Drive has two issues that involve the St. Marys River – the wall is one of them. The second is the erosion of the river bank at the southwest end of Thieme Drive.
Those who travel Thieme Drive on a regular basis – or live in the area – can’t miss the “Road Closed” signs at each end of the drive. The signs warn of the critical condition of Thieme Drive at its intersection with West Washington Boulevard. The approaching shore stabilization project, which has been let for bids, represents the culmination of years of starts and stops – many of which were impacted by the lack of federal funding.
The Thieme Drive river bank erosion issue begins at the southwest end of Thieme Drive where it intersects with West Washington Boulevard and runs for approximately one block northeast to the intersection of Thieme Drive and West Wayne Street. The river bank has eroded from the natural processes of the river’s flow as it curves like a serpent through Swinney Park, along the southern edge of the Nebraska Neighborhood, and along Thieme Drive.
Rivers – no matter how slow they appear to meander – exhibit a natural process called “cutting” and “depositing.” As a river flows, two forces work on the sides of the river banks. On the inside edge, the river flows at a slower pace and drops – deposits – its load of silt, rock, and any other materials that have been bounced and carried along. On the outside edge, the river flows at a faster pace, carving – cutting – into the outside edge of the bank and carrying away soil and undercutting tree roots.
The process is a natural cycle and, ultimately, over thousands of years, will result in the curves coming so close to each other that a heavy flash flood will bisect the curvature, and an ox-bow lake will be born. The Google Earth image below shows the exaggeration of the river’s curves as well as the area of the river bank stabilization project.
The stabilization project using gabion baskets is a much-needed repair of the river bank. The downside will be the probable destruction of many of the trees along the bank. The equipment necessary to work on the project will no doubt require access which will require removal of the trees. I am hoping that the Corps will take it easy on the existing vegetation, especially the long-standing elms and cottonwoods.
Now as to the other issue – the flooding at my intersection – I will continue to fight against the erection of a concrete wall and the destruction of 1100-feet of river bank. Period.