As urban areas grow, homeowners along ditches and streams may find major changes in their yards over time.  What was once a small drainageway 20 years ago has deepened and widened into a ditch that flows most of the year.  Along streams, you may find that the stream has moved many feet and may now be threatening structures in your yard.

What can be done?  In most areas of Indianapolis, it is the landowners’ responsibility to maintain drainageways as they cross through their property.  Depending on the size of the watershed, this may become a large financial investment.

First, realize that streams naturally change course over time; meandering, cutting on one side and depositing sediment on the other.  This is nature’s way of slowing the stream down which helps in controlling flooding downstream.  If you are contemplating putting up a storage shed, patio or other structure, take this into consideration and build a good distance away from the streambank.

Determine whether you will need a permit to do erosion control on your property.  Depending on the size of your watershed, you may need a permit from the city, the state or possibly even the Corps of Engineers. Start with the Office of Business and Neighborhood Services to see if you will need permits.

Assess the existing conditions and fix any problems.  This may involve removing dead or dying trees along the stream so they don’t cause more erosion when they fall.  Divert surface drainage away from critical areas.  Remove invasive species with poor root structure and replace them with hardy native plants, well suited to your site, that will provide deep roots and good vegetative cover throughout the year.

NRCS employees planting native plants on a streambank

Provide Protection – Steep slopes are highly erodible.  Where possible, pull banks back to lessen the slope. Provide protection to disturbed areas until new vegetation is well established.  In many areas the lower sections will need hard armoring (such as rock riprap) to withstand the flow of the stream, especially during large storm events when the water level and water velocity rises tremendously.  The size and type of hard armoring may need to be calculated by an engineering professional. Underestimate the force of water and you’ll find much of your erosion control materials far downstream.

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