Building Check Dams


Building Check Dams   —by Jinny Batterson

Slope wash in downpour

small side yard check dams

small side yard check dams

(Written in the aftermath of a devastating flash flood on Saturday evening, July 30, 2016, that temporarily turned Main Street in Ellicott City, MD into a river.) 

Floods are on my mind these days,
After I watched a Main Street near where I grew up
Wash people and pavement and cars downstream
In a temporary evening torrent.

The morning after, media types and politicians
Praised the bravery and cooperative spirit
Of residents and visitors who banded together,
Limiting loss of life.

Ellicott City started as a mill town,
Built in a steep valley centuries ago,
When we relied on water to run our industries.
I hope its foundations will hold.


Where I live now is steep in lots of ways.
The gradient between the top of our small
Condo community and the bottom of its slopes
Mirrors wider economic and political chasms.

Recently, our local cooperative extension service
Lent us an expert for an hour to tour our area,
To suggest flood-reduction strategies,
Among them check dams.

“Smily faces” facing uphill, made of anchored
Coir logs or variably sized rocks, these mini-dams
Slow water flow and reduce sediment, so less
Of a slope washes away in a storm.

In this sticky, disgruntled season,
I need to practice building all sorts of
Check dams.  Unlike certain pundits and politicos,
I have no sure solutions. Smily faces, though
May help just a little.

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