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Natural Resources Conservation Service & South Carolina City Work Together to Save Home from Floodwaters

Through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, NRCS helped tame a major erosion problem and save a West Columbia, S.C. home. NRCS photo.

Through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, NRCS helped tame a major erosion problem and save a West Columbia, S.C. home. NRCS photo.

Heavy rains can cause flooding and erosion, and for homeowners in West Columbia, S.C. – a new cliff right below their bedroom.

Two major rain events last spring and summer transformed Natchez Trail Road into a flowing river, ultimately creating a 35-foot cliff near a home. Sue and Bob Allen turned to the city and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for help.

“This is so exciting,” said Sue Allen, after the project was completed near her home. “Somebody heard our pleas.”

During heavy rains, only a small portion of the water actually re-enters the ground. The rest of the water flows across the surface, often eroding soil.

The Allens received assistance through a federal program designed to help protect lives and property threatened by sudden watershed impairments, and now they are sleeping much easier after an engineering project repaired the erosion on the steep bank.

The Emergency Watershed Protection Program, administered by NRCS, helped repair the area with gabion baskets. These are wire baskets filled with rock that are strategically placed to form retaining walls and provide erosion control. They look like gravel steps going down the hill. This allows water to flow down the hill.

EWP work must be sponsored by a public agency of the state, tribal, county or city government. In this case, it was the city. NRCS provided 75 percent of the funds for the project; the city paid the remaining 25 percent.

“The EWP program was a perfect match for this situation in West Columbia, and because life and property were threatened by the erosion, we not only saved a house, but also helped protect the safety of the homeowners,” said Eric Fleming, NRCS state engineer.

EWP allows NRCS to put its engineering expertise to work in a variety of places – both rural and urban. While the use of the gabion baskets was necessary because of the close proximity of the house, many types of grade control structures are used on farms to similarly prevent erosion.

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