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May 11, 2014

ANDERSON: Where did the soil go?

FLOYD COUNTY — In the last couple of weeks, I have received several inquiries about sinkholes and under-cutting of creeks. These are both natural occurrences, and can happen more frequently and quickly when frequent heavy rainfall occurs.

When a sinkhole occurs, it is because the soil that was separating the grass layer and an underground waterway collapses. It is not a good idea to fill these holes in, as they are natural waterways.

Many people try to fill sinkholes in with soil or other large items like broken concrete or old tires. People do this so that they won’t accidentally step in the hole, or that an animal will not get injured in it.

This isn’t a good idea because it can cause other water flow problems, not just for you but for your neighbors as well. The best thing that you can do if the hole is in the middle of your property or a highly trafficked area is to put a fence around it. You can also plant grasses around the hole to slow down the water flow and hopefully keep the hole from expanding.

When it comes to creeks or the fluvial process of a creek, there is a natural process in which these water bodies will meander and move throughout the fluvial plain. Creek undercutting is a natural process of a creek or other flowing bodies of water.

We now are understanding more about fluvial plains and the fluvial erosion hazard that are contained in these floodplains. The U.S. Geological Survey along with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs recently published a report on the scientific investigations of Regional Bankfull-Channel Dimensions of Non-Urban Wadeable Streams in Indiana. The study shows that this is an ongoing process of streams to collect and deposit sediment all along the channel — taking stream banks from one area and depositing them in another area of the creek.

Creeks and streams vary in size and so do their fluvial plain. You may live in a fluvial plain and not even realize it. Creating larger riparian zones and stream bank buffers would decrease the amount of structures in the hazard zone. Trees and natural vegetation, such as native grass and willow whips, will help slow the fluvial process down, but with that there will be times that nature will take those and move them into streams and channels. Nature in the end will win out and create an equilibrium between erosion and stability. If you have more questions about fluvial erosion and creek bank undercutting, feel free to contact the offices listed below.  

• Floyd County Storm Water Department: 812-949-5446

• Floyd County Soil and Water Conservation District: 812-945-9936

Special thanks goes to Chris Moore of the Floyd County Storm Water Department) for helping with this column.

— For additional information about agriculture and landscaping/mulch, please contact Gina Anderson, ANR/ECD Extension Educator at the Floyd County Extension Office, 812-948-5470, or email Gina at

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