SHERIDAN — A collaborative effort between a private land owner, a local business and government agencies recently led to the restoration of more than 350 feet of river bank along Big Goose Creek.
Bryan Miller, who owns 160-plus acres southwest of Sheridan on Big Goose Road, teamed with Steady Stream Hydrology to repair the river bank that had been damaged by flooding and erosion. Not only did the nearly $100,000 project help restore the natural flow of the creek, it also helped protect a nearby waterline.
According to Sheridan Area Water Supply Joint Powers Board Administrator Dan Coughlin, the 20-inch line was installed in 2008 and brings treated water from the Big Goose Water Treatment Plant to the entire Big Goose Valley, connecting to the main water system near the Sheridan County Airport.
“It, in combination with the Sheridan Water Treatment Plant off of Fort Road, provides water to the entire potable water system which encompasses the Big Goose Valley, City of Sheridan and Little Goose Valley up a portion of Brinton Road south of Big Horn,” Coughlin said. “While the Sheridan Water Treatment Plant can serve most of the system in an emergency, damage to the 20-inch treated waterline would still put customers west of Beckton Road out of water until the damage is fixed.”
Coughlin added the potential damage would be worse if it came during the spring runoff, when it would be nearly impossible to access sections of the pipeline due to high flood water.
“Therefore, any erosion of Big Goose Creek in the vicinity of this main is of great concern,” he said.
Flooding in the area over a two-year period, from 2017-19, eroded the bank as much as 25 feet in depth, according to Miller, undermining the stability of the bank and washing away the root structure of nearby trees.
And, while officials wanted to protect the pipeline, Miller, who purchased the property three years ago, wanted to protect both the creek and his property. So rather than move forward with the initial option of installing a concrete barrier, he contracted with Tina Krueger at Steady Stream Hydrology to come up with a more cost effective and aesthetically pleasing solution.
Instead of the industrial-looking barrier, Krueger said work crews rebuilt the river bank using downed timber, sod, lots of rocks and gravel.
“We pushed the creek to about where it was before,” she said.
Miller said a small island in the creek was removed to lessen the flow of the creek and its natural impact on the bank, thus helping prevent future erosion under most conditions.
“I’m ecstatic,” Miller said of the results of the project. “This is great. … This proved to be a nice little fix.”
While the project was just recently completed, Miller said he’s already noticed signs of grass and other vegetation growing along the river bank. More importantly, he’s seen pheasants and other wildlife return.
“In a few years, it will look completely normal,” he added. “I’m thrilled with it.”
The project even has the blessing of Miller’s brother, Ryan Miller, an avid angler.
Ryan Miller said, by focusing on restoring the natural flow and depth of the creek, along with repairing the bank, he’s hoping the project will also restore fish habitat.
“Everyone is going to benefit,” he said.
Having the project done more to Miller’s liking did come at a cost. Bryan Miller said he ended up kicking in about $10,000, not including about $30,000 in material used in the restoration project.
According to Coughlin, the project was primarily funded through the Sheridan County Conservation District from a National Resource and Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program Project Grant.
With the project now complete, Miller and Krueger said the effort could serve as a model for other property owners to restore sections of river bank to a more natural state.