U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and City Agree to Restore Goose Creeks
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District and the city of Sheridan held a ceremony today to sign a project partnership agreement to restore approximately four miles of degraded habitat along the Goose Creeks.
The ceremony took place at Sheltered Acres Park on Emerson Street. The agreement, signed by Col. John Hudson, Omaha District Commander, and Sheridan Mayor Roger Miller, marks the transition of the project from the planning phase to the design and construction phase.
The project will involve placement of boulder clusters and riffles as in-stream structures to provide habitat and shelter for fish and other aquatic organisms; restoration of wetland, riparian, and floodplain habitats to increase their abundance, diversity and distribution along the creeks; and modification of the current drop structures near the Lewis Street Bridge to improve fish passage for native cold water fish species.
The plan also includes recreation features like new trails, benches, and educational interpretive signage.
The Sheridan flood control project, constructed in 1963 under the Flood Control Act of 1950, consists of levees, drainage structures, concrete chutes and drop structures, and channel alterations to protect the city from Goose Creek and Little Goose Creek flooding.
The existing project has been highly effective at reducing flood risks for the city as intended, but the instream and adjacent floodplain habitats were significantly altered during its construction and have become severely degraded.
“As you can imagine, back in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Greg Johnson, a planning chief with the corps, “the nation’s objective in terms of natural resources was to harness them for the benefit of the economy.”
That meant projects like hydropower dams and navigation channels which turned a profit and protected property and lives from flood damage. The water development act of 1986 authorized the corps to restore environments that their projects may have degraded.
Johnson said around 2008, when the Corps was updating the floodplain map with the city of Sheridan, there was a realization that the city had a strong interest in trying to revitalize the creeks and streams through town and make them a focal point of a healthy environment and a healthy community.
In 2014, the Sheridan City Council approved an agreement to partner with the Corps on a feasibility study to investigate possible ecosystem restoration solutions along the creeks. The final feasibility report and environmental assessment was approved on November 8, 2018. The project is slated for construction in 2020.
The approved project restores about four miles of stream in the Goose Creek and Little Goose Creek systems.
“The grand vision is to do the whole thing,” Johnson said, “but we’re kind of biting it off in bite-size chunks right now.”
The project is estimated to cost $7.6 million which will be cost shared between the Corpsand the city of Sheridan with the Corps’ share projected at $5.7 million and the city of Sheridan’s share projected at $1.9 million, which will be offset by in-kind work and city-owned land.
Mayor Miller said the creek systems running through Sheridan are one of the community’s greatest assets. He described the cost-sharing aspect as a great opportunity, saying the impact compared to the cost is remarkable.
“It’s really great to get to be a part of this restoration,” Hudson said, “where we’re able to take your Little Goose Creek and Goose Creek and help reconnect the mountain ecosystem that’s such a rich part of the community to the plains ecosystem as the river heads north.”
He said it is important for the Corps to be involved in restoration.
“We came in with a heavy engineering solution to the problem, like the concrete ditch that runs through town and the dramatic stabilization of the bank with these big slabs of concrete. In the process, we disconnected our communities from the ecosystem.”