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Watershed Council views flood control structures from 1936
Coon Creek Community
CCCWC_070622_Group eats and meets
IT WAS LIVELY in the barn on Al Seelow's farm while members of the Coon Creek Community and Bad Axe River watershed councils held a brief meeting and enjoyed chicken salad sandwiches from Legacy Bar & Grill in Coon Valley.

COON CREEK - About 30 members of the Coon Creek Community (CCCWC) and Bad Axe River watershed councils gathered at the farm of Organic Valley producer Al Seelow in rural Chaseburg on Wednesday, July 6. The group conducted a brief business meeting, ate delicious chicken salad sandwiches from Legacy Bar & Grill of Coon Valley, and toured a series of flood control structures built on the farm in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

CCCWC_070622_wojahn stands on Flume
BEN WOJAHN, Vernon County Conservationist, is seen standing on the flume structure that drains water from the terraced hillside, and funnels it into the series of drop boxes leading down to the dam.

The structures are actually located on two farms – Al Seelow’s and the neighboring Jorgenson farm. On Seelow’s farm is a series of terraces, one of which drains through a flume structure set into the side of a ravine draining the hillside. In that ravine are a series of drop boxes, which serve to funnel and slow down water as it leaves the hillside. At the bottom of the hill, at the top of a cavernous ravine, is a small flood control dam with a farm pond behind it.

CCCWC_070622_Orlan and Tucker look up at drop boxes
FARMER MEMBERS Orlan Bakkum (left) and Tucker Gretebek (right) stand below the top several of the series of drop boxes that funnel water from the hillsides down to the dam.

The dam has an approximately 20-foot tall, six-foot-by-six-foot intake tower on the backside. When the area in which the farm pond is located fills up with water, as it did in 2018, then water is slowed and impounded, and released downstream slowly. The tower leads to a concrete tunnel under the dam, built of concrete, which is also approximately six-foot-by-six-foot, and about 40-feet in length.

CCCWC_070622_Al Seelow by dam intake tower
FARMER AL SEELOW is seen standing next to the intake tower for the dam, with its beautiful lichened patina betraying the age and timeless functionality of the structure.

All of the structures were built in 1936, and remain as functional today as the day they were built. They work hand-in-hand with the terraces that were built by the CCC and have been maintained, along with the strip cropping practiced on Seelow’s farm. 

Seelow and Jorgenson have been working together in recent years to perform maintenance of the structures, which had become overgrown. The two have cleared woody debris from the system of drop boxes, and conducted maintenance of the dam structure as well.

CCCWC_070622_impoundment behind dam
THE FARM POND or 'impoundment' behind the dam holds water, and is designed to slow flood waters and release them slowly downstream. According to the farmers, the area in which the farm pond is located was full up to a very high mark on the tree standing next to the pond.

At the dam site, both the dam itself, as well as the farm pond have required maintenance since the 2018 flooding event. Trees were removed from the dam itself, and several sink holes under the pond were filled in so it would once again hold water.

The farmers present were very impressed, indeed almost awestruck, with the strength, endurance and continuing functionality of the almost-100-year-old structures. One farmer was heard to comment that if today’s structures were built like those, we’d have a lot fewer problems with our infrastructure.

In other business

In other business, the group:

• heard from CCCWC president Nancy Wedwick  about a Joint watershed meeting of Bad Axe/Tainter Creek/CCCWC will be scheduled for September, an August 16 joint watershed meeting of Finance & Events subcommittees for grant funding discussions/idea share, and Watershed Leadership classes, scheduled for Aug. 9, 11 & 17

• heard from Jim Munsch about the upcoming CCCWC meeting and pasture walk coming up at his farm on August 3, where he will focus on managed grazing for benefiting a watershed and managed grazing for benefiting a farmer

• heard from secretary Maggie Traastad that CCCWC has received IRS approval as a non-profit corporation

• heard from Geoff Lenser and Ashley Olson of the promotions and outreach committee that there were some communication issues with the individual they were working with to develop a logo and they have contacted someone else, and that CCCWC’s Facebook and Instagram pages are both set up

• heard that upcoming events, in addition to the next meeting at Jim Munsch’s, will include a one-year anniversary party tentatively scheduled for September 7, an October 5 meeting at Tucker Gretebeck’s farm, and an October 13 pasture walk at Ron Leum’s farm during the day

 • agreed to move forward with Greener Pastures on oral stories and asking them to do a social science-based study for the Coon Creek Watershed on attitudes, beliefs, behaviors about conservation practices in this watershed

• agreed to co-sponsor with Grasslands 2.0 a mini science conference to learn about present studies in the watershed, and involving local high school students

• heard about the Thriving Earth Exchange project, and being the site for a demonstration project for water infiltration.