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MU Extension Center faces severe erosion problems due to Dardenne Creek flooding

Floodwater can be unforgiving.

The St. Charles County’s University of Missouri Extension Center office is battling erosion near its office and grounds at 200 Brown Road in St. Peters – the result of unforgiving floodwater.

University of Missouri Extension Center in St. Charles County

The center’s offices are located in a house that sits on 6.5 acres along Dardenne Creek in St. Peters.  Floods and high water, particularly in recent years, have eroded the banks along the center’s property and along a drainage channel near Brown Road that drains to Dardenne Creek and that the city of St. Peters controls. Now, center officials are worried that, as the property erodes, its public demonstration gardens, classrooms and offices are in danger. The gardens are maintained by about 100 volunteers designated as master gardeners by the center.

The eroded banks can be shored up by lining them with loose stone, known as riprap, to form a breakwater. But that fix won’t be cheap – the bill is expected to be as much as $80,000 or more, according to engineering estimates.

Gardens [in early spring] at the University of Missouri Extension Center in St. Charles County.

The county’s extension council, made up of elected officials and appointed citizens who oversee the center office, owns the property and would get the bill for its repairs.

“We noticed about four or five years ago that it was starting to erode there and it got bigger every year,” said Mary Casey, an extension council member and master gardener. Casey and other center officials are trying find a way to pay for the repairs.

“We’re trying to figure that out. We’re looking at $70,000 to $80,000, so we sent out letters asking for donations,” Casey said. “It’s going to be difficult. We have some savings [but] I don’t know if we can spend all our savings on one thing.”

Emily Barbee, the county extension office program director and a nutrition and education specialist, said flooding along the creek has been severe, particularly in recent years.  Within 24 months, the property experienced major flooding from the creek – once in December 2015 and again in late April and May of 2017. In 2015, flooding reached to within 10 to 15 feet of the center’s front door, covering a parking lot and the grounds.

Earlier this month, Barbee noted that the council had set up an online fundraising campaign, the “Extension Property Erosion Campaign,” on gofundme.com. To date, $100 has been raised.

The center also is working with the city of St. Peters on the issue since it had to do similar work on the drainage channel along Brown Road. Pairing the projects in the same design study might save some funding for both parties down the road, Barbee said.

Bill Malach, manager of water and environmental services for St. Peters, and Barbee said the city and center agreed to hire the same consultant to evaluate how to repair the erosion. The design work for each project was about $4,900. Neither project has been bid out yet, but the estimated combined repairs would cost about $120,500 – the center’s portion would be $82,000 with the city’s portion being about $38,500, Malach said.

Malach said the city and center are paying for the design and construction separately. He said construction and work could begin this fall.

Malach noted that increased flooding along Dardenne Creek may be related to increasing development of the county.  The Dardenne Creek watershed includes an extensive portion of central and western parts of the county where major residential and other development is occurring. More water is flowing into the creek and the current is swift.

“If the creek can’t go lower it will go wider,” he said.

The flood in December 2015 caused widespread damage to the St. Peters Golf Course just along Peruque Creek west of the center property near Hwy. 79.  Dardenne Creek flood waters also can affect the city’s Brown Road Park, which is adjacent to the center property.

“We had what are called 500-year floods back-to-back, you would think it would not happen again for a while,” Barbee said. “But …”

She said consultants and Malach said if the center delays taking action, the repairs may become more extensive and costly over time.

“At the end of the day, we operate on limited funds. We are a not-for-profit educational institution, we don’t have great sums of money for pay for not just a project but a truly important land-saving project.”

Gardens [in early spring] at the University of Missouri Extension Center in St. Charles County.

Gardens [in early spring] at the University of Missouri Extension Center in St. Charles County.

For more than 100 years, extension centers have been best known for working on agriculture issues; however, they also provide a variety of courses and information on nutrition, home economics, and legal and financial issues. Extension staff also help in coordinating and assisting 4-H youth activities and coordinating the master gardeners program. Residents interested in being designated as master gardeners can take an extensive course in gardening; then, work as volunteers and assist local gardeners who have questions.

In the last year, university officials have discussed broadening the extension office’s focus and targeting university resources to specific needs in the community including creating a new community engagement or county engagement specialist position to focus on education, health and healthcare, or economic issues.

Extension center offices receive some financial support from the counties in which they are located. St. Charles County has been providing $100,000 annually for the extension center since 2014, according to Bob Schnur, the county’s finance director. It provided the council with $96,800 in 2013 and $80,000 in 2012. The funding is designated for office expenses.

Barbee said the council doesn’t want to move. “It’s a good location, people know where we are,” she said.

 

 

 

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