Etter Creek is a small tributary stream in the southernmost portion of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Its watershed drains approximately 5,900 acres of Dakota and Goodhue Counties, with water flowing from Etter Creek into the Vermillion River and the Mississippi. This general area of the National River and Recreation Area, known as the "Vermillion River Bottoms", provides important floodplain forest and wetland habitat along the Mississippi River. A portion of the Vermillion River Bottoms is within a state wildlife management area.
In recent years, area residents have grown increasingly concerned about flash flooding and erosion along Etter Creek. After heavy rains the creek rises quickly and has washed away the lower portion of stream bank walls and undercut streambanks and bluffs. The local government, Ravenna Township approached the National Park Service with a request for funding to address a particularly severe erosion problem at one place along the stream and was awarded a $28,000 matching grant for this purpose.
Initial observations helped determine that the erosion was not limited to one section of the creek and could not be attributed to any one cause. It was necessary to evaluate conditions along the entire length of the creek and in the watershed to better understand the problems and identify solutions.
In Spring 2002, staff from the National Park Service's Water Resources Division, in Ft. Collins, Colorado, joined representatives of Ravenna Township, staff from Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area on a visit to the creek and watershed. They met with area residents to learn about the creek and the history of land use in the watershed. They determined that this area is prone to erosion due to removal of vegetative cover throughout the watershed beginning with European settlement. This, along with land use practices that generate erosion, will need to be addressed in order to restore stability of flows in the creek and, in turn, reduce undercutting of the banks and bluffs.
Staffs of the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District are working with Ravenna Township and the National Park Service to develop a Stormwater and Erosion Control Plan for Etter Creek. This plan will evaluate the hydrology and water quality of the Etter Creek watershed and help determine the amount of sediment being introduced into the creek as a result of erosion at one sample problem site along the creek. When the plan is complete, the National Park Service will continue to assist with projects that implement the plan (such as streambank stabilization or habitat restoration) and with monitoring.
For more information or to receive a copy of the draft plan, please contact Laura Jester with the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District at 651-480-7784 or Susan Overson with the National Park Service at 651-293-8436.