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The Weigandt Story: Little Fancy Creek’s Big Make-Over
The Weigandts learned, if you lead steers to water, they’ll drink. David and Susan Weigandt, Richland County landowners, annually pasture 20-30 head of black angus. “When we first started, the steers were all over the creek, in and out, up and down. The water was muddy and the banks eroded,” David says.
David recalls a friendly jab from a downstream neighbor about “the topsoil we keep sending him.” And, Weigandts couldn’t send blame upstream. They owned the headwaters – the spring and valley drainage keeping “Little Fancy Creek” (a tributary of Fancy Creek) flowing year-round.
They took the bull by the horns and called the Richland County Land Conservation Department (LCD).
“It was bad. The cattle were in the spring head and knee-deep in mud, “ recalls Ken Anderson, Land and Water Technician with the LCD.
David is quick with praise, “Ken gets a lot of credit for helping us correct the problem. Our water quality improved dramatically.”
Ken recommended two projects designed to control access to the creek. First, the creek was fenced off to limit the steers’ access to the creek, especially where banks were most susceptible to collapse.
Second, cattle ramps were installed to maintain the creek as a water source. The ramps allow drinking, but prevent cattle from standing in the creek. Fenced in on the sides and end, cattle walk down the ramp, get a drink, turn around and walk back up the ramp. The ramps are constructed of stone and very durable. “That was fifteen years ago and they are holding up great,” says Ken.
Early success (and cost-share programs through the county) led to more projects. Over the years the Wiegandts have completed four additional projects including making a stream crossing (constructed the same as a ramp, but allowing for crossing); stabilizing stream banks with large rock-lined banks (rip-rap) to protect erosion-prone areas; creating a rock chute — a gully armored with large rock; and constructing a cattle lane, a fence to prevent cattle from walking straight up and down hills and forming gullies.
All this has made David’s excitement hard to hide. “[Our stream] is now as clean as a mountain stream.”