GREENTOWN — The massive pile of logs near Jerome probably started taking shape when the 1998 tornado ripped through eastern Howard County.
By the time contractors started attaching cables to the logs and hauling them out of the logjam with an excavator this winter, the pile of logs stretched about 50 yards, blocking the breadth of the Wildcat Creek.
“It was probably the biggest logjam in the state,” said Bill Young, construction supervisor with Larwill-based CRI Construction.
Forced wide by the logjam, the water eroded both the south and north banks of the Wildcat. This created a cove to the south and tore out part of a hillside to the north. Properties on the northern hillside were threatened.
That’s why big logs — around 30 feet long and 3 feet in diameter — are now sticking out of the creek bank on the southern bank.
The logjam itself has become an experiment in erosion control.
Once stuck in midstream, the logs have become the anchors for a 500-foot long shelf, which will stick out 15 feet into the stream.
And the Wildcat, now freed of the logjam, is running more or less within its banks. The channel the logjam-stoppered stream carved between a sandbar and the north bank is now drying out. Rushing waters are no longer carving out earth. The level of the stream is lower.
According to Young, using the logjam pile to construct an erosion-control shelf is something new to Indiana. The Jerome project, funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation as part of the U.S. 31 Kokomo Corridor project, is kind of an experiment.
“We’re kind of in an experimental stage, and everybody is interested in how [the shelf] will perform,” Young said.
Designed by Indianapolis engineering firm Butler, Fairman & Seufert, the shelf is also supposed to act as a fish habitat, offering aquatic life a place to get shade and a rest from the current’s tug.