U.S. Water News Online
NATCHITOCHES, La. -- Cane River is the centerpiece of
Louisiana's oldest settlement and keeping that oxbow lake's waters
clean is important to tourism and quality of life.
This town, founded in 1714, has grown up around the 32-mile-long
lake, which was once part of the Red River.
The LSU Agriculture Center has been working on ways to keep Cane
River's water as clear as possible while development occurs along its
While most people associate pollution with a sewage discharge or
industrial plant pipe pouring into a lake or stream, pollution also
comes from rainwater running off the land. That's called nonpoint
And cities contribute about nine times more runoff than wooded
lands, according to Mimi Stoker of the AgCenter's office.
One recent improvement in Cane River is a new fountain that spouts
water high into the air alongside one of the town's two downtown
``We won't want dirty water spewing from it,'' Stoker said. The
community's drinking water comes from another source but the river is
heavily used for fishing and recreation and it needs to remain clean,
``Permeable pavement'' is one idea being used to reduce urban
J.E. Smith and Cecila Dalme restored a 170-year-old home that sits
high on the banks of the Cane River just north of downtown.
Their interest in restoring the house's old looks also turned out
to be an opportunity to do something environmentally responsible as
well, they said.
They installed a driveway of ``permeable pavement.'' It is not the
concrete or asphalt many might think of when hearing the word
``pavement,'' where water can't percolate down into the ground
through those substances.
``Permeable pavement'' can be porous enough to allow rainwater to
soak through while still maintaining a fairly hard surface.
Dalme and Smith chose to put in a driveway and walkways made of
``permeable pavement.'' First, they laid down a layer of sand, then
small gravel and then crushed limestone. All that is contained by
small concrete blocks that look a little like a traditional curb.
Smith said ``our idea was to keep the driveway and walkways as
close to what they were originally as we could. So we believed dirt
or gravel, and bricks, would be more appropriate than concrete.''
The couple bought the house in October 1999. They remodeled the
house and fixed the driveway first.
``The driveway is probably the cheapest thing we did,'' Smith
said. ``We spent about $3,600 on materials and $500 on labor. That's
nothing compared to what we've spent redoing the house.''
Their idea for the driveway came after Dalme saw some houses in
New Orleans with pavement like she wanted.
``We were not really conscious of how environmentally friendly
this was,'' she said. ``It was just something we wanted to do. It's
really nice because we can wash cars or whatever, and the water just
sinks right in.''
Stoker said ``if the driveway and sidewalks were concrete,
rainwater would run off and carry oil, or gas or bug spray'' or other
contaminants that might be on the surface of concrete or asphalt.
Instead, polluted runoff is filtered by flowing through the
surrounding grass or percolates down into the ground.
Stoker said another common variation is to use brick or patterned
concrete blocks with sand filling in the gaps and allowing the water
to drain down.
``In most cases, it is less expensive than concrete and it
certainly doesn't produce as much heat'' in the summertime, Stoker
said. ``It does require some occasional maintenance, like smoothing
out the rocks. But a driveway is not going to have a lot of traffic''
and should not require much work, Stoker said.
Some contractors are using a new type of asphalt that is not as
thick and has gaps that allow water to run through it, but it is
fairly expensive, Stoker said.
A very visible construction site on the banks of the Cane River
that was allowing muddy water to flow into the waterway is also being
used to promote new ideas, Stoker said.
Agents divided the sloping land into four segments and they are
using three different erosion control techniques; one spot is left
alone to demonstrate what happens when nothing is done.
In one set of small gullies that was forming as the water ran off
the higher land, agents put down biodegradable fiber mats made of
In the next set of gullies, mounds of ground-up tires in chip form
have been placed to slow down the water and allow silt to build up
In the third plot, agents dropped heavy composted material --
decomposing leaves and other organic materials.
All three are holding back dirt while the few control gullies
continue to erode. And Cane River is cleaner.
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