Boley Creek undergoing natural changes

Published 1:27 am Sunday, September 24, 2006

Local residents have been playing and hunting on Hobolochitto Creek for a long time and they residents have noticed the changes the creek has undergone in the wake of hurricanes.

Long time resident J.B. Hodge still remembers days when lit cow pies were the only deterrent for mosquitoes, the creek had no sandbars, it was a place of refreshment and there were no trees impeding the flow the creek, affectionately known as Boley Creek. These days he takes his grandchildren out to the creek to enjoy some of the things he remembers from his youth, though it is slightly different, Hodge said.

“You look at it now, and you wonder what it’s going to be 30 years from now,” Hodge said. “I’d like to see them have a little of what I have had through the years.”

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Creeks in any county are connected to every aspect of the land in those counties, so they need to be maintained, said Julia Anderson with Pearl River County Planning and Development.

Wayne Alexander has witnessed many changes take place along the creek, such as the appearance, disappearance and reappearance of sand bars. Alexander also said he remembers being worried when he saw the way the paint, creosote and tung oil plants were polluting the creek.

In recent years sections of the creek have suddenly become private property for landowners who live next to the creek, Hodge said. Fences and gates have been set up to keep other people away from long-time fishing holes, Hodge said.

Anderson said she would like to see a remedy to that problem so that awareness of how the creek is changing can be heightened. Part of that problem could be attributed to the landowners fear of liability if people get hurt or drown near their property, she said.

Trees along the banks of the creek have not changed much. Hodge said when he was a kid he remembered magnolias, beech, and long leaf pines along its banks.

Buddy Moody added that he remembers black oaks there as well. Alligators were common in those days but now the creek is too dry for such creatures, Hodge said.

While out fishing, Hodge said he had no trouble finding drinking water.

“I loved creek water back when I was a kid, but it has changed brother,” Hodge said.

County resident Darrin Harris is concerned that if the degradation of the creeks in the county continues, they could be lost.

Dr. Mike Hanley, Fluvial Geomorphologist for Sustainable Watershed Technologies, said he used to swim in the creek as a boy when he would visit his uncle’s cattle farm.

“It looked a lot different back then. It didn’t look as rough as it does now,” Hanley said.

He attributes the current state of the creek to flooding and fast moving water. When the creek floods, the water’s weight increases and causes vertical incision. This deepens the creek bed, removing the valuable silt on the bottom and lowers the water table, Hanley said. A lowered water table makes for less viable grass for raising livestock and leads to bank erosion, which widens the banks and leads to trees falling in the creek, Hanley said.

Creeks and flood plains are essential for providing potable water to their surrounding areas, Hanley said. When water goes into the flood plains and wetlands, water is cleansed as it settles in the ground. The scrubbing process is skipped if the banks are too low and water is moving too fast, Hanley said.

There are two ways to repair the creek, either with reshaping or elevating in certain places or possibly reshaping the channel, Hanley said. The second alternative involves live staking, where trees capable of natural cloning that live along the water ways, such as black willows and river birches, can be spread across the banks. The cloning process involves removing small branches from the trees and planting them along the banks, where they will root and provide places for silt to deposit, Hanley said. It also would be beneficial to reattach the channel to the flood plains, he said.

“They’re just like the kidneys and liver for our bodies,” Hanley said about the wetlands.

Creek degradation is important to control and residents and county officials are concerned about whether the debris left by Katrina should be removed. A future article will address those issues.