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Erosion battle, ‘legacy’ project

Buffalo Creek has been temporarily diverted from the steep hill behind Charlie C1 / 3
Buffalo Creek flows under South Sixth Street in Brainerd and emerges from a culv2 / 3
A crew worked on an embankment to keep further erosion from occurring along Buff3 / 3

It’s a project two years in the making.

After Charlie Cooper’s back yard seemed to disappear overnight in 2009, people were left wondering what to do about the erosion on Buffalo Creek.

Buffalo Creek runs under a busy South Sixth Street in Brainerd, shooting out of a culvert and taking a sharp right turn behind Cooper’s house. It’s the severe angle of that turn, combined with the force of the water from runoff and the area’s sandy soil that has caused the decline. The creek runs past a number of other houses and drains into the Mississippi River.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years now and all of a sudden my back yard is gone,” said Cooper, 87. “It just collapsed.” 

Since it was nobody’s direct fault or responsibility and considered an act of God by the insurance company, Cooper took on the project of preserving the creek along with the help of the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District.  

“It’s nobody’s job — that’s the problem,” said Beth Hippert, a technician at the Crow Wing SWCD who is closely involved with the project. “Charlie didn’t have to do anything either. Long-term benefits aren’t just for Charlie, it’s for everyone. It’s huge what he’s doing. It’s a legacy. He’s doing it because it’s the right thing to do,”  

The work is being funded in part by a cost-share grant through the Board of Water and Soil Resources. Cooper estimates $47,000 is being spent on the project and about $20,000 of it is his own money. But he’s thinking of the future — he intends to leave the house to his son.

“I want him to get it in pretty good condition when the time comes,” Cooper said.

Wiljo Tuomi II Construction and Rardin Construction have been working on the embankment, even diverting the creek while work is being done. Twenty-seven Terramesh baskets filled with rock were installed to keep the base of the bank from being undermined and 1,600 soil-filled bags line the upper portion of the bank. The DNR is pitching in with natural materials such as native wild flowers and a variety of grasses and sedges, as well as shrubs and tree seedlings.

For more information on the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District, go to or call 828-6197.

KELLY HUMPHREY may be reached at or 855-5869.