Head cut repair: stabilizing and reforesting stream banks and bed in St. Croix

Geographic Consulting specializes in reforestation, erosion control and wetland restoration. We recently had the pleasure of helping fix one small piece of St. Croix. A gut (also known as an ephemeral stream) on the east end of St. Croix was eroding severely and soil was washing into the sea, harming the near shore benthic environment around Green Cay. The Horsley Witten Group of Sandwich, Massachusetts managed the project and coordinated funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and several other agencies. St. Croix Environmental Association, VI NRCS and other groups contributed their expertise.

severe erosion was spreading upstream unchecked and harming the near shore environment

Sheer walls and severe erosion in Green Cay gut

This type of erosion is called a head cut. This week in Sacramento California, a headcut formed in an enormous spillway of the Oroville Dam, jeopardizing its integrity and causing large scale evacuations. The headcut in the Green Cay gut resulted in sheer, unstable walls, a widening stream channel and severe soil erosion.


The solution was to regrade the stream banks, stabilize the stream bed with larges stones and revegetate the area. Marco St. Croix constructed the new banks and stream bed. The bed was then lined with large stones to slow the speed of the water and break up its energy. They rocks are also shaped into step pools, where each pool fills with water and then spills into the next.

Stream banks were regraded and then the stream bed was recreated


The stream bed was lined with large stones to dissipate the energy of the water

Anti-erosion fabric made of coconut fibers was installed to mitigate temporary erosion that could result following construction.

The large stones created “step pools” for the water and erosion fabric is ready to install


Native plants were installed by making small cuts in the fabric

Geographic Consulting produced native plants in our tree nursery for the project. We installed native plants on the newly formed slopes by cutting the fabric. The plants will stabilize the bank long after the fabric decomposes. The native plants are adapted to the east end conditions and will provide wildlife habitat as they mature.


The native plants will stabilize the stream banks long after the fabric decomposes

Larger native trees were planted at the top of the banks to ensure additional stabilization.


This project was part of broader watershed restoration for the St. Croix East End Marine Park and was supported by a number of partners including the NOAA Restoration Center and the Coral Reef Conservation Program, USDA-NRCS, VI DPNR, NFWF, Green Cay Farms, LLP, the St. Croix Environmental Association, and the Horsley Witten Group.  The landscaping component of the gut stabilization was funded by NOAA CRCP  DG-133C-12-BA-0056/C-0013

Largeer native trees are planted at the tops of the banks


Olasee Davis2017-02-15 18:18:43

Greetings Brian, Few years ago, I conducted a gut restoration demonstration project at Estate Adventure Nature Trail. I was then, the vice president for RC&D a non-profit organization. we published a fact sheet explaining steps by steps of how to go about stabilizing streambeds with native trees, etc. Topices were "Why protect * Restore V.I. Guts?, What makes up a healthy Gut?, What happens when a stream UN-meanders?, Benefits of buffer riparian zones, Restoring your gut & riparian area, Did you know?, Steps to a healthy gut & riparian area, & More information about gut restoration. I have a box in my office with the factsheet. You are welcome to have some if you are intersting. Keep up the good work Brian. In case you come by my office this week, i will be off island from tomorrow until probably Mrach 17. The name of the factsheet is : Estate Adventure Gut Restoration Demonstration Project. -Olasee

bdaley2017-06-01 15:01:35

Hi Olasee. Yes. I remember that project and I worked on it too. I provided all the plants and did the installation with UVI students and volunteers. Remember? ;-) I will pick up some of those sheets the next time I come by UVI. Thanks

Comments, Questions? Contact Us.