Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Stream stories are still being written

The balance between infrastructure needs and the power of nature is a delicate one.

By Jake Tomlinson

Writing a story is not an easy task for me. I am not a polished writer or blogger. I don’t have any experience posting on various social media platforms. Words do not seem to flow effortlessly to paper.

For me, ideas come in a flurry and go just as quickly, my thoughts changing quickly, like a fall thunderstorm moving into a tight valley.

The flash flood enters with such force and energy that the stream is ripped from its current state and thrown into a torrent of mud, sticks, and stone. Many times, this disturbance causes the stream to find a new path continuing in a state of flux until once more it reaches its balance with the landscape it traverses.

Many challenges affecting our waterways are not as natural as a fall storm dislodging a log, which has been in place for several hundreds of years, then releasing countless tons of sediment. Many are caused by us, in efforts we make while attempting to improve our lives.

Our roads, homes, and infrastructure have contributed the torrent, and we have effectively decided for the stream how it will flow and react.

As the occurrence of flooding increases and our infrastructure continues to expand, the consequences of our actions become more apparent. The stream has a way to find equilibrium, regardless of the constraints we place onto it.

Undersized culverts not only disconnect stream habitat, they can contribute to infrastructure damage when unable to pass flood waters.

As we focus our efforts on enhancing and restoring these ecosystems, I am reminded of my story once more. Perhaps the reason I cannot seem to finish it is because we have not yet finished altering its path.

The good work being done by Trout Unlimited, its partners, and volunteers across the country is only the beginning, and now more than ever we need to understand and address the sources of our issues.

Jake Tomlinson is Trout Unlimited’s Pennsylvania Coldwater Habitate Restoration Program manager. He is based in Lock Haven, Pa.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.