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hugelkultur on river bank edge?

 
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Hi,
I live in the southwest of Ireland on a one acre small holding and it has been a very wet year. For the first time in its hundred + year history, my cottage flooded badly, in large part due to a new bridge on a private lane that my neighbours erected over a stream that runs around our properties. The bridge is made of 3 small culverts that clog quickly during a storm resulting in the water damming up and floods my garden, washing away raised beds, destroying many hours of labour and harvests and this year,  causing massive damage to my house. The neighbours have been incredibly unresponsive and unwilling to take steps to solve the issue. Nowhere else along the river (including beside other, better built/maintained bridges) does the land flood. I am considering legal action but would rather not have to resort to this, so am looking for creative solutions to avoid this. I think raising the height of the river bank on my side of the land would force the water over their bridge rather than onto my land. I was thinking that putting a long hugelkultur bed along the length of the bank, about 1.5 meters high, might do the job. I would probably not bother with trying to grow edible crops on it as there is not a huge amount of sun and it is a very wet area, so would probably plant it up with willow to bind it to the bank and potentially use as material for basket weaving or similar projects. However I am concerned that in heavy rain the hugelkultur bed might simply wash into the river and immediately clog the bridge, exactly what I want to avoid. This would be my first attempt at hugelkultur so would love any advice or insight into this idea, or even any other solutions you might come up with. Rainy season is now through to spring, is it ok to put the mounds in during rainy season or will that make them more likely to collapse? Thanks in advance for your help!
Cheers,
Caitlin
 
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Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
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hugelkultur dog duck
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I am sorry to hear about your plight. As much as I hate these two aspects of civilization, it sounds like insurance and legal action may be your best recourse. If possible, I’d have your homeowners insurance go after the neighbors, who I think would deserve more leniency if they did not blow you off after recklessly destroying your property.. I have had neighbors exacerbating flooding before by logging and regrading, but nothing like that. There’s westerns about this kind of neighbor problem. The least they could do is build a proper bridge/culvert, and I imagine you locality has laws and regulations about that type of thing to prevent the aforementioned western film scenario with standoffs and all. I am not a fan of violence, even less than insurance and lawyers, but in your situation I think it’s only natural to imagine using  it!

I love hugels, but would strongly advise against using hugelkulture for that, as your post indicated what I think would happen. Hugels are not good dams at all, and need to allow excess  water to flow off or they can float, especially in the first wet season before they get waterlogged and rooted in by plants and fungi. I recommend Bill Zeedyk’s videos about riparian restoration, though his rocky Mtn context may need some adapting for Ireland. Some one rock dams, willow weirs, and other techniques up stream might help reduce the culvert clogging most years, but ultimately that fatal mistake  has to change. We have poorly designed and undersized  culverts all over the NW US built by logging companies that planned to exploit the lands resources and get out, and now the taxpayers are paying for fixing their mess. I wish I could help more, or at least yell at your neighbor for you!
 
Caitlin McGinn
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Thanks Ben for your sympathetic reply and good info about the hugelkultur beds, I suppose I'll have to ditch that idea and will look into the Bill Zeedyk videos. Very helpful, thanks again!
 
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I have very little practical experience but from what I’ve read, a hugulkultur bed would be the wrong move. All that moving water could dam up behind the mound as you intend, only to have a catastrophic failure that could send hundreds or thousands of gallons rushing violently towards your house. Your best bet would be proper swales and dams, redirect that water flow safely to where it needs to be. Divert it around the bridge, and back into the river where it needs to be. Also, sue your neighbor lol.
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