It’s hard to oppose something when you don’t have alternatives. So, what other choices do we have to burying Sunset Village Creek—to destroying it? Let’s take a look at the way other small streams have been handled in Madison. Options are listed in approximate order of expense, with lowest first.

Open concrete gutter (or flume). Now you can at least see the water. But the stretch of concrete is an eyesore. Repairs are easy.

Bury it in a big pipe, as first proposed for our Sunset Village Creek. This gives you a grassy space above, and the creek will never “bother” anyone again. Relatively inexpensive. The disadvantages: water in the pipe cannot recharge the groundwater, trees are cut, and the result is straight and unappealing.

Open gutter with riprap. This term means lined with rocks to prevent erosion. Can be built in any size. This oversized GodzillaGulch is just below Glenway Golf Course.

Open gutter with masonry sides and concrete bottom. This example is from Chippewa Creek in Nakoma. It’s pleasant to hear the water rushing.

Open gutter with lining of natural stones. This example from Cherokee Creek in Nakoma looks even more natural, but it’s straight, between the two lanes of the street. This is a good-looking option for streams that are often dry, revealing the bottom.

Natural stream, reinforced with masonry, following the curves of the stream. This is Sunset Village Creek, where it flows naturally over private land between N. Sunset and South Owen drives. The resident on the east side (seen here) reinforced his part of the stream bed with concrete; the resident on the west side just left natural stones. A little maintenance of the concrete is needed each year where cracks develop from root action. No erosion is occurring here.

Natural stream, banks reinforced with boulders. This is the stream just below Thoreau School in Nakoma, after a heavy rain. For larger streams, boulders along the banks are only a temporary fix.

Settling basins. You don’t have to stop all erosion, if there’s a pond downstream to catch the sediment. Likewise, if there’s a basin upstream, there will usually be less destructive flooding downstream. It’s wise to incorporate basins into any storm water or creek restoration project.

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