Log jam technology restoring flood damaged creeks

Log jam technology restoring flood damaged creeks

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23-Jul-2015

“Engineered log jams” are being used in South East Queensland to stabilise creek banks and protect high value farmland in Warrill Creek following the January 2013 floods. 
 
Pioneered in the US, engineered log jams were first used in Australian 15 years ago with great results in New South Wales, central Queensland and also the Mary River Catchment*. 
 
So what are they and how do they work? 

“Engineered log jams are designed to emulate what we find naturally in streams,” explains Dr Andrew Brooks from the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University. 

“In natural rivers, a series of logs would normally fall into a creek and dig themselves into the bed, causing a jam, hence the name. These logs then accumulate other debris and sediment on top of them and become very resistant over time,” he said.

“All we are doing is emulating that principle, and making sure that they are in the right place to have the maximum benefit for stabilising banks, deflecting the flow away from the banks, and at the same time creating wonderful habitat.”

“The logs are really important from an ecological point of view because they create pools and provide complex habitat that fish and many other critters love”.

Andrew started his career studying the effects of logs in natural river systems and first came up with the idea of designing log jams nearly 15 years with American scientist Dr Tim Abbe.

“We are taking all those basic principles of how they function in nature and using them to design an engineered structure to create a channel stabilisation strategy.”

8-10 m logs are stacked criss-cross to slow and deflect the water flow to protect creek banks and farming land during floods. 

Julie Donaldson at her property with co-owner and friend Gerard.


Logs are keyed deep into the ground so that the surface is only a part of the actual structure, similar to an iceberg.

“We also coincide the building of these structures in conjunction with a major revegetation exercise, planting a series of native trees and shrubs along the creek,” Andrew said. 

“This is also an important step to help stabilise the creek bank as the roots of the plants do a great job in holding the creek banks together.

“What the engineered log jams do though, is to buy some time to enable the trees and shrubs to grow up so that they can take over the stabilising role in the longer term”, said Dr Brooks.

So far 13 log jams have been used for the first time at various locations in South East Queensland coordinated by SEQ Catchments, thanks to funding from the Queensland Government’s Healthy Country Program. 

Julie Donaldson who co-owns a farm close to Tarome in the Fassifern region with her partner and good friends, has recently had four of these log jams installed on their property. 

“I grew up on a Dairy farm in the South Burnett area and I was very keen to come back to the land,” she said.

“It’s a mixed use property with some cattle grazing, crop production of sorghum, mung beans and soya beans, as well as protected areas for revegetation. 

“We’ve had the property for 14 years and when we bought it was quite overgrown with weeds and Lantana.

“So far we’ve planted nearly 20,000 local species plants and it’s great to now see how birds and wildlife are increasing in numbers.

“We’re used to summer floods when the creek rises quickly as we are high up in the catchment. But January 2013 was different with the prolonged amount of rain causing the creek to rise suddenly and take away even old mature trees along the creek. We lost quite a bit of land along the creek banks in several places.

“Initially we were looking for some technical advice to fix up the damage, but then the opportunity came up to be part of this pilot log jam project.

“We hadn’t heard about log jams before, but it sounded so logical and sympathetic to nature’s way of protecting the creek banks. It seemed like a great fit for us.

“So far we’ve had four log jams put in on our property right in the bend of the creek and we hope that they slow down the fast flows and protect this vulnerable spot along the stream.” 

Simon Warner, CEO of SEQ Catchments, says that it is great to see this type of innovative technology protecting farm land and restoring degraded waterways in the region. 

“The log jams are not only enhancing the immediate creek ecosystem by providing habitat for aquatic animals and protecting revegetation efforts, but are also stopping huge amounts of sediment being washed downstream to Moreton bay,” he said.

**For more information about how they were used in the Mary River Catchment please visit: 

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