Paper No. 291-21
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
IMPACT OF A MEANDERING RIVER ON PROPERTY SIZE AND OWNERSHIP, LITTLE WABASH RIVER, SOUTH CENTRAL ILLINOIS, USA
Meandering rivers, often portrayed as lazy, idyllic bodies of restful peace, are actually quite dynamic, constantly shifting their channel pathways in just mere years’ worth of time. Through processes of erosion, flooding, neck and chute cutoffs and avulsion, these rivers migrate laterally tens to hundreds of feet during the course of their existence. Humans have long used river valleys as areas of settlement and farming, as the rich soil deposited in the floodplain adjacent to the river channel is quite fertile and conducive to raising crops. The Midwest of the continental United States is no different, with myriad streams crossing the landscape and home to a huge agriculture industry. Dominant crops are corn and soybean, although the land is used for other agricultural purposes as well. The agricultural industry in Illinois is quite lucrative; the average annual revenue generated from just the corn and soybean crops is $9.7 billion and $5.3 billion, respectively (average of crops ’09 – ’14). Obviously, then, the land is extremely valuable. Many of the land parcel edges were originally delimited by where they meet the river banks. Because rivers meander, the property lines could have been altered since the parcels were first defined. Areas in Effingham, Clay and Coles Counties were examined to what has been the impact on the owners on either side of the channel. Initial research compared aerial photos from 1938 and 2008 Quickbird satellite imagery and ArcGIS datasets to determine how much acreage has been affected. To date, 19 different areas have been identified as having a significant change in size. A significant change has been arbitrarily set at 2 or more acres, chosen because the average farm in Illinois is 10 acres and a loss/gain of 2+ acres would have a large impact. This study investigates the history of ownership on these parcels and the ramifications of changes made by the river’s work on the banks bordering the land.