Crews Work to Save Century-Old Cabin, Preserve Brule River

By KBJR News 1

September 10, 2013 Updated Sep 10, 2013 at 11:24 AM CDT

Brule, WI (NNCNOW.com) - There are seemingly endless reasons why the spring fed Brule River attracts everyone from locals to past Presidents.

Jonathan Thralow is one of those attracted to a pristine plot of land along an upper bank of the river by Highway 2.

But the land came with a century–old cabin with problems.

"It was an obligation; something that we needed to do just to give back to the river, which has been an amazing place to be," said Thralow, standing inside one of his property cabins along the Brule River.

The cabin, which Thralow and his family have renovated in the name of preservation, runs the very real risk of sliding into the river below.
It's due to decades of erosion on the sandy/clay hillside on which the cabin was built.

"I had nightmares about sleeping there, a storm would come, and I'd have to rescue our kids from the cabin as it slides down [into] the river," said Thralow.

Previous owners had tried to save the sliding cabin by shoring up the hillside with everything from sheet metal, to metal posts embedded in the embankment. But now it's those measures that pose safety hazards to Thralow's family, and to the Brule.

"As the erosion continues, these metal posts have ended up in the river itself," added Thralow.

But Thralow says saving the cabin is only part of the goal. He says preserving the natural beauty, habitat, and history of the river is paramount.

In the latest effort to shore up the river bank crews from Lake Effect Construction are rebuilding the embankment with similar stone used by the Conservation Corps in the 1930's.

It's a move that Douglas County Land Conservation Department Engineer Cameron Bertsch says isn't typically preferred.

"But this is a situation where we're on an outside bend of a river that can get some pretty good forces built up during flood flows," said Bertsch.

After the rock is inlaid, crews will transfer to a geo–grid vegetated retaining wall, which will use native plants and soil to solidify the hillside.

But it's a race against time, says Bertsch, since, come September 15th, all in–stream work needs to be completed in an order to keep sediment from covering the river's precious trout spawning beds.

"We're trying to avoid getting any sediment in the river as we work; some of it's unavoidable," said Bertsch.

Thralow says this project has been years in the making, and has required approval from the D–N–R, Land Conservation and fisheries officials as well as neighbors.

-Billy Wagness

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