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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Gully/Grade Stabilization

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide


Gully/Grade Stabilization

 

Full-flow block drop spillway made of wood and cabled concrete. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Grade stabilization structure at the outlet of a grassed waterway: Full-flow block drop spillway made of wood and cabled concrete. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Earthen embankment holding water. Photo courtesy Whitewater Watershed Project (MN).
Grade stabilization structure: Earthen embankment holding water. Photo courtesy Whitewater Watershed Project (MN).

Water flowing through a full-flow chute spillway made of cabled concrete. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Grade stabilization structure: Water flowing through a full-flow chute spillway made of cabled concrete. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Recently installed full-flow drop spillway made of metal. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Grade stabilization structure: Recently installed full-flow drop spillway made of metal. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

An example of gully erosion. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
An example of gully erosion. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

A gully or grade stabilization structure is an embankment or spillway built across a drainageway to prevent soil erosion. Grade stabilization structures are especially important in areas of Minnesota where sediment loading from gully erosion is a major water quality concern.

Gullies tend to advance upslope at overfalls (small, concentrated waterfalls) below which turbulent water undercuts the head of the gully—a process called head-cutting. Grade stabilization structures control the way water falls to lower elevations, preventing gullies from forming or advancing.

There are many types of grade stabilization structures. Some are full-flow, allowing water to flow freely over a spillway. Others look like a pond and are designed to detain water behind an embankment. Grade stabilization structures are also used to stabilize erosion-prone sites where a tributary or tile drainage outlet enters a channel such as a ditch from the side; the grade stabilization structure slows the flow of water from the higher elevation of the tributary or side-inlet (where water is entering) to the lower elevation of the channel.

Why install grade stabilization structures on your land?

Environmental benefits

  • Reduces soil erosion by preventing gullies from forming or advancing at field/ravine edges and other overfalls where concentrated water flow causes head-cutting
  • Reduces peak stormwater flows
  • Protects water quality by reducing sediment loading in rivers, streams, ditches, lakes and wetlands
  • Reduced sediment loading protects fish and other aquatic habitat
  • Structures with water storage provide a source of water for wildlife

Practical benefits

  • Prevents productive topsoil from being carried away by gully erosion
  • Prevents gullies from eating away at fields, making them difficult to farm
  • Minimizes expensive gully repairs
  • Prevents siltation of cropland, roadways and other property

Similar & related practices

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More information

Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Other resources

 

Contact

See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District