RA007 | SCOUR: THE TAUM SAUK INCIDENT
RA007 SCOUR addressed the landscape of the Johnson’s Shut Ins State park after a pumped storage reservoir failed, scouring the forested mountain down to bedrock. Participants proposed ecological, hydrological, mineral and architectural interventions in this “post-event” landscape at a range of spatial and temporal scales, engaged in critical discussions on contemporary topics restoration and remediation ecology, and developed an aesthetic approach to intervening in disturbed landscapes. Proposals included a carved stone cascade through the strata of the scour path, the re-use of the landscape of the failed reservoir, and a sculpted terrain along the lower reservoir utilizing debris and soils from the breach to create new walking trails and micro-habitats. RA007 Scour was hosted by the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri.
On the morning of December 14, 2005, the wall of the earthen Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Power Station collapsed, releasing a billion gallons of water down the slopes of Profit Mountain in the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in the Missouri Ozarks. A 600-foot swath of vegetation and soil was stripped from the mountain during the flood, exposing the complex underlying geomorphology. Ameren UE, operator of the reservoir, provided 100 million dollars to restore the park. Projects included excavating new river meanders, vacuuming silt and debris from a forested calciferous fen, rebuilding campgrounds, creating a new interpretive center, removing debris from the iconic Shut-Ins swimming area, and draining and clearing silt from the lower power station reservoir.
Provocation: The space and time of disturbance
Disturbance, as defined by ecologists, is an event or process that disrupts relationships within ecological systems. Ecologist Stewart Pickett defines disturbance as a discrete event in time that disrupts community structure though killing, displacements, or damaging of individuals. Disturbances have spatial and formal properties, such as the path of a mower or the voids of the quarry. Disturbances operate at many temporal scales, from the instantaneous to the generational.
At the scour, the strata of Ozark geomorphology is revealed. It is a place of rarity, a pilgrimage site for geological researchers and students. The contrast between the scour and the adjoining forest reveals the synchronous ruderal ecosystem that is latent within the surrounding landscape. The scour site is hotter and drier than the surrounding forest. Beavers are building dams and changing the hydrology of the drainage within the scour, creating pools and wetlands. Sycamores, cat tails and willows are recolonizing the riparian zone, adding biomass and creating shade.
Participants were asked to trouble the concept of ecological restoration (fixing) as the solution to anthropogenic disturbances to create legible site interventions that amplified, muted, or channeled these processes within the idiosyncratic ruderal landscape of the Scour and its artifacts.
Field study program
- Geological tour of scour path and introduction to caliciferous fen ecosystems with Ken McCarty of Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
- Techniques of river meander restoration with Ronald Huffman of AMEC Environment and Infrastructure.
- Ruderal ecology survey.
Participants began by creating an illustrated field guide to the Scour site that included geomorphological history and detailed diagrams of the park and its ecosystems. In small groups they developed post-event master plans for the park. Next, they individually created site works and study models of landscape processes such as inundation, deposition, sedimentation. Final projects applied the process experiments to the specifics of the Scour site and state park.
L. Irene Compadre