Gaston Gazette Feb. 13, 2009

State looking to landowners to improve water quality

Michael Barrett

February 13, 2009 - 10:01PM

Landowners within the watersheds of two area creeks are being tapped by the state to help improve water conditions.
A water quality improvement plan is being developed for the Indian Creek and Howard's Creek watersheds, which span Gaston and Lincoln counties before emptying into the South Fork River. Officials want to ensure that water within those areas remains safe for drinking, recreation and other uses.
After documenting problems within the watershed, the state hopes to partner with landowners to make necessary improvements. Such steps might include planting native vegetation along streams, or restricting cattle access to the waterway, said Mike Herrmann, an environmental planner with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
"It's all voluntary," said Herrmann. "We're not going to be dictating what landowners should be doing."
A state-contracted environmental consulting firm is now examining streams in the two watersheds. Officials walking the land are identifying eroding stream banks and other pollution sources, and assessing the quality of habitat for fish and other aquatic life.
Data compiled during the project will help determine what actions are needed to restore the health of the waterways, Herrmann said. The N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program will develop a final restoration plan for the watershed in late 2009.
Indian Creek's watershed comprises about 75 square miles. Nestled within that is the Howard's Creek watershed consisting of about 35 square miles.
Indian Creek was cited as an impaired waterway in 2006, Herrmann said. The stream serves as the primary source of drinking water for Cherryville, while downstream of the city, it mainly supports aquatic biology, he said.
Herrmann said the goal is to ensure water in the studied region will serve its purpose.
"We want people in the area to have the assurance that they can access the water and it will be safe," he said.
You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826.
Do you own land in the Indian Creek or Howard's Creek watersheds? For more information about the state's water quality improvement plan, contact Mike Herrmann with the N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program at 919-715-5458.