8/28/09 Sampson Independent: Behind the Great Coharie Creek local watershed plan


Behind the Great Coharie Creek local watershed plan
by Kent D. Wooten
08.27.09 - 08:09 am
In northern Sampson County, Beaverdam Swamp, Kill Swamp and Seven Mile Swamp join the main body of a creek called Great Coharie, which then flows south through Sampson County. A large portion of Great Coharie Creek is already protected by the State. It offers excellent kayaking and the opportunity to explore extensive waterways and wildlife habitat.

This past spring, the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program, working with local community leaders, began the planning process for a local watershed plan in the upper areas (headwaters) of Great Coharie Creek, which includes the town of Newton Grove.

A watershed is the land area that drains to the creek. When it rains, the water on the land works its way to the creek. Therefore, what happens on the land affects the quality of water in the creek. A watershed plan is a process during which scientists and local community members work together to identify potential water quality and habitat impacts. Management strategies are then developed to help maintain or restore habitat and water quality in the local creeks.

Why is a watershed plan being developed in the upper portions of Sampson County?

In North Carolina, when roads are built or new development is approved and streams or wetlands will be impacted, the developer is required to restore streams or wetlands to mitigate for their impacts. The North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program was created in 2003 to mitigate for the impacts made by the N.C. Department of Transportation. Private developers can also pay into the program in lieu of conducting their own stream or wetland restoration.

In order to best enhance wildlife habitat and water quality, the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program develops watershed plans so that it can identify the best places to invest in stream and wetland restoration. As Sampson and surrounding counties continue to grow, stream and wetland mitigation will be required. The area where a local watershed plan is developed is an area where resources will be focused.

Not only will the local watershed plan help bring resources to the area, it will also assist local planners and decision makers in identifying potential impacts to water quality and habitat; will work with local community members to develop the best and most efficient management strategies; and will provide landowners with conservation funding opportunities. This is a voluntary, non-regulatory, community-based process.

To date, a diverse group of local participants have joined the Local Advisory Team to help set priorities and share information with the community. This group will meet periodically at the Newton Grove Town Hall to review information and provide guidance to the planning team. In order to gain a better understanding of the watershed, water data is being collected and maps are being produced. Within the next year, field teams will assess wetlands and streams to document water resources. As data is gathered over the next year and a half, the Local Advisory Team will work to develop public education meetings and materials to present information to the community.

For more information, contact Kent Wooten at 592-7161 or Michele Drostin, NCEEP Watershed Planner at (919) 715-6817 or visit the website at http://www.nceep.net/services/lwps/Great_coharie/Great_Coharie_Creek_Jan_09.pdf