aconews Mar. 22, 2006

Conservationists work to protect, preserve creek

While a number of state and local environmental agencies are collaborating on a project to control erosion along Stillhouse Creek, planners hope that before long no one will be able to tell.

“We want it to look as natural as possible, keeping the stream in its natural shape without making it look engineered,” said Orange Soil and Water Conservation's Gail Hughes.

But Hughes admits a great deal of engineering and technology has gone into the project, which runs from Margaret Lane between the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Government Services Center south to the Eno River.

“Why we initially got involved was seeing the severe erosion between the Sheriff's Department and the Government Services Building,” Hughes said. “In time, that would have threatened the buildings and the parking lots.”

To help contain that erosion, caused by swift moving water rushing over banks, engineers are lining parts of the creek bed with rocks, shaping the creek to slow the water flow and adding plants and shrubs to hold the soil in place.

“Everybody thinks this is going to stop the flooding, but it's not,” Hughes said. “This is a flood plain. The river backs up and it floods. The idea is that the banks will be stabilized and it will help control the erosion.”

When completed, three bridges will stretch across the creek.

The project, which could be completed as early as late March, has been the product of a group effort. Orange County, along with the Orange Soil and Water Conservation District, The Natural Resources Conservation Service, the N.C. Division of Soil and Water Conservation and the Environment and Resource Conservation Department and North Carolina's Ecosystem Enhancement Program are working collaboratively to protect the 1,200-foot watershed.

The Ecosystem Enhancement Program is providing total funding for the project and will oversee project management for the first five years. After the initial management period, Orange County will assume maintenance responsibility.

And while so many groups are involved in making this a successful project, Hughes said one neat thing about it is that similar projects can be done on a smaller scale by individual homeowners.

“This is something that people can do on their private property,” she said. “There haven't been any cases cases in Orange County, but in other counties, it's been done, especially on more rural property.”

Anyone with questions about erosion control methods are encouraged to call Orange Soil and Water Conservation's office at 245-2750.

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