Forest City Courier Aug 31, 2005

Forest City Daily Courier: EEP focus is on water quality

 

By JOSH HUMPHRIES Daily Courier Staff Writer

FOREST CITY -- The Ecosystem Enhancement Program sponsored public workshop about improving the health of the Cathey's Creek Watershed Tuesday at R-S Central High School.

The purpose of the event was to gather public opinions and inform interested parties of what the entity hopes to achieve with the watershed.

"We try to choose watersheds that need help and pool our resources so we can do a lot of good," said Andrea Leslie, western watershed planner for the EEP.

Leslie said that Cathey's Creek was chosen for several reasons including the fact that it has impaired streams and several road construction projects coming in the near future.

"Every road that is put in may have stream or wetland impacts," Leslie said.

The EEP of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources funded a two-year planning project for Cathey's Creek watershed, which includes the creek and all the land and tributaries that drain to Cathey's Creek.

The entity's focus is on mitigating for future im-pacts to streams and wetlands by the N.C. Department of Transportation and other development projects through watershed planning, local involvement, and project implementation.

Cathey's Creek is considered impaired, or severely degraded, by the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The purpose of the Cathey's Creek watershed planning project was to characterize the health of streams in the watershed and to develop a strategy to address problems. This strategy identifies potential wetland and stream restoration sites and other projects that could improve the health of Cathey's Creek and its tributaries.

A watershed study was conducted by the N.C. Division of Water Quality and environmental consultants Earth Tech Inc., and a watershed committee consisting of local stockholders was formed to oversee the study and watershed plan recommendations. The watershed committee's involvement was coordinated and facilitated by N.C. Cooperative Extension's Watershed Education for Communities and Officials.

The Cathey's Creek headwaters are located in the Union Mills area near Painters Gap Road. The creek and its tributaries flow near the cities of Spindale and Forest City before they end up in the Second Broad River near Rock Corner Road.

This work has culminated in the Cathey's Creek Watershed Management Plan, which includes recommendations for how to improve the health of Cathey's Creek.

The Cathey's Creek headwaters are located in the Union Mills area near Painters Gap Road. The creek and its tributaries flow near the cities of Spindale and Forest City before they end up in the Second Broad River near Rock Corner Road.

The NCEEP is ready and willing to fund projects all over the Cathey's Creek Watershed to protect and refurbish creeks and waterways.

Cathey's Creek was identified as a project through its assessment as an impaired water system in a recent state Division of Water Quality study of the Broad River Basin.

An assessment of the watershed -- with its headwaters near Pinnacle Mountain and joined by Lewis, Harris, Mill, Cherry, Hollands, Shepherds and Reynolds creeks before flowing into the Second Broad River, northeast of Spindale -- has been conducted by a team of engineers and water quality experts from Earth Tech, a Raleigh engineering and consulting firm, during the past year.

A technical advisory team, consisting of those with specific local knowledge of the watershed and its soils and waters, was formed to work on the assessment with Earth Tech.

The studies were funded by NCDOT, which is required to address some of the environmental issues it might contribute to from certain road projects. One of the chief projects in the Broad River Basin now is the U.S. 74 Bypass of Shelby, but another -- much closer to Cathey's Creek -- is the future U.S. 221 Bypass of Rutherfordton which could take the road between Rutherfordton and Spindale.

The state lists Cathey's Creek and Hollands Creek as impaired waters, but a 1999 upgrade to the Spindale wastewater treatment plant is helping to correct the water quality problem, Division of Water Quality officials have said.

Contact Humphries via e-mail at jhumphries@blueridge.net