Daily Tar Heel Jan. 29, 2008

Grant to fund Bolin Creek cleanup

By: Alex Kowalski, Staff Writer

The Chapel Hill Town Council voted Monday night to support a grant application for the Bolin Creek Watershed Restoration Project.

If the grant is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, town staff will work together with Carrboro to restore and maintain the water quality of Bolin Creek, which flows through both Chapel Hill and Carrboro and into Jordan Lake.

"We want to make sure that the water that runs through Chapel Hill into Jordan Lake as a source of drinking water for many communities in the area is clean and safe," council member Mark Kleinschmidt said. "We also want to protect a highly appreciated recreational waterway."

The Bolin Creek Watershed Restoration Team, composed of representatives from the area who work in environmental and engineering fields, is planning the guidelines for the grant.

Both towns will provide funding and staff to work with the N.C. Division of Water Quality, the N.C. State University Water Quality Group, the N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program, the EPA and the Friends of Bolin Creek to accomplish the restoration team's goals.

The grant, which will be submitted in February, likely will ask for about $500,000.

The EPA would fund 60 percent of the project, while the other groups would pay the remaining costs. Chapel Hill and Carrboro plan to split their portion of the bill, about $80,000, at 75 percent and 25 percent, respectively, based on their populations.

Chapel Hill would spend an additional $70,000 on projects specific to the town.

"Watershed restoration is expensive," said Trish D'Arconte, a storm water engineering technician for Chapel Hill and restoration team member, explaining that the high costs and the duration of the project, which could take up to 10 years, makes it a good candidate for the grant.

"The EPA has been trying to find local communities or groups that have the energy to undertake full watershed restoration," she said. "It takes many years because of the complexity and the sheer number of projects that would need to be done."

Randy Dodd, environmental planner for Carrboro and another member of the restoration team, said Bolin Creek is considered an impaired stream because pollution has affected aquatic insect life.

"The diversity and the number of species that are less tolerant to pollution have been declining over time," he said. "It's a biological indicator."

The project will use the grant money to combat pollution and keep the water clean in the future. Tasks include studying storm water flow, addressing the erosion problems on the creek's banks and installing a couple of rain gardens to absorb runoff in Carrboro.

"There's a variety of things that can be done, and the efforts that we're starting initially are focused on trying to manage the runoff to stabilize the stream channels," Dodd said.

The restoration team hopes to hear from the EPA by August. The EPA has a limited amount of grant funds to distribute to similar efforts around the country.

"The population of Chapel Hill and Carrboro is very well known to be environmentally conscious and oriented, and several of our streams are impaired," D'Arconte said. "That's something the EPA wants us to address."

"If you want to be able to fish in your stream or play with your dog in the stream, then you need a clean stream."