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North Carolina Water Quality Assessment and Impaired Waters List-303(d) and 305(b) Reports
The federal Clean Water Act Section 303(d), requires the NC Division of Water Resources (NCDWR) to publish a biennial list of impaired waterbodies in need of a management strategy or total maximum daily load (TMDL) for improvement. Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act requires the state to publish a biennial Integrated Report that prioritizes and combines the 303(d) list with a comprehensive report of water quality conditions in the state.
Triangle Area Water Supply Monitoring Project
The US Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with six local governments and TJCOG monitors water supply reservoirs and streams throughout the area to create a long-term database of water quality information.
Triangle J Council of Governments Water Resources
Triangle J Council of Governments has a variety of water resources projects, documents, and information on water supplies in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Chapel Hill is involved in their Jordan Lake Stakeholder Project to develop a nutrient management strategy for this drinking water source and reservoir for flood control, recreation and wildlife conservation.
Pate, Travis. Building a Watershed Database with Population, Land Cover, and Impervious Cover Information, UNC Masters Project 2009. This project guides state and local planners to evaluate existing watershed conditions in order to implement appropriate development strategies and to evaluate existing strategies for their effectiveness.
Addendum to Jordan Lake TMDL(Total Maximum Daily Load) : University Lake, a reservoir impoundment of Morgan Creek, was found to be hypereutrophic (high levels of phosphorus with low transparency and frequent and severe algal blooms) and in need of regulations to reduce nutrients entering the lake. University Lake Watershed Map (pdf)
An assessment report, Biological Impairment in the Little Creek Watershed-Cape Fear River Basin,
by DWQ’s Watershed Assessment and Restoration Project (WARP) looked at conditions across the entire Little Creek watershed (encompassing Bolin and Booker Creeks) and identified likely stressors of the biological community and sources of these stressors.
Little Creek Bottomlands – NC Natural Heritage Program 2008 Report
Little Creek Bottomlands – NC Natural Heritage Program 2010 Update in response to a concept plan proposal for the expansion to the Rizzo Conference Center, owned by University of North Carolina
Response from Army Corps of Engineers and NC Wildlife Resources Commission to Ayden Court Development proposal 2007
Morgan & Little Creeks Watershed Planning Initiative
Morgan and Little Creeks Local Watershed Plan
Ecosystem Enhancement Program
The Morgan and Little Creeks Local Watershed Plan addresses the need for action in the Upper New Hope arm of Jordan Lake, within a local watershed area which includes the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill and portions of Orange County, and Durham County, N.C. Specific drainages in this local watershed planning activity include upper Morgan Creek (30 square miles, potential habitat degradation), lower Morgan Creek (19.9 square miles, 6.5 miles impaired stream) and Little Creek (Booker and Bolin Creeks, with 24.6 square miles, 12.7 miles of impaired stream). These creeks exhibit or are threatened with habitat degradation, excess nutrients, sediment, fecal coliform bacteria, toxicity and low dissolved oxygen. With the exception of upper Morgan Creek, each was on the Section 303(d) list for year 2000 and is within water supply watersheds. Morgan, Bolin and Booker Creeks are in the Jordan Lake watershed, a drinking water source that North Carolina is currently developing a nutrient management strategy, and the Upper Morgan Creek watershed is in the University Lake Water Supply watershed. Urban runoff and effluent from wastewater treatment are possible sources of degradation. In upper Morgan Creek, agricultural activities are also a possible source of degradation.
The Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP) combines an existing watershed restoration initiative (previously referred to as the N.C. Wetlands Restoration Program) within the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources with ongoing efforts by the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to offset unavoidable environmental impacts from transportation-infrastructure improvements. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) joined as a sponsor in the historic Memorandum of Agreement that established the program on July 22, 2003. As part of its mission, EEP works to develop Local Watershed Plans (LWPs) to proactively identify project opportunities that can offset unavoidable impacts well in advance of those impacts occurring. In a two-year LWP study of the Morgan and Little Creeks Local Watershed, EEP partnered with Tetra Tech, Inc., the Cape Fear River Assembly, the N.C. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) and local stakeholders to identify priority opportunities for watershed restoration and protection. The Local Watershed Plan recommends restoration and preservation projects through the implementation of:
•25 Best Management Practice (BMP) projects to treat water quality in 600 acres of priority subwatersheds;
•11 stream restoration projects to gain 28,000 linear feet of restored stream; and
•137 priority preservation parcels to protect over 600 acres of priority habitat.
In addition, proposed changes to local rules are advocated to support Low Impact Development and to prevent future degradation in the watershed. Assessment data and information supporting these recommendations described in detail within the Preliminary Findings Report, the Detailed Technical Assessment Report and the Targeting of Management Report. (Read these reports)
To read the Morgan and Little Creeks Local Watershed Plan Summary in its entirety, click here.
In 2007, the Towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill contracted with Earth Tech to do a watershed-wide study of geomorphic conditions of streams to identify and rank the locations contributing most to poor conditions, and to propose projects to correct these problems. Geomorphic condition includes channel shape and other physical characteristics of streams. This information can point to problems with excess stormwater, erosion, sedimentation, and other instability of the stream channel.
What is the purpose and background of the study?
Previous studies were conducted by Tetra Tech as part the Ecosystem Enhancement Program’s Morgan and Little Creek Watershed Local Watershed Planning Initiative, and the NC Division of Water Quality’s Watershed Assessment and Restoration Program. These studies indicated problems with high, scouring stormwater flows, lack of adequate instream habitat, severe bank and streambed erosion – all indicators of a stream network that is unstable, still responding to changes in its hydrology that have occurred since the Colonial era.
The purpose of this study was to more systematically identify areas of geomorphic (channel shape) instability across the entire Bolin Creek watershed and try to rank them by their severity. This study also proposed and ranked 32 projects to stabilize the stream, reduce effects from high, scouring flows, or otherwise improve physical conditions.
What are the findings and results of the study?
Professionals from Earth Tech and members of the Bolin Creek Watershed Assessment Team walked along all perennial and intermittent streams and many ephemeral streams in the Bolin Creek watershed. They identified areas of geomorphic instability (areas prone to erosion or sediment build-up due to changes in flow patterns), described and compared individual stream lengths, documenting with channel measurements and photos where needed. These data were used to compare and rank the different geomorphic problems observed in the watershed. Corrective projects were proposed and costs estimated so that these could be ranked as well.
Multiple indications of deteriorating stream condition and multiple types of problems were observed at many locations along the streams. The particular sources of instability observed included stream channelization (straightening/ditching), culverts and channel crossings, utility impacts (sewer lines along streams, other utilities crossing), bank erosion and collapse, direct discharges to the channel, railroad impacts, recreation impacts, and stormwater runoff. The causes and consequences of these impacts are discussed more thoroughly in the report.
Thirty-two projects were proposed to address the worst geomorphic problems identified in the watershed. See the Project Summary below for more information on the results, view the proposed projects, or read the report in its entirety.
What is the status of the project? What are the next steps?
The study and report are completed. The recommendations from the report are being integrated into a full Bolin Creek Watershed Restoration Plan.
A decision must be made on how and whether to proceed with any stormwater management and/or stream restoration in the Bolin Creek Watershed. Priorities and possible funding sources will be included in the Bolin Creek Watershed Restoration Plan.
Geomorphic Analysis and Potential Site Identification for Stormwater BMPs and Retrofits
As part of the Town of Chapel Hill's and Carrboro's Bolin Creek Watershed Plan required under their joint Bolin Creek restoration 319-grant, NCSU's Watershed Education for Communities and Officials (WECO) was hired to conduct stakeholder interviews and to make recommendations for building communication, networking, coordination and leadership for successful long-term watershed restoration.
The Town of Chapel Hill contracted with NCSU to evaluate stormwater management alternatives for the downtown area draining to Tanyard Branch. This study will assist the Town in determining how best to manage stormwater in this area and how to approach any future stream restoration projects that may occur there.
What are the problems?
Tanyard Branch is being severely eroded by large volumes of stormwater surging through the outfall (two 48” pipes) into the stream. The majority of downtown Chapel Hill drains to this one outfall, and as a result of the drainage area's very high amount of impervious surface, considerable runoff with great erosive energy is generated from even small rains.
An impaired segment of stream below Caldwell Street was identified in the Bolin Creek Watershed Geomorphic Assessment as a potential site for a stream restoration. However, there is the potential to “blow out” or destroy a newly restored stream if stormwater flow above the restoration site is not controlled.
Best management practices (BMPs) such as ponds, wetlands, and rain gardens are often installed to slow down stormwater before it reaches creeks with its destructive energy. Unfortunately, in this highly urbanized area there is little space to install BMPs where runoff can be intercepted before it reaches the stream. One alternative is to install a wet pond below the stormwater outfall. But because Tanyard Branch is a piped perennial stream, EPA requires an “alternatives analysis” to compare best options for installing stormwater management “inline” with the stream.
What are the possible solutions?
NCSU's study evaluated different combinations of stormwater management practices including an undersized wet pond (not large enough to handle flows regularly handled by modern practices, but as large as can be installed in current available area), a full-sized wet pond (which would require land acquisition and sanitary sewer relocation), residential stormwater management practices, UNC stormwater practices, and downtown stormwater practices. The study compared costs of BMP installation, land acquisition, maintenance, sanitary sewer relocation, and stream restoration. It examined exports of nitrogen and phosphorus under the different scenarios. Most importantly, a model was developed to predict what flow levels and what durations of these flows are erosive to the channel below the proposed BMPs, and from there suggested which alternatives would be most protective of the downstream channel if they were installed.
What is the status of the project?
The stormwater management alternatives analysis is complete. The most cost-effective stormwater management scenarios are in the $400,000 to $600,000 range, not including stream restoration downstream of the installation.
What are the next steps?
A decision must be made on how and whether to proceed with any stormwater management and/or stream restoration in the watershed to reduce the severe erosion and scouring. One suggestion was for this work to be part of a larger proposal for the creation of a downtown park with a pond, but would depend on private property owner interest and cooperation.
Though repairing the stream to reduce sedimentation is a primary goal, reducing pollution through dumping, illicit discharges, and sanitary sewer-storm drain cross-connections is also important to improve the overall water quality and biotic integrity of Tanyard Branch. The Town’s Stormwater Management Division conducts training of restaurant staff and guidance to businesses in the downtown area to reduce direct inputs to the storm drain system.
What monitoring or data collection have we done?
Some flow and channel morphology monitoring was conducted as part of the alternatives analysis. Stream macroinvertebrate monitoring is being conducted on Tanyard Branch, one of several sites around Town. No further monitoring is planned until projects in the watershed are proposed.
What's wrong with Bolin Creek? Why do we need to fix it? How will this plan remain fresh and helpful and not be something lost in the immensity of cyberspace or gather dust on a shelf?
This plan is the Bolin Creek Watershed Restoration Team’s attempt to shed light on these questions. At the same time, this plan can be viewed as much an inquiry for the reader as questions to be answered herein. One core concept is suggested. If this plan is to be of value, it will be because it is seen not as a mandate from government or a pontification from experts, but as an invitation to collective collaboration. If there is a second foundational idea, it is that there really is not a compromise or partial solution. The watershed behaves as a whole; its integrity and health therefore relies on holistic, comprehensive, synergistic, and integrated strategies, programs, projects, and actions. Readers are invited to determine what patch of the restoration quilt they can offer.
In January 2006, assessments of stream health by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) rated Bolin Creek as "impaired" from Pathway Drive in Carrboro to Fordham Boulevard, adding this section of Bolin Creek to the NC 303(d) list. Downstream portions of Bolin Creek from Fordham Boulevard to Little Creek continued to be on the list from previous cycles. The 303(d) list takes its name from Section 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act which requires states to maintain a list of waters that do not meet their intended or designated use(s). Bolin Creek is listed as biologically impaired, meaning that conditions do not support a healthy variety of insect larvae and fish which are indicator species of water quality.
Staff from the Chapel Hill Engineering and Carrboro Planning Departments, NCDENR, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began meeting in April 2006 to discuss water quality issues affecting the two Towns. The Bolin Creek Watershed Restoration Team (Team) was formed from these discussions to assess the condition of the Bolin Creek watershed, and to cooperatively apply for grants to restore and enhance the ecological health of Bolin Creek and its surrounding drainage areas (watershed).
The Team received a Clean Water Management Trust Fund stormwater mini-grant in November 2006 which was used to conduct a detailed geomorphic assessment of Bolin stream reaches. Consultant Earth Tech cataloged areas of erosion, instability, and other high risk locations. EPA’s Science and Ecosystem Support Division also assisted with the geomorphic assessment. The information collected from these efforts was used to receive a 319 Grant for stream restoration, and will be used to develop future work plans and grant applications.