Logo courtesy of Western North Carolina Alliance.

From the Western North Carolina Alliance, shared July 1:

Editor’s note: The press release says the Western North Carolina Alliance will conduct Muddy Water Watch national forest training from 5 to 8:30 p.m., July 11 and 25 and from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. July 16 and 30 to monitor and protect water quality in the headwaters of the French Broad River Watershed.

Sediment is the number one pollutant in the French Broad River Watershed. Sediment is a grave water quality concern because it smothers aquatic life, warms the water, reduces oxygen levels, destroys habitat, and clogs fish gills. The Muddy Water Watch (MWW) program was formed to address this water quality threat.

Logo courtesy of Western North Carolina Alliance.

For the past three years, the North Carolina Riverkeepers have trained citizens to monitor erosion control problems to help reduce sediment pollution within their watershed. So far, the program has trained over 500 volunteers throughout the state, with over 100 of those having been trained within the French Broad River Watershed.

The training sessions focus on monitoring best management practices (BMPs) on construction sites. This important water quality program has been extremely effective in keeping sediment out of our waterways because it has attracted many concerned citizens. The water quality in the French Broad Watershed has recently improved due to the reduction of sediment in our streams, which can be partially attributable to the success of the MWW program.

With 21 percent of the French Broad Watershed, including the majority of headwaters streams, located within the Pisgah National Forest, it is also important to study, monitor, and work to reduce the impact of sediment pollution from forest roads and logging operations. The watershed’s national forests contain hundreds of miles of roads and several planned and active logging operations.

“Poorly located, constructed or maintained forest roads are the largest source of non-point source pollution on forested lands” (Daniels, 2004). The greatest potential for degrading water quality comes from roads on steep slopes or erodible soils and stream crossings. Research has shown that 90 percent of the sediment that ends up in our nation’s waters from forested lands is associated with improperly designed and maintained roads.(Daniels, 2004). The importance of reducing sediment impacts in the Pisgah National Forest is further elevated because the forest currently provides critical cold water habitat for several species of trout, as well as an endangered mussel and salamander.

This project will work to engage active MWW volunteers as well as train new volunteers to monitor national forest roads and logging operations. Training sessions will consist of six hours of combined classroom and field study to enable volunteers to understand erosion, BMPs, North Carolina regulations, and what role volunteers can play to improve water quality.

After consulting with the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA) Forest Task Force to narrow down areas of the Pisgah National Forest of greatest concern, volunteers will then monitor roads and areas downstream from active or completed logging operations to document if erosion and stream sediment problems exist. The data that is gathered will then be used to work collaboratively with the US Forest Service to repair damaged roads, culverts, and improve existing BMPs.

WNCA is a 28-year-old grassroots organization that empowers citizens to be advocates for livable communities and the natural environment of Western North Carolina. For more information, visit WNCA at www.wnca.org or (contact) Hartwell Carson at (828) 817-5258 (or hartwell@wnca.org).

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Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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