ASHEVILLE – Muddy Water Watch is a program adopted by Riverkeepers across the nation to help eliminate sediment pollution into streams. WNCA’s French Broad Riverkeeper program, with a grant from the National Forest Foundation, has been working to improve Hurricane Creek, a pristine trout water in Pisgah National Forest.
The Hurricane Creek watershed was targeted as the highest priority site to address sediment pollution issues, based on the severity of its problems, proximity to waterways, and the amount of sediment that was impacting the creek, largely due to the preponderance of illegal roads.
The project vastly exceeded the WNCA’s goal of closing down five illegal roads. Instead, our Riverkeeper program has helped close down 24 illegal roads, using tank traps, trees, boulders and brush.
WNCA has also greatly expanded the original reach of the program by rehabilitating existing roads in the watershed: more than seven miles of road were repaired and improved through the installation of 141 water bars and the improvement of five ditches.
This work resulted in significant reductions of sediment reaching Hurricane Creek and could help to restore an important native brook trout habitat.
The high gradient streams found in our mountains support a diverse—and sometimes endangered—assemblage of aquatic life that requires cool, clear water to live. Illegal roads contribute to high levels of sediment, which the EPA lists as the most common pollutant in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs.
While natural erosion produces about 30 percent of the total sediment in the United States, accelerated erosion from human land use—such as with all-terrain vehicles and through construction projects—accounts for the remaining 70 percent, according to the EPA. The EPA also notes that sediment pollution causes $16 billion in environmental damage each year.