Stream Restoration

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Southern High School Stormwater/Restoration Project

The Little Lick Creek Local Watershed Plan identified a number of potential stream restoration, buffer enhancement, and stormwater retrofit opportunities in the watershed; including this proposed project.  Southern High School property drains into Chuncky Pipe Creek.  Chuncky Pipe Creek flows into Little Lick Creek, which has been included on the 2012 North Carolina 303(d) list of impacted streams.  From the Little Lick Creek it's only a short distance to the Falls Lake.  This project was identified due to the fact that Southern High School has several acres of untreated impervious surface (19 acres) within Falls lake watershed, has a high potential for stream restoration below proposed stormwater BMPs and also the school has transitioned to a school that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

Stormwater Project - In August 2014, the Durham Soil and Water Conservation District received $325,000 grant from the Environmental Enhancement Grant (EEG) to construct a stormwater wetland cell to capture and treat runoff from the parking area and rooftops, a reuse pond for irrigating the athletic fields and a rain garden.

Stream Restoration- September 2015 the Durham Soil and Water Conservation District received a $176,500 grant from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) to conduct 950 linear feet of stream restoration at Southern High School.

 Southern Aerial

Phase II

The Durham Soil and Water Conservation District secured a third large grant ($435,000) for the Southern High Stormwater/Stream Restoration project from the Environmental Enhancement Grant (EEG). This grant is administered through the Department of Justice with funds from the Smithfield Hog settlement. These funds will be utilized to design and construct Phase 2 of the campus project which will consist of a wetland cell for treatment of parking lot runoff and a reuse pond to irrigate the athletic fields. The projects goal is to improve water quality to Chunky Pike Creek, Little Lick Creek and Falls Lake by capturing and reducing stormwater flow, sediment and nutrients from entering watercourses. Also by capturing the runoff from the parking lots and reusing the water on athletic fields, the schools will be reducing its dependency on potable water and saving the county $15,000 annually. Phase 1 of the project began in July of this year (2016) with Phase 2 slated for the summer of 2017.  Justin Sickle, a Durham Boy Scout, built the kiosk for the project at Southern High School for his Eagle Scout project.

         Old Stream3                     Construction Work3

                                 Old Stream                                                                   Construction


                                    Future Wetland Cell

                                                                          Future Wetland Cell



Upper Sandy Creek Phase V - BMP completed

             Sandy Creek Phase V-BMP before                     Sandy Creek Phase V- BMP after              




 The Soil and Water Department completed the stormwater best management practice (BMP) and a portion of the stream restoration efforts for the Upper Sandy Creek Phase V Project.  The original scope of work called for the implementation of a stormwater wetland and restoration of 434 linear feet (LF) of channel along an unnamed tributary to Upper Sandy Creek.  The project installed a vegetative buffer with a minimum width of 50 feet on both sides of the stream throughout the project area as measured from the top of the stream bank.  Permits used during construction were obtained from a previous $253,000 design and permitting grant.

    The completed project produced a three celled stormwater BMP (one forbay and two wetland cells) and restoration of 420 LF along this unnamed tributary.  This tributary handles 7.01 acres (with 70.3% impervious surface) of runoff from parking lots on Duke University's campus.  The final stream length is 420 LF, a decrease of 14 LF from the design due to additional room needed for the stormwater BMP outlet.

    The water quality benefits of this project are pending successful implementation and construction of the entire Phase V design.  However, expected stream restoration benefits include improved riffle and pool habitat along the project reach and at 95 percent reduction in sediment load from the stream banks resulting in an annual sediment reduction of 100 tons per year into the Jordan Lake Reservoir.  Stable riparian buffers exceeding 1 acre were also planted outside the 420 LF of stream restoration in order to establish and preserve the stream work.

    In addition, a three (3) acre permanent conservation easement was recorded at the Durham County Register of Deeds in order to protect the completed stormwater BMP and stream restoration.  The Soil and Water Department will monitor this easement in perpetuity.  The stormwater BMP will reduce flashiness of the parking lot runoff entering this portion of the Sandy Creek tributary and according to NC DWQ Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual dates July 2007 will reduce nitrogen (40% and 5.14 lbs/ac/yr), phosphorus (40% and 0.52 lbs/ac/yr), and suspended solids (85% and 233.71 lbs/ac/yr).  These efforts will provide local water quality benefits as well as contributing to nutrient reduction efforts taking place throughout the Jordan Lake Watershed.  This project was part of Durham County's Strategic Plan Goal 4 initiative.



Sandy Creek Phase IV Reach 1- Restoration Project completed

Sandy Creek Phase IV Reach 1 Before Sandy Creek Phase IV Reach 1 After
 Before After 

Construction on approximately 1,600 feet of stream restoration, along with the planting of the vegetation material was completed on Phase IV Reach 1 of Sandy Creek this fiscal year. Reach 1 begins at HWY. 751 and flows into the wetland impoundment that was completed in Phase I of the overall watershed project. Before the construction, this reach had an incised channel with eroding banks that were claiming some of the hardwoods located at the banks edge. This project provided an excellent opportunity to raise the streambed and reconnect the channel overflow back to the abandoned forested floodplain. This was accomplished by constructing a new channel and now all flood flows will spread onto the mature bottomland hardwood forest that is located in the floodplain. The trees that had to be removed for the new channel were used as root wads, cover logs, log vanes and floodplain habitat. This helped reduce the overall cost of the project and research has shown that the use of wood in stream restoration projects have dramatically increased the diversity of aquatic life. The finished project will enhance water quality entering Upper Sandy Creek and eventually, Jordan Lake. This is particularly important since the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) list these water bodies as impaired by fecal coliform, excess chlorophyll a and habitat degradation. Due to the funding received through a Division of Water Resources grant ($243,636), the District was able to implement the project. The overall cost was of the project was $403,604.


Lick Creek- Stream Restoration Project completed

Lick Creek Before
Lick Creek After
Before After

Construction to restore 3,550 feet of Lick Creek began in February and was completed in June of this year. This stream restoration project began at the bridge off Olive Branch Church Road and proceeded east for 3,550 feet towards the controversial Falls Lake. The project’s design, permitting and construction were funded through two Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) grants totaling $636,000. There was additional funding secured ($35,500) by the Soil and Water staff through the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative (UNCWI) for the transaction cost of the three conservation easements that were donated in perpetuity. The Durham Soil and Water Conservation District will hold and monitor these easements to assure compliance.

This section of Lick Creek had significant vertical instability problems (incision and bank slumping) which elevated sediment levels downstream to the sum of 230 tons/year.

Sediment is a significant pollutant to water quality and aquatic habitat. The restored channel is a tributary that flows into Falls Lake, and eventually the Neuse River. Channel incision and bank erosion had compromised the adjacent riparian buffer that was located mostly within an open pasture and forested area and within an area that is becoming an urban dominated watershed. As in most cases rarely yield stable stream systems. The subdivisions and impervious surfaces located upstream have significant runoff that contributed sediment through overland flow into the tributary, since there was not adequate groundcover and root density. In addition to stabilizing bank erosion and vertical instability, the project also added a greater than 50 feet of herbaceous and riparian buffer and a permanent conservation easement (approximately 13.6 acres) on each side of the stream to help capture and filter the overland runoff from the site. Water quality is expected to continue to improve as the riparian buffer matures.

In June of this year a tour was conducted for Durham County’s State Legislator’s, some local official and state resource representatives.

Ward- Restoration Project

The Durham Soil and Water District received funding this year to restore approximately 3900 feet of stream on Mr. James Ward’s property near the head waters of Falls Lake. The purpose of the project is three fold and includes: 1) conversion of 3900 feet of an unnamed tributary (UT) to Falls Lake from an eroding, degraded channel to a natural, stable system with excellent aquatic habitat, 2) reduction of sediment loading from a 303 (d) listed Falls Lake, and 3) establishment of a vegetated riparian buffer along the UT to Falls Lake Corridor which will be protected in perpetuity through a donated conservation easement. The Soil and Water Department will monitor this 9-acre easement for compliance in perpetuity. The project is divided into 2 phases. Phase 1 (1575 ft.) design and construction and the Phase 2 (2325 ft.) design will be funded with a Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) grant ($400,000) received last fall. Phase 2 construction will be funded with an Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative (UNCWI) grant ($360,000) that was received in June of this year (2016). The project will reduce the sediment delivery to Falls Lake by 968 tons while reducing the nitrogen and phosphorous load by 682 lbs. and 44 lbs., respectively.


                                                                       Before picture