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 Chunky Pipe Creek.  Chunky 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

Construction was completed in November 2017 for the Southern High School of Energy and Sustainability Stormwater Phase II Project. This project drains into Chuncky Pipe creek which flows to Little Lick Creek and finally to Falls Lake. The project’s design was provided by Civil Engineering Consultants and called for the installation of three stormwater BMPs (stormwater wetland, wet detention reuse pond, and bioretention rain garden) to reduce sediment and storm flows into the Falls Lake Reservoir. RiverWorks, Inc. out of Cary was the construction contractor for the project. The District received the necessary environmental  permits on July 6, 2016 during the Phase I design permit request. The rain garden installed captures the 1-inch storm draining from the school roof tops, soccer field, and tennis courts. The stormwater wetland captures the 1-inch storm for 9 acres of adjacent impervious parking lot and bus storage. The constructed reuse pond can hold approximately 400,000 gallons of water above the permanent pool in order to be reused on the athletic fields. Water from both Phase I and Phase II reuse ponds will help reduce the school's dependency on potable water and save the school approximately $15,000 per year in water cost.

Southern High School’s agribusiness program received $5,000 to procure, propagate, and install wetland vegetation plants within the constructed BMPs. A permanent conservation easement (2.2 acres) encumbering the project was recorded in the County’s Register of Deeds Office and will be held and monitored by the District in perpetuity.

This project was funded by the North Carolina Environmental Enhancement Grant Program ($435,000) and the North Carolina Division of Water Resources (90,000). Below are the nutrient removal rates for each BMP.                                                 

Nutrient Removal Rates


TN (lbs/year)

TP (lbs/year)

TSS (lbs/year)

Bioretention Rain Garden




Stormwater Wetland




Wet Detention Reuse Pond








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 the 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 forebay 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 was 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 District completed construction on the Jim Ward property during December 2017. This stream restoration site is located off Hamlin Road near the headwaters of Falls Lake in Durham County. The design was provided by Civil Engineering Consultants and called for the construction of 3,600 linear feet. Land Mechanic Designs from Johnston County was the construction contractor and restored 3,604 linear feet of the stream along the unnamed tributary to Falls Lake. All necessary permits were originally obtained July 7, 2017, during the design phase. A total of 208 Best Management Practices (BMP’s) were installed on the stream during construction. These BMP’s helped reduce sediment from 976 tons/year. Additional nutrient reductions achieved were 682 lbs/year of nitrogen and 44 lbs./year of phosphorus. A total of 102 watershed drainage acres were treated.  The restoration site included a vegetative buffer (9.2 acres) with a minimum width of 50 feet on both sides of the stream.  A permanent conservation easement encumbering the project was recorded at the Register of Deeds Office in Durham County and the District will hold and monitor this conservation easement for perpetuity. The District collaborated with Northern High School teachers and students to procure, propagate, and install approximately 360 potted plants. This project helped sustain the Northern Agribusiness program by purchasing $5,000 of plant material.

This project was funded for the design and construction, however, water quality benefits are already starting to be apparent with overbank flooding.  The new stream channel, since the beginning of construction, has had a couple bankfull events where the floodwaters were able to spread onto the floodplain and reduce stresses inside the channel.  This project was constructed with funds provided by the Clean Water Management Trust Fund ($400,000) and Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative ($360,000) grants.



Marbrey-Jackson Restoration Project  

Construction set for Fall 2018

The District has partnered with Piedmont Conservation Council to conduct 3,045 linear feet of stream restoration in the headwaters of Falls Lake. Thus far, the project is funded by a Division of Water Resources Grant ($200,000) and a Clean Water Management Trust Fund Grant ($450,000). Additional funding ($143,000) is being pursued to address another unnamed tributary and surveying discoveries. The surveying for the first phase of this project was completed last year, and the environmental permits have recently been received. When completed, the District will hold and monitor a permanent conservation easement approximately 8 acres in size. The project will generate a reduction of 901 tons of sediment, 529 pounds of total Nitrogen and 34 pounds of total Phosphorus from entering Falls Lake each year.


Pictured right: Before pictures   before  before1