Watershed groups expect state grant to boost stream bank projects

By Thomas Wilson

   A local watershed partnership is banking on state grant dollars to improve stream banks in the region.
   The Boone Watershed Partnership received a grant of up to $85,000 from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for use in stream bank stabilization projects. Russell Kinzer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service for Carter County talked about the grant at a meeting of the Buffalo Creek Watershed Alliance (BCWA) on Monday night.
   "We are very encouraged by this," said Kinzer, who noted the money would be available in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. Kinzer said the NRCS reviewed 18 sites for possible stabilization projects. Twelve others sites were also up for review, including some where grazing animals were contributing to stream bank erosion.
   Potential stream bank projects included areas on Stoney Creek, Buffalo Creek, Sinking Creek and several unnamed streams in the Watauga and Range communities, Kinzer said.
   The Buffalo Creek Watershed covers more than 24,000 acres as part of the Watauga River Watershed. Buffalo Creek meanders from Buffalo Mountain in Unicoi County through Washington and Carter counties before ending in the Watauga River.
   A project to stabilize the stream bank to Buffalo Creek near Lion's Field also continues to move forward. The project is being funded mostly through a $7,100 grant from the Overmountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said Ken Chase, chairman of the Boone Watershed Partnership.
   Elizabethton City Council approved funding the remaining project cost in March. As part of that agreement, the city applied for an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP) from the state Department of Environment and Conservation and a Section 26a permit from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
   Chase said the city forwarded a letter to him confirming the state's approval of the ARAP permit. The project can begin once TVA approves the project permit.
   "We've received four grants from (Trout Unlimited) since 1994," said Chase. Those grants were used for stabilization projects on Hampton Creek in Roan Mountain, Unicoi County, and the Frog Level area of Laurel Fork Creek.
   BCWA Chairman, Gary Barrigar, also said the annual Watauga River Cleanup, held May 16 was a tremendous success with more than 125 individuals participating. More than two tons of trash was removed from the Watauga and Doe rivers by volunteers, he said.